15 Cities with the Most Car Theft [Study: Trends & Totals]

In general, cities in the West are more dangerous for car theft, while Northeastern cities are the safest. Read on to learn where your city falls on the list.

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Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

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Written by Sara Routhier
Director of Outreach Sara Routhier

Cynthia Lanctot is an insurance professional with ten years of industry experience. Cynthia is licensed in several states, and holds an associate in claims law, as well as a bachelor’s degree in English. Cynthia’s experience includes the New England and Northeast states. She currently works as a liability claims professional and an occasional online contributor.

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Reviewed by Cynthia Lanctot
Licensed Agent Cynthia Lanctot

UPDATED: Jun 21, 2022

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A Concise Overview

  • The most dangerous cities for car theft tend to be on the West Coast or in the Southwest
  • Some of the safest cities for car theft tend to be in New England or other Northeastern states
  • You can keep your car safe by parking in safe spaces, locking your car, and adding comprehensive coverage to your insurance policy

A recent trend disturbing American drivers is rising car theft. Car theft peaked in the early 1990s, then steadily decreased for nearly 30 years. Today, car theft is back on the rise, costing Americans and car insurance companies billions.

More than 810,000 cars were stolen in 2020, representing an 11% increase from the year before. While you might assume that cities like New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles have the highest car theft rates, most big cities see surprisingly low numbers.

All cities have the risk of car theft, though. It can be difficult to know what to do if your car is stolen, but first, you can take steps to keep your car safe, like getting comprehensive insurance and parking in secure locations. However, your vehicle is always at risk of being nabbed by a thief.

However, some places are more at risk than others. Read on to explore which cities report stolen vehicles the most, and learn how you can protect your car from being stolen.

Which cities have the most car theft?

Nearly every city in America has seen increased car theft from 2019 to 2020, and experts expect the numbers will keep rising.

Visiting or living in a city with a large population exposes you to a higher chance of being a crime victim. When you consider the top 15 American cities for car theft, you can rank them by the number of cars stolen.

However, this doesn’t paint a good picture of how likely your car will get stolen. For example, thieves stole more than 2,500 cars in Austin, Texas, but that only represents a car theft rate of 261 cars for every 100,000 residents. On the other hand, Anchorage’s population is much smaller, but it has a high theft rate of 967. The kind of car you drive also affects the likelihood that it will be stolen. Driving one of the most stolen vehicles in America puts you at a higher risk.

From small rural towns to huge urban cities, all areas have a risk of car theft. Some cities are safer than others, and the 15 most dangerous places for car theft are listed below.

RankCityTheft Rate per 100,000 PeopleTotal Number of Stolen Cars
1Albuquerque, New Mexico1,181

6,616

2Oakland, California1,1795,071
3Portland, Oregon

1,055

6,932

4San Bernardino, California

1,006

2,194

5Anchorage, Alaska

967

2,823

6Detroit, Michigan961

6,454

7St. Louis, Missouri

896

2,750

8Springfield, Missouri

872

1,470

9Tacoma, Washington

870

1,877

10Hayward, California

845

1,376

11Tulsa, Oklahoma

808

3,259

12Chattanooga, Tennessee

7891,424

13Salinas, California

774

1,227

14Cleveland, Ohio

772

2,970

15Des Moines, Iowa

772

2430
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As you can see, some of the most dangerous places for car theft aren’t big cities. In fact, you might not have heard of many of the cities on this list because they’re so small.

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Cities With the Most Car Theft by State

Although all areas have car theft, some regions are safer than others. West Coast and Southwest states currently see the most car thefts, while Northeastern states see the least.

However, every state has a city with the most car theft. You can check your home state’s most dangerous city for theft below. Remember that these cities rank by theft rates, not the total number of cars stolen.

