10 worst cities for auto thefts

Find out which U.S. cities see the highest rates of car theft.

Author profile picture

Susan Meyer

Senior Editorial Manager

Credentials
  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

Author profile picture

Ross Martin

Manager, Content Quality

Credentials
  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Ross joined The Zebra as a writer and researcher in 2019. As a licensed insurance agent, he specializes in writing insurance content to help shoppers…

Car theft is rampant in the U.S. According to the National Crime Information Center, car thefts were up 7% last year from the previous year. There were over a quarter million cars stolen in the last quarter of 2022 alone[1]

Not all models stolen at equal rates. Kia and Hyundai have been a huge part of that uptick with these two models making up 60% of all auto thefts [2]

Where you live also makes a big difference in how likely you are to experience car theft. To find the highest-risk areas for auto theft in the U.S., we evaluated the top 50 metropolitan areas based on population. First, we looked at the rate of motor vehicle thefts per 100,000 residents. Next, we looked at the change in thefts between 2020 and 2021 (the last year for which data is available) to determine if auto theft is on the rise or the decline. These stats all came from the National Insurance Crime Bureau [3].

1. Bakersfield, CA

 

Bakersfield is a city with less than half a million people, making it the 9th most populous city in California. It also has the distinction of having the most car thefts of any U.S. city. In 2021, the city experienced 1,023 thefts per 100,000 residents. This was a 13% increase over the previous year. 

 Bakersfield

2. Denver, CO

 

Denver is the capital and most populous city in Colorado which incidently made the NICB's hot spot list for the top state by number of auto thefts. Not only did Denver experience 964 thefts per 100,000 residents, but the theft rate increased by 37%. As with most places, Kia and Hyundai vehicles make up a large percentage of those cars stolen. 

 iStock-537215344

3. Pueblo, CO

 

Well south of Denver and with a much smaller population, the city of Pueblo takes the third spot on our list. The city experienced auto theft at a rate of 891 per 100,000 residents. Additionally, the theft rate increased a whopping 47% in one year. Pueblo police cite driver apathy as a reason behind the record levels of theft[4]

 iStock-1287466393

4. Albuquerque, NM

 

Coming in at number four, the most populated city in New Mexico: Albuquerque. Albuquerque experiences a theft rate of 710 per 100,000 residents. Additionally, the number of thefts is growing year over year at a rate of 12.4%. 

 

 

 iStock-1160413113

5. Portland, OR

The largest city in Oregon, Portland has seen an explosive growth in population in recent years. It's also unfortunately reached number five on the list of cities with the most car thefts. Portland experienced 680 per 100,000 residents. It also saw a 38% increase in thefts year over year. For what it's worth, according to the Portland police, up to 93% of stolen vehicles were recovered within the year [5].

 portland

6. San Fransisco, CA

San Fransisco saw 675 car thefts for 100,000 people. However, the rate of car theft is staying a bit more stable than other cities on the list; it only increased 3.8% from one year to the next. Interestingly while car thefts are rising, overall crime in the city has dropped [6]. The car theft increase is likely because of the Kia and Hyundai vulernabilities to theft. 

 san francisco

7. Billings, MT

Billings is a city in southern Montana along the Yellowstone River. In 2021, the city saw 611 car thefts per 100,000 residents. The number had increased about 8% from the previous year. It's rank has slowly been increasing in the last few years. In 2017, Billings was 15th in the nation, now it's up to number seven. 

 iStock-1067026668

8. Milwaukee, WI

Coming in at number eight, Milwaukee saw 597 thefts per 100,000 residents in 2021, which was a 73% jump over the previous year. Yet again, Hyunadi and Kia vehicles were a big driver in those numbers. While that sounds pretty bad, in 2022 the rate did start to come back down 23% in 2022 and again by 29% in 2023 [7]

 milwaukee

9. Seattle, WA

Like many cities on this list, Seattle is the largest city in its state. It saw 582 car thefts per 100,000 residents, which was a 25% increase over the previous year. This is only a piece of the picture though. A study on pandemic-era crime trends found that motor-vehicle theft in Seattle had actually increased 73% from 2019 to 2022 [8].

 Seattle-iStock-464852512

10. Yuba City, CA

A smaller city in Northern California, Yuba City rounds out the top ten cities for most motor vehicle thefts. The city saw 578 thefts per 100,000 residents. That said, it was the only city on the list that saw that number dropping from 2020 to 2021, by about 20%. 

 1920px-Downtown_Yuba_City

Do you live in a city with a high rate of auto thefts? If so, and especially if you drive a make and model that is particularly targeted, make sure you have comprehensive auto coverage, so your car will be protected.