Auto Theft in the U.S.—Is Your Vehicle Protected?


Imagine waking up one morning, getting ready for work, then stepping out the door to find that your trusty vehicle has been broken into or even worse—STOLEN.

Approximately 2097 residents are victimized by auto theft EVERY DAY across the United States. While you may still be one of the fortunate ones, as auto theft crimes increase, so does your risk.

The more you know about auto theft the more you can do to protect yourself. 

Auto Theft Crime in the United States

Each year the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) gathers data on auto theft crimes in the United States. According to the 2016 Crime in the United States data:

  • Approximately 765,484 motor vehicles were stolen across the U.S. in 2016.
  • Auto theft increased by 7.4% in 2016 from the year prior.
  • Approximately 75% of motor vehicles stolen were automobiles (cars, trucks & SUVs).
  • Auto theft in 2016 resulted in over $5.9 billion in losses—$1 billion more than 2015.

Top 10 Cities that Experience the Highest Rates of Auto Theft

Six of the top 10 cities that experience the highest rates of auto theft in the U.S. are in California. Do you live in one of them?

  1. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  2. Pueblo, Colorado
  3. Bakersfield, California
  4. Modesto, California
  5. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, California
  6. Anchorage, Alaska
  7. Merced, California
  8. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California
  9. Fresno, California
  10. Billings, Montana

Behind the Scenes of Auto Theft

Ever wonder what car thieves do with the vehicles they steal? Many stolen vehicles wind up in a chop shop or in the hands of a buyer in a foreign country. Some also end up being illegally sold here in the U.S.

Car thieves can turn a vehicle into quick cash by disassembling and selling off the vehicle in parts. The money exchanged during these illegal transactions is often used to fund a criminal's drug addiction.

The exportation of stolen cars to foreign buyers is also a big business that translates into big money. In a recent WTKR news report out of Norfolk, Virginia, U.S. Customs officials recovered several stolen vehicles that were headed to Africa. This makes a total of 16 vehicles recovered in Norfolk since October, with an estimated total value of over $691,000. 

Auto Theft Prevention Tips

Auto theft is a lucrative business that victimizes everyone. Even if you've never had your vehicle stolen, you pay for such crimes through auto insurance premiums and taxes.

To avoid the additional costs—both financially and emotionally—of having a vehicle stolen, implement the following auto theft prevention tips to keep your vehicle from being an easy target.

  • Make it difficult to gain access into your vehicle. Every time you leave your vehicle, close your windows, lock your doors, and remove your keys from the vehicle. Anti-theft glass protection film such as VehicleGARD can also make your vehicle difficult to break into. This do-it-yourself glass security film is like having a coat of armor that makes breaking the windows of your vehicle extremely difficult for car thieves.
  • Install a variety of anti-theft devices. You need more than an alarm system to protect a vehicle these days. Anti-theft devices such as steering wheel locks, brake locks, wheel locks, and vehicle immobilizers provide additional layers of protection against auto theft. Visible anti-theft decals and etchings can also serve as deterrents.
  • Remove enticing valuables and personal information. Not every thief is looking to steal your car. Many of these thugs simply want whatever personal items you may have left in the car, including personal information about your identity. Be sure to remove your cell phone, wallet, purse, and other valuables from your vehicle each time you leave your car. Your vehicle registration should also be stored in your wallet or purse, not in the console or glove box of your car. Garage door openers should also never be left in your car, as some criminals specifically look for these to gain access into a person's home.
  • Install home security devices in and around your property. Every residence should be equipped with a home alarm system, adequate outdoor security lighting, and other home security devices specifically designed to prevent break-ins. Such devices include security door braces such as the OnGARD security door brace and glass protection film for windows and doors with glass panes (see BurglarGARD glass protection kits). If you park your vehicle in an enclosed garage, each of these devices can help protect against vehicle theft. If you park your vehicle outside your home, invest in motion-activated outdoor security lighting and a home surveillance system to deter car thieves from targeting your vehicle.
  • Install a vehicle tracking system. Vehicles with a wireless GPS tracking system are more likely to be recovered than those without one. Many of today's tracking systems incorporate telematics technology that alerts car owners when the vehicle is moved and allows the vehicle to be tracked by computer or smart phone.

Don't Be the Next Auto Theft Victim

Your vehicle is more than a mode of transportation, it's valuable personal property that you can't afford to lose. Don't make the mistake so many car owners have made and think auto theft will never happen to you. Implement the auto theft prevention tips you learned today and help others protect their beloved vehicles by sharing this article with them.



  1. U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Reports, 2016. Retrieved from
  1. National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), 2016 Hot Spots Report. Retrieved from
  1. AOL Tribune, WTKR. Norfolk customs officers recover stolen vehicles headed to Africa. Retrieved from