There were 810,400 vehicles stolen in 2020, totaling about $7.4 billion in total motor vehicle thefts. Vehicle theft is up 11.8% since 2019, when 724,872 vehicles were stolen. Overall property and violent crimes spiked in 2020, following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and an economic downturn.
In its motor vehicle theft statistics, the FBI includes several types of vehicles and not only cars. Motor vehicle theft statistics include automobiles, trucks, buses, motorcycles, scooters, snowmobiles and others.
Based on the latest available research and data, these are the most current car theft statistics for 2020.
Key car theft facts
- 810,400 vehicles were stolen in 2020, up 11.8% from 2019, when 724,872 vehicles were stolen. (FBI)
- Motor vehicle theft amounted to $7.4 billion in losses in 2020 alone. (FBI)
- The average dollar loss per 2020 vehicle theft equaled $9,166. (FBI)
- The COVID-19 pandemic, corresponding economic downturn, public safety resource limitations and a decrease in programs for juvenile outreach may have accounted for this 2020 increase in motor vehicle theft. (National Insurance Crime Bureau – NCIB)
- New Year’s Day is the holiday with the most vehicle thefts. (NCIB)
- Motor vehicle theft is the third most common property crime in the United States. (S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics)
- 86% of motor vehicle thefts were reported to the police in 2020, which made motor vehicle theft the most reported type of property crime that year. (U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics)
- In 2019, only 17.2% of property crimes (of which auto theft is one) were “cleared,” which means a suspect was charged with the crime. (Pew Research)
How many cars are stolen each year?
Car theft rates spiked in 2020, according to data released by the FBI. 810,400 vehicles were stolen in 2020, compared with 721,885 vehicles stolen in 2019. That means car thefts have increased by 11.8% from 2019 to 2020, with an eye-popping 88,515 more motor vehicles stolen in 2020.
The methods thieves use to steal vehicles become more sophisticated as technology advances. Some thieves may acquire smart keys or change a vehicle’s VIN number to complete the theft. Vehicle owner negligence may result in theft as well. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) found that between 2016 and 2018, nearly 230,000 vehicles were stolen because the vehicle’s fob had been left inside the car.
Does car insurance cover theft?
Your car insurance handles theft and loss in a few different ways. The comprehensive portion of your insurance policy typically covers the theft of your vehicle. It also can cover the cost of repairs, such as broken windows, locks or ignition.
Your comprehensive coverage only covers the vehicle itself, not the items inside, so your personal belongings are not typically covered by your car insurance. However, if you have homeowners insurance, the personal belongings in your vehicle would likely be covered through your homeowners, renters or condo insurance. This means that when it comes time to report your losses, you would likely need to file a car insurance claim and a home insurance claim.
Car theft statistics
Car theft can happen anywhere, but it is more prevalent in certain higher-populated areas. Metropolitan areas have significantly more vehicle thefts than surrounding and non-metropolitan areas.
Motor Vehicle Theft by City Type (FBI)
|Area type||Estimated total||Rate per 100,000 inhabitants|
|Cities outside metropolitan areas||29,762||158.9|
Specific regions are also prone to higher crime levels, with the Western and Southern regions of the U.S. experiencing a higher rate of auto theft than other areas like the Midwest and Northeast, which have the lowest number of incidents of motor vehicle theft.
Motor Vehicle Theft by Region (FBI)
|Area||Population||Total Motor Vehicle Theft||Rate per 100,000|
|East North Central||46,902,431||76,299||162.7|
|West North Central||21,426,573||53,243||248.5|
|East South Central||19,176,181||47,700||248.7|
|West South Central||40,619,450||109,003||268.4|
The type of car you have can also make you a target. Data shows that certain vehicles are targeted more than others, with these vehicles serving as the top 10 most popularly stolen vehicle makes and models.
Motor Vehicle Theft by Vehicle Make and Model (NCIB)
|Vehicle||Model year most frequently stolen||Thefts|
|Ford Pickup, Full Size||2006||38,938|
|Chevrolet Pickup, Full Size||2004||32,583|
|Dodge Pickup, Full Size||2001||11,292|
|GMC Pickup, Full Size||2018||11,164|
Car theft rates over time
After an increase in motor vehicle thefts between 2015 and 2017, the crime rate decreased in 2018 and 2019. In 2020, car thefts spiked 11.8% from the year before.
Motor Vehicle Theft Year-over-Year (FBI)
|Year||Vehicles Stolen||Percent Change|
States with the most car theft
Where you live also matters when it comes to car theft statistics. The top states for car theft may surprise you. In looking at the rate per 100,000 citizens, FBI data shows that car theft rates are highest among Western states. Hawaii, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and Oregon experience the most stolen cars in the United States.
States with the Most Car Theft (FBI)
|State||Rate per 100,000|
States with the least car theft
FBI data also shows that some states have significantly fewer car thefts than others. In addition to Idaho, eastern states like Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and New York all have the lowest amounts of car theft.
States with the Least Car Theft (FBI)
|State||Rate per 100,000|
Car theft statistics by state
As demonstrated above, the motor vehicle theft rate can vary significantly from state to state. Here we offer a detailed listing of each state, showing the total population and the total number of motor vehicle thefts compared to the rate per 100,000.
Property Crimes by State, 2019 (FBI)
|State||Rate per 100,000|
|District of Columbia||330.6|
Even without a key, thieves are becoming smarter each year. They are adapting to new technologies by swapping vehicle identification numbers and using smart keys for access instead of hot-wiring. Some are even bold enough to secure auto loans under false identities to steal high-value luxury vehicles.
To help combat this, car manufacturers and companies that manufacture car accessories are creating new security measures that you can use to prevent car theft.
- Steering wheel locks: Easy to use and store, steering wheel locks can prevent the wheel from moving when the vehicle is not in use.
- Tire and rim locks: You can affix an anti-theft tire or wheel lock on to prevent movement when you are away.
- Hood locks: These prevent the hood from opening so thieves cannot gain access to your engine or other parts.
- GPS devices: If your car is stolen, a GPS device can help you track your vehicle for easy recovery by law enforcement.
Car alarm systems
Most vehicles come equipped with a car alarm, but if your car does not have one, there are several external models you can add with an optional key remote starter. Even if your vehicle has an alarm system, you can purchase additional tools to deter car theft.
A killswitch can prevent your engine from being started when you are not driving your vehicle. Some alarms will even automatically activate when you remove your key from the ignition, while others will allow you to sound an alarm, no matter where your vehicle is located at the moment.
No matter what you choose, it is essential to be sure that you protect yourself. The right security system with the best car and home insurance bundle can ensure that you are prepared, even if car theft happens to you.