A vehicle is stolen about every 40 seconds in the United States, and 40% of them are never recovered.1 Fortunately, by being careful and knowing your risks, you can take steps to prevent car theft. For example, knowing that certain makes and models are easier to break into than others and that older cars typically have fewer security measures to deter car thieves lets you know how much security you need.
Our data analysts looked at FBI crime reports to gather data on motor vehicle thefts in the US—focusing specifically on cities with a population of 100,000 or more. Read on to see where your city ranks, plus what steps you should take if your car is ever stolen.
We've partnered with Vivint to give away three Car Guard smart security devices with free one-year subscriptions to its GPS-enabled monitoring service.
Top 20 metro cities with the most car thefts
|Rank||City||Population||Total thefts||Thefts per 100,000 people|
|11||San Bernardino, CA||217,259||2,277||1,048.1|
|12||Anchorage, AK||296,188||3,104|| |
|15||Salt Lake City, UT||194,968||1,886||967.3|
|17||Kansas City, MO||484,948||4,427||912.9|
|20||St. Louis, MO||310,284||2,713||874.4|
|City||Population||Total thefts||Thefts per 100,000 people|
|San Bernardino, CA||217,259||2,277||1,048.1|
|Salt Lake City, UT||194,968||1,886||967.3|
|Kansas City, MO||484,948||4,427||912.9|
|St. Louis, MO||310,284||2,713||874.4|
Top 20 metro cities with the fewest car thefts
|Rank||City||Population||Total thefts||Thefts per 100,000 people|
|1||Lakewood Township, NJ|
|4||Amherst Town, NY||121,150||41||33.8|
|6||Port St. Lucie, FL||188,652||87||46.1|
|9||Round Rock, TX||124,617||64||51.4|
|13||New York, NY||8,616,333||5,735||66.6|
|16||Sterling Heights, MI||132,882||107||80.5|
|17||Ann Arbor, MI||121,930||99||81.2|
|18||Green Bay, WI||105,331||88||83.5|
|City||Population||Total thefts||Thefts per 100,000 people|
|Lakewood Township, NJ||
|Amherst Town, NY||121,150||41||33.8|
|Port St. Lucie, FL||188,652||87||46.1|
|Round Rock, TX||124,617||64||51.4|
|New York, NY||8,616,333||5,735||66.6|
|Sterling Heights, MI||132,882||107||80.5|
|Ann Arbor, MI||121,930||99||81.2|
|Green Bay, WI||105,331||88||83.5|
What we found
Car theft is more common for cities out west
If you live in the western US, you’re at a higher risk for car theft than on the East Coast, in the Midwest, or in southern states—a trend that has stayed the same since the last time we reported on car theft.
In fact, 13 of the top 20 cities for car theft are found out west. That’s probably because the West is generally more car-dependent than other parts of the country. Cities are often more spread out and lack the public transportation infrastructure that you find in cities farther east. (New York City, for example, ranks 13th for fewest car thefts.)
So unfortunately for those living out west, not only are you more likely to become a victim of vehicle theft, but having your car stolen is even more of a hassle than in places with ampler public transportation options.
Bad news for Honda drivers
If you drive a Honda in one of our top 20 metro cities for car theft, you’re at the highest risk for having your vehicle stolen. The Accord and the Civic respectively topped the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s list for car models most likely to be stolen in 2017.2
Pickups are vulnerable too
Pickup trucks are at a high risk of being stolen too. Nearly half of the top 10 most stolen vehicles are full-sized pickup trucks from Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge, and GMC.
The South is safest
With eight cities listed in the 20 safest, the South ranks as the safest region in the country when it comes to car theft. Texas is particularly safe: five of its cities rank in the top 20 cities with fewest car thefts. The Midwest comes in a close second, with six cities in the top 20. But Lakewood Township, New Jersey, ranks as the safest metropolitan city in the country with 25.3 car thefts per 100,000 people.
