States with the Highest and Lowest Auto Theft Rates

July 22, 2009
If you dont live in a city like New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, you may feel that your car is much less likely to be stolen. Unfortunately, this just isnt true. The truth is, Americas busiest metropolitan areas did not make the top ten list of U.S. cities with the highest auto theft rates. Whats even more surprising is carjacking is not the preferred method for car thieves. Carjacking only accounts for 3% of all motor vehicle thefts. Out of the approximately 1,095,769 motor vehicles that were reported stolen in 2007, only 32,873 were the result of carjacking. Fortunately, car theft rates in the U.S. overall have declined for the fifth year in a row down from  8.1% in 2007 to 12.6% in 2008. However, in unlikely areas such as Modesto, California and Laredo, Texas, a significant increase in car theft was reported for 2008.

Overall, the entire state of California has the highest number of auto thefts in the nation thanks to the city of Modesto, which currently holds the #1 spot in the nation (among cities) for car theft. Los Angeles (#24), San Diego (#4), and San Francisco (#9) have also helped keep the state of California in the number one spot for auto thefts. The city of Laredo, Texas has the second highest number of auto thefts (among cities) in the nation, helping place the state of Texas in the #2 spot for auto theft. The city of El Paso, Texas is currently at #17 on the list of U.S. cities with the highest auto theft rates.

If youre wondering why cities such as Laredo and Modesto have higher auto theft rates than cities like New York and Los Angeles, the answer is simple. These cities are located on the U.S.-Mexico border a pipeline for thieves smuggling everything from drugs and weapons to money. Thieves use the stolen vehicles obtained from border towns to commit other crimes on both sides of the border. Western border towns are not the only areas where stolen vehicles are used to commit other crimes. Number 3 on the list of U.S. cities with the highest auto theft rates is Yakima, Washington -- the only northern state on the list. Yakima sits on a main road that runs between Canada and Mexico.

Metropolitan areas such as the San Francisco/Oakland/Freemont area and Sacramento made the list for other reasons. In addition to having a higher number of motorists than other major metropolitan areas, such as New York and Chicago, these areas offer quick and easy access to freeways. Although Chicago and New York have a high number of motorists, they do not offer quick and easy access to highways.

Continue reading to find out if your state is listed as one of the top 10 states for auto theft or if your city made the top 25 list of cities with the highest auto theft rates. You will also find a list of cities with the lowest auto theft rates as well as total auto thefts per year.

Top 10 States for Auto Theft

Around 36.8% of all auto thefts nationwide occurred in western states in 2008, followed by 34.6% in southern states and 18.5% in midwestern states. Around 10.2% of all auto thefts nationwide occurred in Northeastern states.

#1 California
Approx. 242,693 auto thefts per year

#2 Texas
Approx. 95,429 auto thefts per year

#3 Florida
Approx. 76,437 auto thefts per year

#4 Arizona
Approx. 54,849 auto thefts per year

#5 Michigan
Approx. 50,017 auto thefts per year

#6 Washington
Approx. 45,899 auto thefts per year

#7 Georgia
Approx. 43,163 auto thefts per year

#8 Illinois
Approx. 37,641 auto thefts per year

#9 Ohio
Approx. 37,425 auto thefts per year

#10 New York
Approx. 32,134 auto thefts per year

U.S. Cities with the Highest Auto Theft Rates
**Results are calculated on a scale of thefts per 100,000 people
1. Modesto, California
Total Thefts: 4,235
Rate per 100,000: 829

2. Laredo, Texas
Total Thefts: 1,960
Rate per 100,000: 827

3. Yakima, Washington
Total Thefts: 1,828
Rate per 100,000: 779

4. San Diego/Carlsbad/San Marcos, California
Total Thefts: 22,554
Rate per 100,000: 751

5. Bakersfield, California
Total Thefts: 5,918
Rate per 100,000: 739

6. Stockton, California
Total Thefts: 4,963
Rate per 100,000: 738

7. Las Vegas/Paradise, Nevada
Total Thefts: 13,662
Rate per 100,000: 732

8. Albuquerque, New Mexico
Total Thefts: 6,182
Rate per 100,000: 730

9. San Francisco/Oakland/Freemont, California
Total Thefts: 30,735
Rate per 100,000: 719

10. Fresno, California
Total Thefts: 6,533
Rate per 100,000: 718

11. Visalia-Porterville, California
12. Detroit, Michigan
13. Tucson, Arizona
14. Sacramento, California
15. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
16. El Centro, California
17. El Paso, Texas
18. Vallejo, California
19. Phoenix, Arizona
20. Eugene, Oregon
21. San Bernardino, California
22. Columbus, Ohio
23. Miami, Florida
24. Los Angeles, California
25. New Orleans, Louisiana

U.S. Cities with the Lowest Auto Theft Rates
**Results are calculated on a scale of thefts per 100,000 people

1. Virginia Beach, Virginia
Total Thefts: 731
Rate per 100,000: 172

2. New York, New York
Total Thefts: 50,674
Rate per 100,000: 260

3. Austin, Texas
Total Thefts: 2,867
Rate per 100,000: 386

4. Arlington, Texas
Total Thefts: 1,602
Rate per 100,000: 432

5. San Antonio, Texas
Total Thefts: 4,291
Rate per 100,00: 459

6. Louisville, Kentucky
Total Thefts: 6,625
Rate per 100,000: 484

7. San Jose, California
Total Thefts: 4,666
Rate per 100,000: 497

8. Wichita, Kansas 
Total Thefts: 1,805
Rate per 100,000: 500

9. Colorado Springs, Colorado
Total Thefts: 1,994
Rate per 100,000: 554

10. Jacksonville, Florida
Total Thefts: 4,740
Rate per 100,000: 597


U.S. Census Bureau Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2007
126th Edition, Washington, DC.

U.S. Department of Justice

National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB)

Insurance Institute For Highway Safety (IIHS)
Highway Loss Data Institute

Insurance Information Institute
Where Your Car is More Likely to be Stolen

Michelle Burton is a published author and contributing editor for Auto Insurance Tips, Internet Brands, and Publications International, Ltd.

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