Here’s an alarming thought that should cause you to pause as a driver and car owner: Car theft is rising.
In fact, more than 1 million vehicles were stolen in 2022, representing a 7% increase over 2021 and the most thefts since 2008, according to fresh data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). Disturbingly, more than 250,000 auto thefts were reported in the fourth quarter of 2022 alone. The estimated total vehicle theft losses measured last year is $8.9 billion.
The states with the most significant percentage increase in stolen cars year-over-year were Illinois (35%), Washington (31%), New York (23%), and Missouri, Texas, and Colorado (10% each). The states with the most total car thefts last year were California (202,685 vehicles stolen), Texas (105,015), Washington (46,939), Florida (45,973), and Colorado (42,237).
“We are seeing vehicle theft numbers that we haven’t seen in nearly 15 years, and there is very little deterrent to stop criminals from committing these acts as they are just property crimes, like shoplifting,” David J. Glawe, president and CEO of the National Insurance Crime Bureau, said in a statement. “We must reinvest in local law enforcement, provide the necessary resources for prosecution and community policing programs, and implement early intervention programs given the high incidence of juvenile offenders involved in vehicle thefts.”
Which states had the most car thefts in 2022?
Mark Friedlander, director of corporate communications for the Insurance Information Institute in St. Johns, Florida, agrees that this news is a wake-up call.
“Before the pandemic, annual vehicle thefts had been trending downward for several years. However, we have experienced a significant spike in thefts over the past three years, and this theft trend is expected to continue through the end of this year,” he says.
According to the NICB, 2022 posted the highest vehicle theft numbers since 2008 when 1.05 million vehicles were reported stolen.
“Surpassing 1 million thefts in 2022 is a distressing statistic for the insurance industry and drivers alike,” Friedlander says. And it’s one of the factors that is generating large rate increases for auto insurance across the U.S.”
Below, see the 2022 vehicle theft data, provided by the National Crime Information Center and analyzed by NICB.
Learn which are the most stolen cars in every state
Here are the top 10 most-stolen cars in the U.S.
Per the NICB’s most recent (2022) Hot Wheels report of the most commonly stolen vehicles, these are the models most vulnerable to theft:
- Chevrolet Pick-Up (Full Size)
- Ford Pick-Up (Full Size)
- Honda Civic
- Honda Accord
- Toyota Camry
- GMC Pick-Up (Full Size)
- Nissan Altima
- Honda CR-V
- Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee
- Toyota Corolla
Friedlander says other vulnerable vehicles on the road today include several Kia and Hyundai models (model years 2011 through 2021), which are not equipped with an electronic immobilizer.
“Earlier this year, several major auto insurers stopped writing new policies on these models because they were so prone to theft,” he continues.
Biggest holidays for motor vehicle thefts
While most of us celebrate the holidays, car thieves may be headed to work. New Year’s Day is the biggest day for motor vehicle theft, but Labor Day runs a close second. Here are the top 10 holidays for car theft:
- New Year’s Day
- Labor Day
- Presidents Day
- New Year’s Eve
- Valentine’s Day
- Memorial Day
- Christmas Eve
- Independence Day
How to prevent car theft
It’s essential to know how to prevent car theft. Friedlander and the NICB recommend several best practices, including:
- Keep your doors locked at all times.
- Completely close all windows.
- Don’t leave your vehicle running and unattended.
- Always remove your keys from the ignition, and avoid keeping a spare key anywhere near your vehicle.
- Park in well-illuminated areas. “Try to park your car overnight in a private enclosed garage, if possible, or on a well-lit street near your home,” Friedlander suggests.
- Use a visible or audible deterrent device, including a car alarm, steering column collar, steering wheel/brake pedal lock, wheel locks, window etching, micro dot marking, and theft deterrent stickers.
- Employ a vehicle immobilizer, such as a smart key, kill switch, starter/ignition/fuel disabler, fuse cutoff, and wireless ignition authentication.
- Install a tracking system that sends a signal to a monitoring service or law enforcement if the automobile is reported stolen.
- Don’t store your vehicle’s title or valuables in your car.
- When parked on an incline, turn your wheels toward the curb or another obstruction, which makes it more difficult for bad actors to tow your vehicle away.
Comprehensive insurance covers car theft
You need comprehensive car insurance to file a replacement claim if your vehicle is stolen. Comprehensive insurance also covers damage due to flooding, fire, hail, wind, vandalism, animal strikes, and theft. If your car is stolen and you file an auto insurance claim, you’ll get your car’s actual cash value, minus your deductible.
“The average cost to add comprehensive coverage to your auto policy won’t break the bank – it typically runs less than $300. About 80% of American drivers carry comprehensive coverage, which is mandatory if you have an auto loan or lease,” Friedlander says.
But you can reduce your chances of theft and get a discount on your car insurance by using anti-theft devices. Car insurance doesn’t cover personal items in your car. Instead, you would file a claim through your homeowners or renters policy if personal items are stolen.
Read more: Does car insurance cover theft if your car is stolen
What to do if you’re a victim of car theft
If your automobile is stolen, file a stolen vehicle report with the police as soon as possible. Then, contact your insurance agent to report the loss.
“A police report will help expedite the claims process. But you must have comprehensive coverage on your policy to be covered for theft,” Friedlander says.
If you’re stolen car is leased or financed, you’ll also need to report the theft to your leasing or finance company. Additionally, keep your liability insurance intact for at least 30 days following the theft. If your covered vehicle is never located or is totaled by the perpetrator, your insurer will pay out the actual cash value.
Resources & Methodology
National Insurance Crime Bureau. “Vehicle Thefts Nationwide Surpass One Million For the First Time Since 2008.” Accessed March 2023.
National Insurance Crime Bureau. “NICB Report Finds Vehicle Thefts Continue to Skyrocket in Many Areas of U.S.” Accessed March 2023.
— Mark Vallet contributed to this story.