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Watch Your Cars in These Cities: The Worst 10 Cities in the U.S. for Car Theft

The Ugly Truth About Auto Theft

Car theft remains a major problem. In 2009, 794,616 motor vehicles were reported stolen. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Uniform Crime Reports, a motor vehicle is stolen in the United States every 40 seconds, with the odds of a vehicle being stolen in any given year being 1 in 270.

The good news is that U.S. motor vehicle thefts fell 17 percent from 2008 to 2009 and are continuing to drop. The South accounts for the largest share of thefts—37.8 percent, followed by the West, 34.2 percent. The Midwest accounted for 18.0 percent of thefts and the Northeast for 10.0 percent.

According to a National Insurance Crime Bureau the following Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) had the highest rate per capita for vehicle thefts in the nation in 2009:

  1. Laredo, TX 1,792 (Total Vehicles Stolen) / 742.22 (Cars Stolen Out of 100,000)
  2. Modesto, CA 3,712 / 727.29
  3. Bakersfield, CA 5,530 / 684.91
  4. Stockton, CA 4,479 / 663.69
  5. Fresno, CA 5,875 / 641.89
  6. Yakima, WA 1,525 / 637.93
  7. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA 26,374 / 610.81
  8. Visalia-Porterville, CA 2,440 / 567.88
  9. Las Vegas-Paradise, NV 10,706 / 562.63
  10. Albuquerque, NM 4,815 / 561.2

(1) Ranked by the rate of vehicle thefts reported per 100,000 people based on the 2009 U.S. Census Population Estimates.

Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau

What You Can Do to Protect Yourself: Comprehensive + GAP Coverage

Although comprehensive coverage is not required by any state, 70%+ of all drivers get comprehensive coverage. These drivers know that having a strong comprehensive coverage policy is the only way to truly protect yourself in the event of auto theft. Comprehensive coverage also pays for fire, vandalism and weather-related damage including damage from flooding and earthquakes. Premiums for comprehensive insurance policies are affected by the risk of loss and the car’s value. The size of comprehensive claims have been going up recently, reflecting the higher value of new cars and the rising cost of vehicle repair. But, the average comprehensive insurance premium in the U.S. is still below $150/year on average (based on a $500 deductible).

To further protect yourself, getting GAP insurance is a good idea. GAP stands for Guaranteed Auto Protection, and a GAP policy covers you for the difference between the reimbursable value of your car and what you may owe on the car. When you drive your new car off the lot the value of your vehicle plummets, sometimes as much as 20%-30%. For example, say that you paid $25,000 for a new car and financed the entire purchase price. If the car is stolen a month later, even with full comprehensive coverage, you will only receive the market value of your vehicle which could be as much as 20%-30% lower than the purchase price. Since you still owe $25,000 on that car, this means you may be stuck paying for the 20%-30% difference. GAP insurance covers you for the difference and is worth getting if you want to protect yourself fully from auto theft.