The worst cities for auto theft and how you’re covered

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In 2020, a car was stolen every 36 seconds, according to the latest data provided by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). With declines from 2017 to 2019, auto thefts increased by 11% in 2020, increasing from 794,019 auto thefts in 2019 to 880,595 in 2020.

Though the pandemic and economic downturn might be factors for the sharp increase, car thefts in cities and towns might also be attributed to owner complacency. The number of vehicle thefts by city ranges dramatically, and depending on where you live, it could be a cause for concern and vigilance. If you become the victim of auto theft, you should know if and how you are covered by insurance.

Key takeaways
  • Three cities in California, one city in Texas and one city in Colorado are the top five highest car theft cities.
  • Locking your car, parking in well-light areas and removing valuables from your vehicle may help deter vehicle theft.
  • If you have comprehensive coverage, your auto insurance coverage can help replace your vehicle if it’s stolen.

The worst cities for auto theft

Car thefts happen across the country and are often crimes of opportunity. Though more populated areas can see higher instances of auto theft because there are more vehicles in dense areas, it can happen in rural areas as well. These are the highest car theft cities in the country as of 2020.

Bakersfield, CA

In Bakersfield, your chances of becoming a property crime victim are 1 in 24, compared to 1 in 43 elsewhere in California. According to the Bakersfield Police Department, between 100 and 120 vehicles are stolen in the city each week.

Yuba City, CA

When comparing car theft statistics by city, another California city tops the list for auto theft: Yuba City. Vehicle thefts are higher in the northeast part of the city, where car theft happens to 1 in 459 people, than in the southwest, where auto theft occurs in 1 in 511 people.

Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO

Auto thefts have been on a steady rise in the Denver, CO area since January 2020. Car thefts statistics by city show that 2021 may prove a worse year for Denver, with Denver International Airport and surrounding parking lots a hot spot for vehicle thefts. As with the first two highest car theft cities, Denver vehicle thefts are largely a crime of opportunity, especially when parked and unoccupied in and around the airport.

Odessa, TX

Car thefts are not the only type of vehicle theft often happening in Odessa, TX. Catalytic converters, often stolen off vehicles for the precious metals used to make them, are being removed and sold to recycling centers for quick cash. Leaving the key in the ignition while parked and unoccupied or even leaving a spare key inside the car are the most common reasons for car thefts in Odessa, especially during the colder months. In Texas, it is illegal to do so and could result in a fine if caught.

San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA

Rounding out the top five car thefts by city is another California city, San Francisco, which also encompasses Oakland and Berkeley. San Francisco has observed a 750% increase in vehicle theft between May 2020 to May 2021. The SFPD says they are working on strategic ways to reduce the number of vehicle theft crimes occurring in the area.

The most commonly stolen vehicles

The type of vehicle you own may make you more susceptible to becoming a victim of car theft. The Ford pickup truck, Honda Civic, Chevrolet pickup, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry are the most commonly stolen vehicles across the country.

To help prevent becoming a vehicle theft, consider these safety measures:

  • Always lock your vehicle
  • Never leave the keys inside the vehicle, especially when running and unoccupied
  • Park in gated and well-lit areas whenever possible
  • Use audible and visible alarms to deter thieves
  • Consider immobilizing devices like steering wheel or brake locks, fuse cut-offs, kill switches and starter or ignition disablers
  • Install a tracking device with GPS or wireless technology to alert you if the vehicle is moved
  • Remove valuables from your vehicle

How you are covered

If your vehicle is stolen, you are only covered if you have comprehensive coverage on your car insurance policy. This optional coverage is not always required but could be worth the extra cost of car insurance to have coverage for vehicle thefts.

If you own multiple cars, each vehicle must have comprehensive coverage to be covered if it’s stolen. Comprehensive coverage usually comes with a deductible, which is the amount you have to pay out of pocket in the event of a claim. A stolen vehicle claim will often be paid on an actual cash value basis, which means the condition, miles and age of your car factor into how much the insurance company will pay to help replace your stolen vehicle.

Frequently asked questions

What if personal items were stolen from inside my vehicle?

Personal items left inside the car are usually not covered by car insurance. If personal items were stolen from inside your vehicle, you might be able to file a claim under your homeowners or renters insurance. Keep in mind that your homeowners or renters insurance policy deductible would apply if filing a claim for your personal items.

What are the best car insurance companies for auto theft coverage?

If you want coverage for auto theft, you should consider purchasing comprehensive coverage. This optional coverage is offered by all the best car insurance companies nationwide. You can compare pricing by getting several quotes from different companies to find the best fit for you.

What states have the highest number of auto thefts?

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s 2020 report, auto theft statistics show these states have the highest number of auto thefts: Washington, D.C., Colorado, California, Missouri, New Mexico, Oregon, Oklahoma, Washington, Nevada and Kansas.

Written by
Mandy Sleight
Insurance Contributor
Mandy Sleight has been a licensed insurance agent since 2005. She has three years of experience writing for insurance websites such as Bankrate.com, MoneyGeek and The Simple Dollar. Mandy writes about auto, homeowners, renters, life insurance, disability and supplemental insurance products.
Edited by
Senior Insurance Editor