How Car Theft Affects Auto Insurance Rates

Your car is more likely to be stolen on New Year’s Day than any other day of the year and you are significantly more likely to be the victim of car theft if you live in California.

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Auto theft is said to cost victims an average of $8,400 in this country and the prevalence of this issue in your state and with your type of car could have a massive impact on your insurance premiums.

The question is, how do insurance companies view this issue and how much higher will your insurance premiums be if you live in a high risk area?

Can Car Theft Increase Auto Insurance?

Your location has a big impact on your auto insurance rates. If you live in a rural area, you’ll pay less than if you live in a city; if you have a long and busy commute, you’ll pay more than someone who walks to work. But sometimes, you have no control, because drivers living in areas with a lot of car crime will automatically be deemed high-risk, even if they live on a relatively quiet street.

Car insurance is all about risk. Higher premiums are charged when the risk is high and lower premiums are charged when the risk is low. If you drive a lot, live in an area with a lot of car crime and accidents, and have high-risk driving habits, you’ll pay more than someone who drives very little, has a clear record, and lives in a relatively crime-free area.

States with the Most Auto Thefts

In the United States, around 230 cars are stolen for every 100,000 people. This may seem like a high number, but it’s important to remember that these statistics are skewed by a handful of states that have much higher rates of car theft. To show you how bad this issue can be, take a look at these worst-hit states.

  1. California: Not only does the Golden State have the highest rate of car theft, but it seems to be on the rise. Many of the worst cities for car theft are located in California, and statewide insurance rates may take this into consideration.
  2. Texas: A big state with a big problem. Property crime, on the whole, is quite high here, although it varies from city to city and you won’t find any Texan cities in the top 10 for car theft.
  3. Florida: Tallahassee is the worst-hit city for vehicle theft in the Sunshine State, but Miami and Florida are not too far behind.
  4. Washington: With around 400 car thefts per 100,000 population, Washington has a massive issue with this particular crime and that issue seems to be growing year on year.
  5. Georgia: At 350 vehicles stolen per 100,000 population, Valdosta is the worst-hit region in Georgia, but this is a consistent issue across the state.
  6. Colorado: The city of Pueblo has one of the highest rates of car crime in the United States, with over 700 cars stolen for every 100,000 of the population. Denver is also high on the list.
  7. Tennessee: Cities like Nashville have a high rate of vehicle theft and while there are many safe and low crime regions, these cities keep the statewide statistics high.
  8. Ohio: The state of Ohio has a high rate of property crime, and cars and motorbikes are the focus for most of that crime.
  9. ​​​​Missouri: Joplin is the worst hit in Missouri and one of the 20 worst cities for car theft in the United States.
  10. Illinois: Vehicle theft has been dropping in Illinois and the problem is nowhere near as bad as it once was, but this is still one of the worst states in the country.

States with the Least Auto Thefts

While states like California and Texas have rates of car theft that are much higher than the national average, many states go way below this average and look like safe havens by comparison.

In Maine, for instance, the rate is four times less than the national average, and you’ll also see comparatively low rates in Vermont, New Hampshire, and elsewhere. Here is a list of the ten states where you are least likely to be the victim of car crime:

  1. Vermont
  2. Maine
  3. Wyoming
  4. New Hampshire
  5. Delaware
  6. South Dakota
  7. Rhode Island
  8. North Dakota
  9. Idaho
  10. West Virginia

The Most Stolen Cars

When accounting for all model years, the following cars are the most commonly targeted. If you have any of these, you will likely receive much higher car insurance quotes than if you were to drive a new car with multiple anti-theft features:

  1. Honda Civic
  2. Honda Accord
  3. Ford Pickup
  4. Chevrolet Pickup
  5. Toyota Camry
  6. Nissan Altima
  7. Toyota Corolla
  8. GMC Pickup
  9. Dodge Pickup
  10. Jeep Cherokee

Reading the above list, you could be forgiven for thinking that Toyotas and Hondas had very few anti-theft and safety features and were easy to steal.

However, it really all comes down to the sheer number of these cars on US roads.
Toyota and Honda are actually the first and second most popular vehicle types in the country, followed by Chevy and Ford, both of which are also on the above list.

Will Auto Insurance Companies Pay for Car Theft?

Auto insurers will pay out for car theft and vandalism if you have comprehensive coverage. If not, there isn’t much they can do to help you and you’re out of luck. 

This is why you should be very careful when you have a new car and/or an expensive car. If you can’t afford to lose that vehicle and all the money in it, you need to seriously contemplate comprehensive coverage. You might save yourself a few bucks every month by dropping it from your insurance policy, but at what cost?

Are Vehicle Thefts More Common?

In some states, car crime is on the increase, but across the country, on the whole, it seems to be heading in the opposite direction. There are several reasons for this, including the fact that many criminal gangs are now turning to the internet and drug trafficking, but the cars themselves are also to thank.