Current trends in car thefts
The time of year counts. Vehicle theft during the summer months is common.3 Thefts also go up around certain holidays: 22,770 vehicles were reported stolen on the 11 major holidays in 2017.4 New Year’s Day, President’s Day, and Halloween saw the most car thefts.
Vehicles with keys left inside are the most vulnerable. On every day from January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2018, an average of 209 vehicles were stolen across the United States because the driver left their keys or fob in the car5—that’s 229,339 vehicles total, a 56% increase since 2015.
Even leaving your keys available in a public spot—like in an unlocked gym locker—puts you at risk. Keep your keys out of the public eye to keep them out of thieves’ hands.
Technology has changed, but the things that thieves look for haven’t. Thieves still look for easy targets. Your car is more likely to be stolen if it’s unlocked, parked in a dark spot of the street, or even left running to get the A/C started on a warm day.
Thieves look for both car parts and valuables. They’re not picky, just looking for whatever sells. That usually includes popular vehicle parts—body panels and moldings, wheels, and headlights—or valuables—think radios, cellphones, iPads, laptops, and purses.
How can you better protect your car from getting stolen?
Whether or not you live in an area prone to car theft, it’s worth taking some extra precautions to reduce your risk. Car thieves look for easy wins first, so if you take the right measures, you’re far more likely to avoid the headache of having your car stolen. Of course, the easiest thing you can do is lock your doors and roll up your windows when you leave your car, but we’ll cover a few more tips to prevent car theft.
Don’t hide a spare key in your car
While it might seem like a good idea, it’s best not to keep a spare key hidden in your car. At the very least, make sure the spare key is uniquely hidden, as professional car thieves know the most common hiding spots for spare keys. Similarly, if you have a key with a fob, don’t carry the fob around with the key locked inside the car. That would make stealing your vehicle as easy as breaking a window.
Car thieves prefer dark, quiet places where they’re less likely to be seen in the act. Keep that in mind when you’re out and about at night, and try to park in well-lit spaces, especially if they’re heavily trafficked by other cars and passersby.
Keep valuables out of sight
Nothing will attract a break-in more than leaving valuables visible inside your car. While it’s best to keep valuables out of the car as much as possible, make sure to keep expensive items hidden in the trunk or out of plain sight so you don’t draw extra attention to your vehicle.
Be careful with personal information
Identity theft is a fairly common byproduct of car theft. Instead of leaving your registration and title inside your car, consider keeping your registration hidden somewhere other than your glove box and your vehicle title safely at home. Both can be used to steal your identity.
Plus, your vehicle registration has your address on it, which could lead a car thief back to your home, especially if they find a garage door opener or a house key inside your vehicle.
Invest in an antitheft device
Thieves tend to stay away from cars with obvious antitheft technology. Warning devices like audible alarms, steering wheel locks, or brake pedal locks can help deter thieves and encourage them to move on. Immobilizing devices like fuse cutoffs and kill switches can prevent the car from starting. You can also get a tracking device that can send a signal to the police or a monitoring station once your car is reported stolen.
Some local police departments have car theft prevention programs you can benefit from too. The Club—an antitheft device that works by locking your steering wheel—partners with police departments across the US to give away free devices. So if cost is an issue, try reaching out to your local police office and see if they offer a similar program.
Car theft can happen to anyone
The only way to truly eliminate your risk for car theft would be to sell your car and buy a bicycle. But by following the above steps, you can certainly better your odds. If your car is stolen, try to remain calm, and both your insurance company and the authorities will help you.
Using the FBI’s “2017 Crime in the United States” report (the most recent and complete crime database available as of July 2019), we gathered data on motor vehicle thefts for all US cities with a population of 100,000 people or more. From there we calculated the rate of motor vehicle thefts per 100,000 people for each city and ranked them accordingly. The two tables above represent the top metro cities where your car is most and least likely to be stolen based on the city’s motor vehicle theft rate.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Vehicle Theft Prevention”
- National Insurance Crime Bureau, “2017 Hot Wheels Report”
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Summertime Is Prime Time for Vehicle Thefts”
- National Insurance Crime Bureau, “Annual Holiday Vehicle Theft Report”
- National Insurance Crime Bureau, “Thefts of Vehicles with Keys Left Inside Continue to Rise”
Vivint Car Guard giveaway
We’ve partnered with Vivint to give away three Car Guard smart security devices with free one-year subscriptions to its GPS-enabled monitoring service.
