Driving

10 worst cities for auto thefts

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

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Buying a car is a major investment, so it’s only natural to want to protect your vehicle as much as possible. Depending on where you live, you may face a greater risk of having your car stolen compared to other places. 

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 2017 and 2018 to determine if auto theft is on the rise or the decline. Finally, we looked at the average age of car for each state. While newer cars are more difficult to steal, they’re also more valuable (both as a whole and for parts like tire rims), making them  more likely targets.

Check out our list of top 10 cities for auto theft in America. For comparison, here are the statistics we used on a national scale:

  • Motor vehicle theft (per 100k residents): 228.9*
  • Rate of change in annual vehicle thefts: -3.1%*
  • Average age of car: 11.8 years*

 

10 Worst Cities for Auto Thefts

#1: Oklahoma City, OK

Image with text noting that Oklahoma City is the worst city for auto theft.

Oklahoma City had the largest increase in annual thefts between 2017 and 2018. Local police have noted that spikes occur  during the winter months  when people leave their cars on to warm them up before driving. Oklahoma’s average car age is also well below the national average at just over 10 years old.

  • Motor vehicle theft (per 100k residents): 389.2
  • Rate of change in annual vehicle thefts: 28.7%
  • Average age of car: 10.1 years

 

#2: Dallas, TX

Dallas is another hotspot in the nation for car thefts, with over 300 vehicles stolen per 100,000 residents. The city ranks fourth for newest cars. Earlier in 2020, an  auto-theft ring  was discovered by local police that hacked into the computers of newer cars to start them and drive away.

  • Motor vehicle theft (per 100k residents): 301.6
  • Rate of change in annual vehicle thefts: 9.27%
  • Average age of car: 10.2 years

 

#3: Riverside, CA

Riverside has one of the highest rates of motor vehicle theft compared to other cities — it also ranks as the  most expensive city for owning a car. On the positive side, however, the annual increase in thefts wasn’t enormous, as just 4.30%. The local Sheriff’s Department formed the  Riverside Auto Theft Interdiction Detail (RAID), which has been instrumental in cracking down on thefts in the area.

  • Motor vehicle theft (per 100k residents): 470.4
  • Rate of change in annual vehicle thefts: 4.30%
  • Average age of car: 11.3 years

 

#4: New Orleans, LA

Another area experiencing a sharp increase in auto thefts is New Orleans. The city ranked third for it’s 11.43% annual increase in thefts, bringing the rate up to 333.8 per 100,000 people. News reports reveal that  one car is stolen every three hours  in New Orleans.

  • Motor vehicle theft (per 100k residents): 333.8
  • Rate of change in annual vehicle thefts: 11.42%
  • Average age of car: 11.3 years

 

#5: Chicago, IL

With over 372 vehicles stolen per 100,000 residents, the Windy City ranks high for auto theft in the nation. Plus, the average age of cars in Illinois is 10.8 years, a full year less than the national average. 

  • Motor vehicle theft (per 100k residents): 372.6
  • Rate of change in annual vehicle thefts: 3.87%
  • Average age of car: 10.8 years

 

#6: San Jose, CA

San Jose has the highest rate of motor vehicle thefts at a whopping 514.4 for every 100,000 people. Last year, the city’s police department  received $750,000 in funding  to better fight against auto crime sprees. The new initiatives may be working since the area saw a 1.36% drop.

  • Motor vehicle theft (per 100k residents): 514.4
  • Rate of change in annual vehicle thefts: -1.36%
  • Average age of car: 11.3 years

 

#7: Austin, TX

With a prevalence of newer vehicles, Austin has seen an increase in auto thefts of over 5% year-over-year. And with COVID-19 causing more people to work from home,police have noticed a slow down  in the amount of time people report cars being stolen because it takes longer to notice the car is missing. 

  • Motor vehicle theft (per 100k residents): 161
  • Rate of change in annual vehicle thefts: 5.71%
  • Average age of car: 10.2 years

 

#8: Jacksonville, FL

Jacksonville also has newer vehicles compared to the rest of the country. While the rate of increases is slowing, the area still has about 245 thefts per 100,000 people. Whole neighborhoods are often targeted over a span of time, with the city’s  Southside experiencing a surge  in early 2020.

  • Motor vehicle theft (per 100k residents): 245.1
  • Rate of change in annual vehicle thefts: 2.30%
  • Average age of car: 10.6 years

 

#9: Memphis, TN

Although the average car in Memphis is a year older than the national average, the city has seen a 15% increase in auto thefts. In addition to areas like mall parking lots being targeted,multiple auto dealerships  have also recently been hit with thefts.

  • Motor vehicle theft (per 100k residents): 430
  • Rate of change in annual vehicle thefts: 15.16%
  • Average age of car: 12.7 years

 

#10: Buffalo, NY

With just an average car age of 9.8 years, Buffalo has some of the newest cars in the nation. But thefts are also on the rise, with a 4.32% increase. Like Oklahoma City, Buffalo police also warn residents against leaving their cars running in the winter. In fact, there’s even a  $238 ticket for the practice in New York state, plus the potential of 15 days in jail. 

  • Motor vehicle theft (per 100k residents): 130.4
  • Rate of change in annual vehicle thefts: 4.32%
  • Average age of car: 9.8 years
Image with text listing 10 worst cities for auto theft

 

While car theft is usually  covered by comprehensive auto insurance, you can’t replace the time and emotion involved with becoming a victim. Plus, any personal possessions in your car probably aren’t covered by your policy. Do your best to avoid having your car stolen by consistently locking your doors, checking on your car even while at home for extended periods, and not leaving your car unattended while warming it up.

 

Methodology

The Zebra pulled three data points to analyze the top 50 MSAs (by population) in the U.S. for auto theft statistics. Some MSAs were removed due to lack of data, including New York City.

MSA data was used where applicable, and we sometimes substituted city or state data as necessary. 

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