StateCityTheft Rate per 100,000 People
AlabamaMontgomery489
AlaskaAnchorage967
ArizonaTucson478
ArkansasLittle Rock562
CaliforniaOakland1,179
ColoradoDenver732
ConnecticutBridgeport407
DelawareWilmington613
FloridaFort Lauderdale478
GeorgiaAtlanta667
HawaiiHonolulu427
IdahoBoise115
IllinoisChicago373
IndianaIndianapolis564
IowaDes Moines772
KansasWichita708
KentuckyLexington323
LouisianaNew Orleans755
MaineBangor195
MarylandBaltimore723
MassachusettsBrockton387
MichiganDetroit961
MinnesotaSt. Paul741
MississippiJackson636
MissouriSt. Louis896
MontanaBillings741
NebraskaOmaha665
NevadaNorth Las Vegas486
New HampshireRochester185
New JerseyNewark714
New MexicoAlbuquerque1,181
New YorkSyracuse354
North CarolinaCharlotte325
North DakotaFargo366
OhioCleveland772
OklahomaTulsa808
OregonPortland1,055
PennsylvaniaPhiladelphia358
Rhode IslandProvidence306
South CarolinaCharleston237
South DakotaSioux Falls302
TennesseeChattanooga789
TexasDallas709
UtahSalt Lake City737
VermontBurlington39
VirginiaNorfolk322
WashingtonTacoma870
West VirginiaCharleston419
WisconsinMilwaukee770
WyomingCheyenne379
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Although there are some outliers, you’ll notice that the riskiest cities in each state have a car theft rate of at least 300 cars per 100,000 people.

Which cities are safest for car theft?

While some cities struggle with car theft, others don’t have much of a problem. The following cities have the lowest rates of car theft.

StateCityTheft Rate per 100,000 People
MassachusettsFranklin Town2.9
New JerseyCliffside Park3.8
New YorkHaverstraw8.1
New YorkLong Beach9
MassachusettsLexington9.1
MassachusettsNorth Andover9.6
New JerseyWest Milford11.4
GeorgiaMilton12.4
MichiganIndependence charter13.4
ArkansasBella Vista13.7
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Most of these communities are in the Northwest, but they’re all smaller cities. Having a small population doesn’t guarantee your car will be safe from theft, but it does seem to lower the risk that you’ll cross paths with a thief.

How can you keep your car safe from theft?

Although car theft is on the rise, there are steps you can take to keep your car as safe as possible, including:

  • Lock your doors. It’s easy to forget to lock your car, but it’s one of the simplest ways to keep your vehicle safe. Get in the habit of locking your car no matter how long you’ll be gone.
  • Turn your car off. The goal is to keep your vehicle off a thief’s radar, and a running car is an easy target. Always turn your car off, even if you’re just running inside your home for a minute.
  • Don’t leave your keys or purse. While it’s tempting to tuck belongings like keys, bags, or wallets into a spot you think is hidden, it only makes it easier for thieves to steal from you.
  • Close the windows. Although it’s nice to have fresh air in your car, a small crack is enough opportunity for a thief.
  • Park in a safe location. If you can, park in a closed garage or a lot with security. If that’s not possible, find a well-lit spot that’s not isolated.
  • Install safety features. Not only do features like GPS tracking, audible alarms, and kill switches protect your car, but they also might make you eligible for an anti-theft discount on your insurance.
  • Get comprehensive insurance. The only insurance type that covers theft is comprehensive car insurance.

Even if you have the safest car habits, you can still be a victim of theft. 

Comprehensive insurance is an excellent option for car owners who can’t afford to replace their car outright to ensure a thief doesn’t permanently rob you of your vehicle.

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Finding the Best Insurance in the Cities with the Most Car Theft

Keeping your car safe from theft is important no matter what city you live in, but it should be particularly important for people in the most dangerous cities. Comprehensive car insurance won’t stop a thief from taking your car, but it does keep you from replacing your vehicle out of pocket.

If you live in one of the most dangerous cities for car theft, you’ll see higher insurance rates. While comprehensive coverage is worth it, you should compare quotes with multiple companies to find the best rates possible.

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