According to FBI statistics, $5.9 billion were lost to motor vehicle theft in 2016. The average loss per theft was $7,680, with a more than 7 percent rise from 2015. The table below shows how the overall trend for the past 10 years has been decreasing motor vehicle theft, with an uptick since 2014.
- Vehicles stolen ( Thousands )
- Change from the year before ( % )
Car Theft Statistics
As the statistics above show, there is a great deal of bad luck in having your car stolen, with the numbers varying year after year and from state to state. Knowing the statistics can help you to avoid being a victim of this crime.
Which Cars are Most Likely to be Stolen?
In our three-year study analyzing the most stolen vehicles in America from 2016 to 2018, two Honda models ranked as the most vehicles stolen, accounting for 40 percent of the stolen vehicles in the top 10. The model years for both reveal that thieves target Hondas that are older and may not have the anti-theft devices to deter thieves and make them harder to steal.
Some of these vehicles are pre-smart key, meaning that they are more attractive to thieves.
The 10 most stolen cars from 2016 to 2018 were
Having a more modern car hugely reduces the likelihood of being a victim of car theft, due
to the modern anti-theft features.
What is the Impact of Car Theft on My Insurance Cost?
If you are the victim of car theft, there is a likelihood that your insurance premiums will go up as a result. However, when you sign up for insurance and input your personal information, your insurance company will already have made a calculation based on the likelihood of your car being stolen.
Parking your car in a closed garage (rather than on-street) will reduce your premiums. Therefore an insurance company will already have calculated and accounted for the risk of theft, so you shouldn’t see too much of a rise in your insurance.
Immediate action if you suspect your car has been stolen
What you do in the immediate minutes after you discover your car has been stolen will greatly impact how the rest of the process goes. Use the following five steps to make sure that everything is done by the book. If in doubt, write everything down so you have a clear record of your actions.
Confirm your car has been stolen
The first question to ask yourself is: ‘Am I sure my car has been stolen?’ Before you proceed with any other steps, you should be absolutely certain that you have been the victim of car theft.
If you are parked in a garage, confirm that this was the floor that you parked on. Check for ‘No Parking’ signs, as your car may have been towed. As a tip, check where you think you parked your park for broken glass. If a thief has stolen your car, there’s a strong chance they’ll have smashed a window. Only when you’re absolutely certain your car has been stolen should you move on to the next step.
Call the police
The sooner you call the police, the greater your chance of recovering your vehicle. In fact, more than 85 percent of stolen vehicles are returned to their owner. You might have the question, “How do police investigate a stolen car?” For them to do so, you need to give them a few key pieces of information.
The key items to tell the police are:
The car’s make and model.
The Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) on the car. You should have this written down and stored with your car’s registration papers.
Where you left your vehicle.
Any distinguishing features.
Any valuables that were inside the car.
Any information on tracking devices.
The police will file a report based on your information. Write down the report number, as you’ll need this for future steps. This may help you keep track of the investigation and also will prove useful when talking with your car insurance company, which might use it during a stolen car insurance claim investigation.
Call your insurance carrier
Once you have the police report number, you should call your insurance provider. Regardless of what type of insurance coverage you have (even if you don’t have comprehensive coverage) you need to let your insurance company know. Sometimes it’s possible to report a stolen car online, though your insurance company will possibly follow up asking for more information. What your insurance company does after this will depend on the type of coverage you have.
For more information, see the section What will my insurance company do? below. You can also tell your insurance company about any valuable items that were in your car, although, again, the insurance company’s response will depend on your coverage. Often, policyholders are concerned if insurance covers a stolen car if the keys are left inside. While every policyholder should read the fine details of their policy, generally this situation is covered under comprehensive insurance.
Report the car stolen to the DMV
After speaking to your insurance company, you should call the DMV to report your car stolen.
The DMV has a nationwide database of stolen cars, and they will work with the police to make sure that your car is returned to you.
Stay vigilant online
Although the police and the DMV will work to find your car, you can also do your part to try and make sure you recover it. Stay vigilant on Craigslist and other online car selling forums. If you have a particularly unique car, you can speak to specialist dealers, and ask them to inform you if a car matching your description crosses their path.
These are just two options for how to find your stolen vehicle if you’re the owner. Remember also that the odds are in your favor, with the vast majority of stolen vehicles being (eventually) returned to their owner. Despite the short-term hassle and general inconvenience, there is a strong chance that you’ll get your car back.
What will my insurance company do?
As mentioned above, what your insurance company can or will do depends on the insurance policy you hold with them.
If you have comprehensive coverage, then your insurance company will cover your car. Comprehensive policies are — as the name suggests — the broadest type of insurance, and cover theft, vandalism, and breakdowns.
However, if you only have liability or third-party insurance coverage, then insurance companies won’t cover you. In these instances, you will be responsible for replacing your vehicle yourself.
If you do have comprehensive coverage, your insurance provider will ask for the police report and then determine a period of time to wait before further action (this is to see if the police can recover the vehicle).
Once this time has passed, your insurance company will pay you the current market value of your car. If your car is found but is damaged, the insurance company will pay the repair costs, minus the deductible.
How to make your car harder to steal
Although car crime can be a random crime, there are certain steps you can take to make your car harder to steal. Often, a potential thief will see that you have these features and will be deterred, preventing any damage at all. By contrast, some steps will make your car much easier to steal.
For example, if you leave your car to heat up in the morning by running the engine with the keys in the ignition, then you are making your car extremely easy to steal (and an insurance company may not pay out in that eventuality).
The following tips will make it harder and less attractive for a thief to steal your car:
- Don’t have identifying information on your keychain. If you lose your keys,
a thief can find your address and then steal your car without having to do any damage. Again, your insurance may not cover this.
- Lock all doors, windows, and the trunk. Do this every time you leave the car, even if just for a minute or two.
- Park your car with the front-facing an obstacle. This will make it impossible for thieves to tow your car. Similarly, turn the wheels towards the curb and lock the wheels if you’re parked on the street.
- Always lock your car and take the keys with you. As in the example above, car thieves can strike even on your own driveway, so don’t assume that you’re safe if your car is just outside your front door
(or even if you can see it).
- Chemically etch your VIN on your window. A car dealership will do this for you, and this will make it harder for thieves to resell components from your car. A thief will see the etching and be deterred.
Install an anti-theft system or systems. There is a huge range of these on the market. Physical items such as a steering wheel lock or a tire lock will deter a potential thief. Software such as a tracking system (when accompanied by a display stating its presence) will have a similar effect. Any of these systems may qualify you for a discount on your insurance. You can also install a GPS tracking device in your vehicle, which is how police track stolen cars in many cases.
Resources and Further Reading