A study from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NCIB) shows auto thefts surged in 2020, even as many of us stayed off the roads, our cars safely tucked away.

“All indications are 2020 will be the largest theft year in the past decade by a significant margin," said the group’s CEO, David Glawe.

Read on to learn about the scale of the problem — and about some ways to protect your ride and your insurance premiums in 2021.

Thefts trend up during pandemic

Man breaks into car

According to the study, there were 873,080 auto thefts in 2020, a 9.2% increase over the year before, a boost of more than 73,000 thefts.

Glawe speculates that the pandemic and economic downtown are likely contributing factors, along with strains on governments budgets that fund public safety efforts like policing.

So what vehicles are most targeted? The 2020 data isn’t available yet, but we can take a look at 2019 to see the trends. If you have one of these cars, be extra cautious:

Vehicle Thefts Most frequent vehicle year stolen
Ford Pickup (Full Size) 38,938 2006
Honda Civic 33,220 2000
Chevrolet Pickup (Full Size) 32,583 2004
Honda Accord 30,745 1997
Toyota Camry 15,656 2007
Nissan Altima 13,355 2015
Toyota Corolla 12,137 2018
Dodge Pickup (Full Size) 11,292 2001
GMC Pickup (Full Size) 11,164 2018
Honda CR-V 10,094 2001

How to safeguard your car

Men's hand presses on the remote control car alarm systems
Triple_D Studio / Shutterstock

It’ll never happen to you, right?

In fact, a vehicle is stolen in the U.S. every 40 seconds. Rather than just hoping you’ll be among the lucky ones, you should take active steps to protect yourself and your property. Start by incorporating the NCIB’s recommendations:

  • Common sense. Don’t forget the easy stuff — lock your doors and windows and park in well-lit areas.
  • Warning devices. Loud alarms help thwart would-be burglars, but so do visible devices like steering wheel locks and brake locks.
  • Immobilizing devices. The third layer of protection will protect your car from more advanced techniques. Some examples are smart keys; fuse cut-offs; kill switches; starter, ignition and fuel pump disablers.
  • Tracking devices. If your car does get stolen, GPS and other technology can help authorities recover it.

Breath easier with auto insurance

Beautiful young happy smiling woman driving her new car at sunset.
MilanMarkovic78 / Shutterstock

Even with all the vigilance, your car can still be stolen. The only way to relax in the face of this threat is with adequate auto insurance. Decide how much coverage you need — and if you’re at all worried about theft, you’ll need comprehensive coverage.

Next, make sure you aren’t paying too much. If you haven’t comparison-shopped over the last six months, you could be wasting more than $1,000 per year. With a free quote-comparing service, you could find the best price in minutes.

Notice how you’ve been driving a lot less over the past year? You may be eligible for a pandemic-related discount. Some insurance companies are offering a COVID “stimulus check”. Call your insurer to see if they’ll offer a rebate or credit on your premiums.

About the Author

Ethan Rotberg

Ethan Rotberg


Ethan Rotberg is a staff reporter at MoneyWise. His background includes nearly 15 years as a writer, editor, designer and communications professional. He loves storytelling, from feature writing to narrative podcasts. His work has appeared in the Toronto Star, CPA Canada and Metro, among others.

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