Most new cars have anti-theft devices  that make it very difficult for thieves to steal them and to sell them onto a willing buyer. They are difficult to break into, to start, and to transport, and they also have multiple tracking features and passive disabling devices that scare criminals away.

The media likes to talk about high-tech devices that can simulate key fobs and be used by criminals to quickly steal expensive high-tech cars. However, while these devices do exist, they are rare, and many manufacturers are finding ways to render them useless.

Also, the stats don’t lie, and they suggest that car crime is dropping. In 2019, there were just under 800,000 car thefts across the United States, and 10 years later, this had reduced to 750.000. That might not sound like a huge reduction, but it begins to look decidedly more promising when you realize that there are now over 20 million cars on the roads than there were back then.

How to Offset Increased Auto Insurance Premiums

If car insurance companies are quoting you a substantial sum of money because you drive a commonly stolen car or you live in a high-crime area, there isn’t much you can do short of buying a different car or moving home. However, there are a few discounts you can secure elsewhere that will potentially lower those high insurance costs:

1. Compare

Just because one insurer is charging you an extortionate sum of money doesn’t mean all of them will. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll make a massive saving by trying a different provider, as they use the same pool of data and will arrive at the same conclusions, but the difference between the most expensive provider and the cheapest could be several hundred dollars a year.

By shopping around, you can save yourself a few dollars and bring those car insurance premiums down to a reasonable level.

2. Maintain a Good Driving Record

Your driving record is an important piece of the car insurance puzzle. A good driver who has had no at-fault accidents or speeding tickets can expect to pay considerably less than a driver with several claims. It goes without saying that lower risk means lower rates, and the only way to prove that you’re not high-risk is to maintain a clean and safe driving record.

3. Look for Discounts

Car insurance discounts can save you up to 90% on your policy, depending on what you qualify for. A clean driving record is one such discount, but you can also get discounts for adding several cars to the same policy or purchasing several insurance products from the same company.

In addition, many insurers will offer you discounts for being part of membership clubs, being a good student or military veteran, paying your premiums upfront, and more.

How Can You Prevent Car Theft?

To stop yourself from becoming another victim and another part of this problematic statistic, keep the following tips in mind.

1. Lock Your Doors

It should go without saying, but believe it or not, tens of thousands of cars are stolen every year because the doors are left unlocked and/or the keys are in the ignition.

By leaving the keys in the ignition and/or the doors unlocked, you’re offering your car on a silver platter to any thief who happens by. It’s an offer they can’t refuse, and your vehicle will be out of sight before you realize your mistake.

Get into the habit of locking your car every time you step away from it, even if you’re just popping inside the house to grab your coat. Cars can be (and often are) stolen on driveways and even in garages.

2. Don’t Leave a Spare Key

Although a spare key can seem like a smart insurance policy if you ever lose your keys, it’s also just what a criminal will look for when they break into your car. Spare keys left under seats and in glove compartments are a terrible idea if you want to stay safe, and that applies to your home as well as your car.

3. Install Anti-Theft Devices

There are a multitude of anti-theft devices you can use to keep your car safe, some of which can be installed after purchasing your car. An alarm is one of the simplest and the most effective, as criminals will often run away if an alarm sounds.

Criminals prefer to operate in darkness and in silence, and if they have a screeching, screaming alarm invading their senses and attracting attention, they’ll try their luck elsewhere.

4. Close the Windows

Criminals see an open window as an invitation to steal your car. Even if it’s open just a smidge, they can use that opportunity to reach inside and unlock the door.

Of course, if you are leaving a pet in the car you should definitely leave the window open a little, but in that case, you don’t need to worry, as a dog will likely bark or bite if a thief is trying to reach inside and no criminal wants to draw attention to themselves like that.

5. Install a Tracking Device

A tracking device will record where your car goes and allow the authorities to catch criminals in the act. Also known as a vehicle tracking system, these devices use GPS to provide real-time updates of your vehicle’s location.

6. Park in Well-Lit Areas

Choose your parking spots carefully. While it can be tempting to park away from other vehicles to avoid bumps and dings, this will also make your car more exposed and more likely to be stolen.

Always park in well-lit areas and, if possible, near other vehicles. The latter won’t necessarily stop thieves from stealing your car, but a criminal can only steal one car at a time, and if yours is just one of many, the odds of it being chosen are slim.

Some high-tech criminal gangs will steal cars to order, in which case they choose expensive vehicles and generally don’t pay any heed to anti-theft devices. Most criminals, however, will look for the low-hanging fruit, the car that offers the least resistance. If you have any anti-theft devices or your car is new, it will likely be overlooked in favor of an older, cheaper, and more accessible car.

7. Don’t Leave Expensive Items in Plain Sight

If you’re leaving a laptop in the car, push it under a seat or throw a coat on top. If there is a wallet, bag or phone in the car, stick it in the glovebox. Your car is more likely to be broken into if there are valuables in plain sight. They might not actually steal the vehicle, but they’ll do a lot of damage in the process of stealing your items.