Worst states for car theft

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More than 610,000 motor vehicles were stolen in the United States in 2019, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The average value of each car stolen came in at $8,886, which is around two times more than the average twenty-something American keeps in their savings accounts, according to one Business Insider study.

Interestingly, car theft occurs at far higher rates in some states than others. According to our analysis, drivers are most vulnerable to vehicle theft in New York, Colorado and Oregon. Meanwhile, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia are among the best states for avoiding car theft. Where does your state stack up on our list? You may be surprised. Below, Bankrate’s editorial team analyzes vehicle theft and arrest statistics by state to determine how vulnerable your vehicle may be.

Which states are the worst for car theft?

The worst states for car theft may surprise you. After analyzing arrest and theft records, we found that:

  • The worst states for car theft are New York, Colorado and Oregon.
  • New York City also lays claim to the highest count of motorcycle thefts in the United States.
  • Car theft rates in New York, Colorado, and Oregon may be especially high due to critical shortages of law enforcement in these states over the past three years.
  • According to our analysis, your car will likely be safest from vehicle theft in the northeastern states of Virginia, Massachusetts and New Jersey.
  • Virginia, Massachusetts and New Jersey also rank within the top 11 safest states, according to the crime rate.

The best and worst states for car theft

The state of New York, which ranked first on our list, arrested nearly double the number of people for car theft than Virginia in 2019. New Jersey and Massachusetts, two of our best states for avoiding car theft, also rank in the top five states for lowest crime rate, according to Statista.

To bring you the best and worst states for car theft, Bankrate consulted 2019 data from the FBI that reported car theft arrests per 100,000 citizens and automobile thefts per 100,000 citizens. Using this data, we compiled a list of the best and worst states for car theft.

The Bankrate Car Theft Score was generated by taking the mean of each state’s theft and arrest rates per 100,000. The higher the score, the worse the state is for car thefts.

State Bankrate Car Theft Score Rank
New York 222.5 1
Colorado 221.4 2
Oregon 204.4 3
California 198.9 4
Hawaii 196 5
North Carolina 189.6 6
Oklahoma 186.4 7
Mississippi 186.3 8
Alabama 181.8 9
Tennessee 171.2 10
Washington 168.7 11
Alaska 157.5 12
South Carolina 143.4 13
Texas 141.3 14
Arizona 141.3 15
Arkansas 135.7 16
New Hampshire 134.6 17
Louisiana 133.2 19
Nevada 129 20
Montana 126.2 21
Kentucky 125.5 22
Missouri 120.2 23
Georgia 117.9 24
South Dakota 116.3 25
Minnesota 113.8 26
Iowa 113.1 27
Utah 112.1 28
Florida 109.1 29
Maryland 108.9 30
Nebraska 98.4 31
Michigan 95.3 32
Connecticut 92.7 33
Delaware 92.2 34
Idaho 86.6 35
Indiana 85.8 36
Ohio 84.7 37
Wisconsin 79.3 38
Wyoming 71.8 39
West Virginia 71.3 40
Rhode Island 70.6 41
New Mexico 67.5 42
Vermont 55 43
Pennsylvania 54.9 44
Maine 51.9 45
North Dakota 48.2 46
Illinois 48.1 47
New Jersey 36.5 48
Massachusetts 31.3 49
Virginia 30 50

Why do vehicle thefts happen?

According to a study from Arizona State University, drivers who live in residential areas often feel safe in their own neighborhoods, and as a result, may leave their cars unlocked with their keys inside. While thieves generally prefer to stay away from well-lit driveways and garages, street-parked cars are a consistent target. If you live in a residential neighborhood, you may want to keep in mind that thieves could still target your vehicle, especially if you park it on the street.

No set of behaviors is guaranteed to protect you from car theft. However, there are certain steps you can take to mitigate the chances of your vehicle being stolen. Especially if you live in the top ten states for car theft on our list, you may want to consider taking the following precautions.

  • Park in a garage. If you don’t have access to a garage, parking in a driveway is likely the second-safest option. If you live in a city and must park on the street, see if you can park in a bright, visible area that could deter thieves from breaking in.
  • Purchase a vehicle enabled with anti-theft technology. A car alarm can help deter thieves, while a steering-wheel lock can immobilize the steering wheel and make it increasingly difficult for a thief to drive away with your car.
  • Equip your vehicle with a tracking device. You can purchase simple tracking tiles or slightly larger GPS trackers that you can attach to your vehicle. These devices will allow you to track your car in the event of a breach.
  • Lock your vehicle’s doors. Thieves are often deterred by locked vehicles, since breaking windows is loud, takes longer, and renders a higher chance of being caught.
  • Shut your windows. Leaving your windows down could allow a thief to unlock your doors and gain entry.
  • Keep your car keys hidden in a safe spot indoors. Never leave your key in the ignition, inside your car or on top of your wheel.
  • Don’t leave your keys in the ignition for any reason. Whether you’re running inside to retrieve a forgotten item or attempting to warm up your car on a cold winter morning, remember not to leave your keys in the ignition of your vehicle. Leaving your vehicle running and unattended is one of the easiest ways for your car to be stolen. Even if you have a key fob, you should shut off your vehicle if leaving it unattended, as many cars operated by a key fob will still travel a certain distance without the fob before shutting down.
  • Purchase the best car insurance for covering a car theft. Purchasing a car insurance policy covering car theft can help drivers feel peace of mind, especially those who live in states with a high risk of car theft. Typically, to ensure a stolen vehicle is covered, you would need to purchase comprehensive car insurance coverage.

Whether or not you live in a high-risk state for motor vehicle theft, these steps can help prevent a break-in. With car thefts increasing steadily nationwide, you may want to speak to an agent about whether your current car insurance policy will cover a stolen car.

Frequently asked questions

What type of car is most likely to be stolen?

In general, Ford pickup trucks, Honda Civics, full-size Chevrolet pickup trucks, Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys are most likely to be stolen. However, the answer varies by state.

Is parking my car on the street safe?

Parking your car on the street typically makes it more susceptible to a break-in. If you must park your car on the street, try to find an area with bright lighting near people that would deter a thief from breaking in.

Will my car insurance company give me a discount for insuring a car with enhanced security features?

Many car insurance providers offer discounts to drivers who own vehicles with anti-theft features such as tire locks, immobilizer systems, vehicle trackers and more. You may want to talk with an agent to see if your car qualifies for a similar discount.

Methodology

To determine the worst states for car theft, Bankrate examined two data sets from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The first data set details the total number of car theft arrests in each state in 2019. The second details how many car thefts per 100,000 people occurred in each state in 2019.

Using state population data from 2019, Bankrate calculated how many car theft arrests occurred per 100,000 people that year. The Bankrate Car Theft Score was generated by calculating the mean of each state’s theft and arrest rates.

Data sources include:

Written by
Lizzie Nealon
Insurance Writer
Lizzie Nealon is an insurance writer for Bankrate. Her favorite part of the job is making home, auto and life insurance digestible for readers so they can prepare for the future.
Edited by
Insurance Editor