Vehicle Theft Prevention
Motor vehicles are the primary mode of transportation for most of us, and often an indispensable part of our lives. But what would happen if your vehicle suddenly disappeared? Over 700,000 drivers fall victim to this costly crime each year.
Reducing Motor Vehicle Theft
In 2019, about three-quarters of a million vehicles were stolen in the United States—and nearly half of those thefts were due to driver error. Vehicle theft is a multi-billion-dollar crime, with the cost of stolen vehicles coming in at about $6 billion in 2019 alone. 75% of those vehicles were automobiles. Summers prove to be the worst season for vehicle theft. So, to help drivers keep their vehicles safe, NHTSA is continuing its annual Vehicle Theft Prevention Campaign during July — National Vehicle Theft Prevention Month.
A motor vehicle was stolen every 43.8 seconds in the United States in 2019.
Use common sense when parking and exiting your vehicle:
- Take your vehicle's key; do not leave it in or on your vehicle.
- Close and lock all windows and doors when you park.
- Park in well-lit areas if possible.
- Never leave valuables in your vehicle, especially if they can be seen from outside the vehicle.
Thieves want vehicle parts and valuable items, too.
Radios and wheel covers aren't the only popular stolen vehicle parts thieves take. They want whatever sells, from the mandated labeled parts to those that aren't. Some of the most popular vehicle parts or valuable items stolen from vehicles include doors, engines, transmissions, air bags, radios, GPS units, cell phones, iPads, laptops, and purses.
Protect Your Ride
There are numerous antitheft systems and devices designed to make vehicles more difficult to steal or easier to trace and recover. Here are how some of them work:
- Audible and Visible Devices: These devices, such as a horn alarm, deter theft by bringing attention to an unauthorized attempt to steal or enter a vehicle. Visible devices create a visual threat/warning/deterrence, such as the use of steering-wheel locks, as well as theft-deterrent decals, flashing lights, and window etching.
- Immobilizing-Type Devices: These prevent thieves from bypassing a vehicle’s ignition system and hot-wiring the vehicle. Some incorporate computer chips in ignition keys or disable the flow of electricity or fuel to the engine.
- Vehicle Recovery Systems: These devices use electronic transmission technology that help law enforcement reveal the location of stolen vehicles—and possibly catch the thief in the act.
Where's My Ride?
If you are a victim of vehicle theft, follow these steps:
- Contact police immediately to file a stolen-vehicle report. You will need a copy of the police report and/or a case number to provide to your insurance company. You may also be asked to provide the following information:
- License plate number;
- Make, model, and color of your vehicle; and
- Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and any identifying characteristics.
- Contact your insurance company to file a claim within 24 hours of your vehicle being stolen.
- If you find your vehicle before authorities do, contact the police and your insurance company immediately.
NHTSA is dedicated to promoting safe behaviors on our nation’s roads
For more than 25 years, NHTSA has set the standard to help vehicle owners address vehicle theft issues by continuously implementing and enforcing antitheft regulations. NHTSA regulations require vehicle manufacturers to label major vehicle component and replacement parts so authorities can better attempt to trace and recover stolen parts, and also encourages manufacturers to install passive anti-theft devices, like immobilizer systems, as standard equipment on their vehicles.
As part of NHTSA’s vehicle theft prevention outreach, we work to inform vehicle owners about precautionary measures they can take to help reduce and deter the theft of their motor vehicles. By providing fact sheets, infographics, and other relevant information, we help educate consumers about the prominence of vehicle theft, identify high-theft areas by state, and give useful information about what to do and who to contact in the event a vehicle theft occurs. NHTSA also provides theft-rate data for continued consumer education and awareness about this problem. During the annual Vehicle Theft Prevention Month campaign, held every July, NHTSA highlights the potential for motor vehicle theft, preventive measures consumers should take, the importance of addressing the vehicle theft problem, and its significant economic impact.
Search for more resources
Comparison of Differences in Insurance Costs for Passenger Cars, Station Wagons/Passenger Vans, Pickups, and Utility Vehicles on the Basis of Damage Susceptibility, 2018-2019
2017 Final High Theft List - Federal Register
Comparison of Differences In Insurance Costs For Passenger Cars, Station Wagons/Passenger Vans, Pickups, and Utility Vehicles on the Basis of Damage Susceptibility; Calendar Years 2015 - 2017
Consumer Advisory: Summertime Is Prime Time for Vehicle Thefts - Protect Your Ride
Vehicle Theft Prevention Quick Reference Guide - 2017