New research indicates California has the most car thefts in America 

The United States saw a 25 percent increase in motor vehicle thefts between 2019 and 2022, new research from MarketWatch Guides suggests, and that rise in thefts is being felt hardest in California

More than one million cars were stolen in 2022, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), and that trend doesn’t show signs of stopping; nearly 500,000 vehicles were stolen in the first half of 2023 alone, the NICB says, and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data shows that one car is stolen in America every 32 seconds.

As for California, 99,769 total car thefts were reported between Jan. and July 2023, which is over 44,000 more than the next closest state, Texas (55,365). 

Illinois saw a 38 percent increase in car thefts between 2022 and 2023, MarketWatch Guides said, which ranked as the highest jump in the nation. 

The ten states with the most car thefts between Jan. and July 2023 can be viewed in the table below: 

Rank State Total car thefts (Jan. – July 2023)
1. California 99,769
2. Texas 55,365
3. Florida 22,393
4. Washington 21,182
5. Illinois 20,820
6. Colorado 17,909
7. New York 16,100
8. Ohio 15,681
9. Georgia 14,101
10. Missouri 13,374
Source: MarketWatch Guides

When breaking down yearly car thefts by state, California doesn’t fare well there either; 202,685 cars were reported stolen in 2022, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

And while that is only a one percent increase from the previous year, it is over 97,000 more thefts than second-placed Texas. 

The ten states with the most car thefts in 2022 can be viewed in the table below: 

Rank State Yearly car thefts (2022)
1. California 202,685
2. Texas 105,015
3. Washington 46,939
4. Florida 45,973
5. Colorado 42,237
6. Illinois 38,649
7. Ohio 29,913
8. Missouri 29,345
9. New York 28,292
10. Georgia 26,529
Source: MarketWatch Guides

MarketWatch Guides also analyzed which U.S. metropolitan areas were subject to the most car thefts per 1,000 people. While the top spot is not claimed by a California city, number two is; Bakersfield averages 1,072.36 car thefts per 1,000 people, according to the MarketWatch Guides data, which cited the Insurance Information Institute. 

“Most motor vehicle theft hotspots are concentrated in the Midwest and western U.S.,” researchers said. 

The ten U.S. metro areas that suffered from the most vehicle thefts in 2022 can be viewed in the table below: 

Rank Metropolitan area Vehicle thefts per 100,000 people
1. Pueblo, Colorado 1,086.44
2. Bakersfield, California 1,072.36
3. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colorado 1,062.67
4. Memphis, Tennessee-Mississippi-Arkansas 845.68
5. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Oregon-Washington 796.94
6. Albuquerque, New Mexico 795.18
7. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington 758.68
8. San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, California 699.30
9. Greeley, Colorado 589.42
10. Kansas City, Missouri-Kansas 572.67
Source: MarketWatch Guides

Of the vehicles stolen most often, only one of the top five is a post-2010 model, MarketWatch Guides concluded. Owners of 2004 Chevrolet pickups were victims of the most auto thefts in 2022, with 49,903 of them reported stolen.

Other vehicles in the top five include 2006 Ford pickup trucks, the 2000 Honda Civic, the 1997 Honda Accord and the 2013 Hyundai Sonata. 

The top ten stolen models in 2022 can be viewed below: 

Rank Vehicle # of thefts (2022)
1. 2004 Chevy pickup 49,903
2. 2006 Ford pickup 48,175
3. 2000 Honda Civic 27,113
4. 1997 Honda Accord 27,089
5. 2013 Hyundai Sonata 19,602
6. 2017 Hyundai Elantra 19,602
7. 2015 Kia Optima 18,221
8. 2021 Toyota Camry 17,094
9. 2005 GMC pickup 16,622
10. 2001 Honda CR-V 13,832
Source: MarketWatch Guides

When it comes to why vehicle thefts are so common throughout America, experts believe that cars are easy for thieves to target for multiple reasons. 

“Cars are more desirable than other forms of property for some criminals because it’s often not about the value of the vehicle as much as the mobility it provides,” said Dr. Jeffery Walsh, a professor of criminal justice at Illinois State University. “To put it another way, vehicles are relatively high value and easily mobile, and in some markets, relatively easy to convert to cash.” 

Dr. Walsh also added that some vehicles are more desirable than others due to the value of their parts or because of how easy they are to steal, as seen with the viral “Kia challenge” on TikTok, where thieves use a USB connector to start and steal Kias and Hyundais. 

More information on the MarketWatch Guides study, including insurance tips and theft prevention methods, can be found here

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