Car Theft Is Decreasing but Still Accounts for $6.4 Billion in Losses

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Lisa Steuer McArdle
Updated on Apr 27, 2022 · 3 min read
According to the most recent data available from the Insurance Information Institute (III),
car theft
has been trending downward for more than 20 years.
Still, about $6.4 billion was lost to car theft in 2019, the year that has the most recent data available. In addition, the average dollar loss per theft was $8,886. It’s a substantial amount of loss, but it’s a great improvement when you look at the overall picture. After all, as technology improves, so do
options for cars.
Car thieves are on the decline, but that doesn't mean you should let your guard down | Twenty20

Downward trend in car theft

In its definition of motor vehicle theft, the FBI includes theft or attempted theft of automobiles, buses, trucks, scooters, motorcycles, snowmobiles and other vehicles.
The III noted
that vehicle thefts have been decreasing since they peaked in 1991 at 1.7 million, falling 43% to 721,885 in 2019.
In 2019, motor vehicles were stolen at a rate of 219.9 per 100,000 people, which was down from 230.2 the year before. In addition, there were 751,885 vehicles reported stolen in 2018, which decreased 4% to 721,885 in 2019.
Law enforcement and anti-theft programs and technology have been credited with contributing to the decrease in theft reduction by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).
Interestingly, the NICB also noted that the Honda Civic was the most frequently stolen passenger vehicle in 2017, and that most of the models stolen were older and lacked the anti-theft technology of today’s models.
There were only 388 thefts of the 2017 Honda Civics that year, while there were 6,707 thefts of the 1998 model.

More car theft statistics

More data from the III shows that California had four of the top U.S. metropolitan statistical areas for motor vehicle theft rates in 2019. Other states in the top 10 include New Mexico, Kansas, Texas, Washington, and Missouri.
Even though there has been a downward trend in car thefts for a while, car thefts did increase significantly in 2020 compared to 2019. According to the NICB, this ended a two-year trend of decreasing auto thefts.
In fact, the number of car thefts totaled 873,080 in 2020—a 9.2% increase from 2019, which recorded 799,644 thefts. Data from the FBI’s National Crime Information Center indicates the increase in car thefts in 2020 may be due to the pandemic, economic downturn, public safety budgetary and resource issues, and the loss of juvenile outreach programs.

The best ways to protect your car from being stolen

Even though car thefts have largely decreased over the last few decades, it’s still important to be cautious and realize that they still happen.
After all, experts warn that car thieves’ tactics are ever-evolving. Those tactics include switching vehicle identification numbers, using stolen identities to obtain loans for stolen vehicles, and acquiring smart keys, which eliminated the practice of "hot wiring" to steal cars.
These days, many anti-theft devices are built into your car. But if you’re interested in protecting your vehicle even further, there are several devices you can install on your own, including steering wheel locks, car wheel clamps, brake locks, and a kill switch that will disable your car’s electric system during an attempted theft.

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