Worst Cities For Auto Theft (and the Best)


WRITTEN BY: Julia Matseikovich

UPDATED: SEPTEMBER 23, 2022 | 2 MIN READ

With over 880,000 vehicles stolen across the United States in 2020, you’re likely worried about your car. Theft rates look at the number of vehicles stolen per 100,000 residents of the area. This makes for a good comparison tool. If you’re considering moving but want to ensure your car is safe, read on to find out the worst cities for auto theft and the best.

10 Worst Cities For Auto Theft

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), one car is stolen every 36 seconds. In some cities, this may be higher. Read on to learn the cities in the top ten worst metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) for car thieves. 

1. Bakersfield, California

Topping the list of worst cities for car thieves for the second year in a row is Bakersfield, California. It has the highest car theft rate per 100,000 people, with 905.41 thefts. However, California has a statewide stolen car recovery rate of 88%, meaning there’s a chance you’ll see your car again.

2. Denver, Colorado

Colorado’s thefts increased from 21,299 in 2019 to 29,162 thefts in 2020. With 705.80 cars stolen per 100,000 residents, Denver, Colorado, comes second in our list of top ten worst cities for car thefts.

3. Albuquerque, New Mexico

This MSA has a theft rate of 631.75 per 100,000 residents. Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico and previously had a whopping 1018 theft rate per 100,000 people. Thankfully this is dropping now, but not yet enough to drop them from our list.

4. Fairbanks, Alaska

As a state, Alaska saw a drop of 407 thefts in 2020 compared to the previous year. While this is great news, you should still consider adding an anti-theft device to your vehicle. Fortunately, advanced vehicle technology makes it easy to do.

5. Pueblo, Colorado

In 2018, Pueblo had 810 vehicles stolen per 100,000 residents. By 2020 this had dropped to 602.39. This let Denver take the lead as the area in Colorado you’ll most likely have your car stolen.

6. San Francisco, California

California leads states in total thefts with 187,094. Along with Texas and Florida, they make up 37% of all thefts across the United States. San Francisco has a theft rate of 655.20 per 100,000 residents. This is a 33% increase from 2019 to 2020.

7. Yuba City, California

Previous years saw Yuba City rank 7th in the highest rated areas, but in 2020 that jumped to second place, with a rate of 724.46 thefts per 100,000 residents.

8. Salt Lake City, Utah

In 2020, SLC saw more car thefts of over 2200 than in the previous year. That’s a jump of 48.02% year on year. As a state, Utah has an 87% recovery rate. Although your car will likely be stolen, there’s a high chance it’ll be recovered too.

9. Billings, Montana

With 1,038 vehicles stolen in 2020, Billings, Montana, has a theft rate of 564.75 per 100,000 residents. This puts them firmly in the top ten worst cities for auto theft.

10. Tulsa, Oklahoma

With a theft rate of 551.76 per 100,000 residents, Tulsa makes the top ten worst cities for car theft. This is an increase of 14% from 2019 to 2020.

10 Best Cities For Auto Theft

Although car theft incidents jumped nationally, some states have seen a decline in stolen vehicles.

1. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Coming in at a minute 77.47, Pittsburgh is just one of many Pennsylvanian cities on our list. Pennsylvania seems to be one of the top places to live if you don’t want to risk your car being stolen. Pittsburgh saw a whopping 14% decrease in vehicle thefts from 2019 to 2020.

2. Fort Myers, Florida

Fort Myers saw a 5.54% decrease in car thefts in 2020, bringing them to second place on the list of best cities for auto thefts. As a state, Florida saw a decline of 1,525 car thefts overall in 2020 compared to 2019. 

3. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

The third place sees another Pennsylvania city. As a state, Pennsylvania has a recovery rate of over 75%. This means that the chance you’ll see your stolen car again is pretty high. And that’s assuming it ever gets stolen in the first place. With a rate of 69.08, it’s unlikely.

4. Daytona Beach, Florida

Another Floridian city, Daytona Beach, saw a reduction in car thefts of over 10%. With a rate of 136 thefts per 100,000, Daytona Beach is one of the lowest-rated cities for stolen cars.

5. McAllen, Texas

The McAllen metro area is a large metropolitan area in the Rio Grande Valley. The population of McAllen is 379,000, and the metro area’s population is 804,000. The rate of vehicle theft for the metro area is 7.61 per 1,000 residents during a standard year, meaning that, on average, someone in the McAllen metro area will be victimized by a car thief every 34 hours.

6. Lakeland, Florida

The third Florida city to join our list is Lakeland, Florida. Lakeland has a stolen car rate of 135 per 100,000 people living there. In line with Florida, it saw a reduction in car thefts, dropping 2.65%.

7. Provo, Utah

Utah State has one of the highest recovery rates of stolen cars, at 87%. Provo has a theft rate of 108 per 100,000 residents, so it ranked at number 7.

8. Palm Bay, Florida

Palm Bay also saw a decrease in car thefts year on year, from 2019 to 2020. Their rate fell by over 6%.

9. Tampa, Florida

Five of the 10 top car theft cities are in Florida. Our final Floridian city is Tampa. With a 4.48% reduction in auto thefts, the theft rate for Tampa is 154.72.

10. Allentown, Pennsylvania

We round off our list with another Pennsylvania city. Allentown has a theft rate of 86.6 per 100,000 residents. It experienced a slight increase yearly, but with the state’s high recovery rate, people will likely see their car again.

Most Stolen Cars

While you may think thieves would target fancy new cars, they’re often more likely to go for the older ones. They typically have fewer security features. Some of them, like the Honda Civic, have parts that can fit into many different models, making them more valuable.

Vehicle YearVehicle Make & ModelApproximate # Of 2020 Thefts
2006Ford Pickup Truck (Full-Size)44,000
2004Chevy Pickup Truck (Full-Size)41,000
2000Honda Civic35,000
1997Honda Accord31,000
2019Toyota Camry17,000

FAQs

What city has the highest rate of auto theft?

Bakersfield, California, ranks highest on the list of auto theft occurrences. 

What state has the highest rate of car theft?

California has the highest car theft rate, with 168,323 vehicles stolen in 2020.

What city in the U.S. has the most carjackings?

More than 1,800 carjackings were reported in Chicago in 2021, more than any other large city in the country.

What cars do thieves target?

According to the NICB, the car most likely to be stolen is the Ford Full Size Pick-up.

What’s the hardest vehicle to steal?

The hardest vehicles to steal are those with high-tech security systems. According to the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), the cars least likely to be stolen include the BMW 3-series 4-door, Tesla Model S 4WD, and the Tesla Model X 4WD.

How To Make Sure You’re Covered For Auto Theft

Where you live defines your risk of having your car stolen. Some cities are safer than others, which is typically reflected in car insurance premiums. Make sure you compare rates to get the best deal available, no matter where you live.