To read more about this new, one-of-a-kind technology, check out the product page on Vivint’s website.
Who can enter?
To be eligible, you must be 18 years or older, have a car registered in your name, and reside in one of the 20 metro cities with the most car thefts (listed in our report above). See the Terms and Conditions for more information about eligibility.
How to enter
Fill out your details below and answer a couple survey questions. (Your responses to questions 4 and 5 will not affect your eligibility to win.) The last day to enter is 10/04/2019.
What happens if I win?
Three winners will be chosen at random and notified via email on or before 10/11/2019. Winners must respond to the notification email and provide their mailing address by 10/18/2019 in order to receive their new Car Guard and begin their service subscription with Vivint.
Feel free to email email@example.com with any additional questions or concerns.
Terms and Conditions
The promoters of this giveaway are Clear Link Technologies, LLC doing business as ASecureLife.com (“ASecureLife.com”) whose principal office is located at 5202 W. Douglas Corrigan Way, Salt Lake City, Utah 84116 and Vivint Inc. (“Vivint”) whose principal office is located at 4931 North 300 West, Provo, UT 84604. Employees of ASecureLife.com or their family members or anyone else connected in any way with the giveaway or helping to set up the giveaway shall not be permitted to enter. Persons must be at least 18 years old, or otherwise have reached the age of majority under the laws of the state where they reside, in order to participate in the giveaway. Only residents of Oakland, CA, Springfield, MO, Hayward, CA, Richmond, CA, Portland, OR, Tacoma, WA, San Bernardino, CA, Gresham, OR, Kent, WA, Independence, MO, Anchorage, AK, Pueblo, CO, Antioch, CA, West Valley, UT, Salt Lake City, UT, Salinas, CA, Tulsa, OK, Cleveland, OH, Baltimore, MD, Vallejo, CA are eligible to participate in the giveaway. GIVEAWAY VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.
There is NO ENTRY FEE AND NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER THIS GIVEAWAY. Any purchase or consideration otherwise given by entrants will not improve one’s chances of winning. Route to entry for the giveaway and details of how to enter are available via ASecureLife.com. Individuals may enter to win by filling out the form found on ASecureLife.com’s website. Upon clicking the participation link, entrants will be asked to provide their name and contact information so that ASecureLife.com can notify the winner of the results. Closing date for entry will be 10/04/2019. After this date, no further entries to the giveaway will be permitted. Three winners will be selected from the entire pool of eligible entries. The winners will be notified by email and/or letter within 7 days at the closing date. If the winner cannot be contacted or does not claim the prize within 7 days of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner. The winner specifically acknowledges that the prize package shall be provided and fulfilled by ASecureLife.com, and that the giveaway is in no way affiliated with any of the 20 cities ASecureLife identified as having the most car thefts.
ASecureLife.com will notify the winner when and where the prize can be collected. The winner will receive the prize either mailed or hand-delivered to the winner. The winner agrees to the use of his/her name and image in any publicity material associated with the giveaway. Any personal data relating to the winner or any other entrants will be used solely in accordance with current federal and state data protection legislation and will not be disclosed to a third party without the entrant’s prior consent. ASecureLife.com will provide a Vivint CarGuard smart security device including a free one-year subscription to Vivint’s GPS-enabled monitoring service (a value of approximately $260.00). No cash alternative to the prize will be offered. The prize is not transferable. Prizes are subject to availability and ASecureLife.com reserves the right to substitute any prize with another of equivalent value without giving notice. A list of winners will be available 28 days after the closing date where legally required. To request a list of winners send the request in a stamped addressed envelope to the following address:
5202 W. Douglas Corrigan Way
Salt Lake City, Utah 84116
ASecureLife.com’s decision in respect of all matters to do with the giveaway will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.