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According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) Hot Spots Report released in September 2022, 932,329 vehicles were reported stolen to law enforcement in 2021, which is a 6% increase from 2020 and a 17% increase from 2019. 

California dropped from the top spot, and Colorado became the No. 1 state for car theft. Colorado had the highest overall theft rate, with 661.21 thefts per 100,000 people, which is a 32% increase from 2020.

Washington, D.C., finished second with a theft rate of 651.00 thefts per 100,000 people, and California rounded out the top three with a theft rate of 511.05, which is an increase from 475.24 in 2020. California did top the list for the highest number of vehicle thefts by volume, with 200,524 vehicles stolen. This is >100,000 more thefts than second-place Texas.

In addition to which states have the highest number of car thefts, the NICB report also looked at which Metropolitan Statistical Areas, or MSAs, are hotbeds for car theft.

The city with the most car thefts is Bakersfield, California. Colorado's Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metro area is the second-worst city for car theft, and Pueblo, Colorado takes the third spot.

Keep reading to learn which metro areas and cities have the highest number of car thefts and how your car insurance company will deal with a theft.

  • Bakersfield, California, is the top metro area for car thefts, with the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metro in Colorado in second place.
  • Car theft is rising; it increased 17% year over year in the most recent study by the NICB.
  • To combat theft, remember common sense steps such as rolling up your windows, locking your car and parking in well-lit areas.

Top metropolitan areas for car thefts

Bakersfield, California, has the most car thefts for the third year in a row, with an auto theft rate of 1,023 – the total number of thefts per 100,000 residents. Car theft is a problem in several California cities, with three of the top 10 metro areas for car thefts.

The Denver-Aurora-Lakewood area in Colorado moved up a spot; it’s now the second-worst metro for car thefts, with a theft rate of 964.92. Colorado also grabbed the third-place spot with Pueblo moving from the seventh spot all the way up to No. 3 and a theft rate of 891.39.

There are a few new metro areas in the top 10 this year. NICB’s data showed that Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, moved into the top ten this year, landing in the fifth and ninth places.

Milwaukee also made its debut on the NICB’s top 10 this year, landing in the 8th place spot. Milwaukee had the distinction of seeing the largest theft rate change from 2020 to 2021 with a 72% increase.

It should be noted that MSAs are not specific cities. Some MSAs are made up of more than one city and are more commonly called metro areas.

Top 10 metro areas for car theft

RankCBSA/MSA2021 theft rate2020 theft rate
1Bakersfield, CA1023.68905.41
2Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO964.92705.8
3Pueblo, CO891.39602.39
4Albuquerque, NM710.58631.75
5Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA680.2489.95
6San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA675.86655.2
7Billings, MT611.11564.75
8Milwaukee-Waukesha, WI597.83345.19
9Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA582.47465.11
10Yuba City, CA578.68724.46

*theft rate per 100,000 residents

Top 10 states for car theft

RankState2021 theft rate2020 theft rate
2Washington, D.C.651562.98
4New Mexico475.5426.19

*theft rate per 100,000 residents

Top 10 most stolen cars

Now that you know which cities have the most car theft, let's look at the vehicles that car thieves are most likely to steal. The Chevy full-size pickup was the vehicle most likely to be stolen, moving up from second place the year before. The Ford full-size pickup dropped to second place this year after topping the list last year.

In fact, of the nearly 1 million vehicles reported stolen in 2021, a whopping 14% were Chevrolet, Ford and GMC full-size pick-up models. Overall, 932,329 vehicles were reported stolen in 2021, which is a 6% increase over 2020.

Here are the 10 most common vehicles stolen in 2021, according to The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB):

RankVehicle make/model2021 total theftsModel year most often stolen
1Chevrolet Pick-Up (Full Size)48,2062004
2Ford Pick-Up (Full Size)47,9992006
3Honda Civic31,6732000
4Honda Accord30,2741997
5Toyota Camry17,2702007
6GMC Pick-Up (Full Size)15,5992005
7Nissan Altima14,1082020
8Honda CR-V13,3082000
9Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee13,2102018
10Toyota Corolla12,9272020

*theft rate per 100,000 residents

How to prevent car theft

The NICB offers a four-pronged approach to preventing thefts:

  • Remove your keys, roll up the windows, lock the doors and park in well-lit areas.
  • Deploy a visible or audible device warning that your car is protected – a steering-wheel lock or an audible alarm.
  • Install an immobilizing device that keeps thieves from starting the car – smart keys, kill switches, fuse cut-offs and fuel-pump disablers.
  • Utilize devices that track and recover a stolen car, such as onboard telematics systems.

It appears that car theft numbers will most likely continue to rise in 2022. According to the NICB, roughly 500,000 vehicles were stolen in the first half of 2022, which breaks down to almost $4.5 billion worth of vehicle losses.

While it’s impossible to determine the reason for every vehicle theft, high used car prices have been blamed for many thefts.

“There is very little deterrent to stopping these criminals because vehicle thefts are property crimes,” said David Glawe, President and CEO of the National Insurance Crime Bureau, in a recent press release. “Since the start of the pandemic, used car prices have increased 35 to 40 percent. Criminals are exploiting these high prices as vehicle and catalytic converter thefts are crimes of opportunity. And crime is a business, and business is good.”

Regardless of where you live or what type of car you drive, it’s important to know what to do if your car is stolen.

Car insurance and car theft

You’ll need comprehensive coverage for your car insurance to cover a stolen car. If you have a loan or lease on your vehicle, your lender will require you to carry full coverage, including comprehensive.

Comprehensive is a relatively small part of most drivers' premiums and will pay out the actual cash value of your car if it's stolen. This optional coverage comes with a deductible, the portion you pay on a claim before insurance kicks in to cover the balance. Deductibles vary, but $500 is a common amount.

Frequently asked questions: Car theft

What percent of stolen cars are recovered?

According to the NICB data, if reported stolen within 24 hours, there was a 34% recovery rate in 2021. Nationwide, approximately 42% of stolen cars are never recovered, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).

According to the California Highway Patrol's 2021 Vehicle Theft report, roughly 88.1% of stolen vehicles in California were recovered. However, just because they were found doesn't mean they were in the same condition as when they were stolen. According to the CHP:

  • 60.2% were recovered intact and in drivable condition
  • 3.8% were missing major components
  • 9.4% were stripped of minor parts
  • 26.5% were intentionally burned or wrecked.

How does a stolen car affect insurance rates?

In most cases, a stolen car claim on your policy will raise your rates, but the severity of the increase will depend on your specific insurance company. Insurance companies have proprietary surcharge schedules, which will determine your rate increase after an issue such as a speeding ticket, an accident or a claim for car theft.

tip iconTIPAccording to Lauren Mckenzie, an Insurance Broker at A Plus Insurance, "your premium increase will be impacted by the amount the insurer had to pay out for the vehicle, as well as if the vehicle was recovered or not. If you have a previously stolen vehicle claim on your insurance record, expect your premiums to skyrocket."

How does location factor into car insurance rates?

Insurance companies consider a variety of factors when calculating a car insurance premium. These factors not only include your driving record and the type of vehicle you are driving but also where you live and where your vehicle is stored.

If you live in a high-crime area, you will pay more for car insurance. In most cases, drivers in major urban areas will pay more for coverage than drivers in rural areas. Statistics show that more car accidents and thefts occur in cities.

Finally, you will pay more for coverage if your vehicle spends the night parked on the street instead of in a garage. All of these location factors will impact your car insurance rates.

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