Skip to content

Best and Worse States for Stolen Car Recovery: What Consumers Need to Know

Find Cheap Auto Insurance in Your Area

Imagine this happening. You’ve just left work … or the grocery store … or even your house, keys in hand. You look up and expect to see your car where you left it, and instead, there’s an empty parking space. And then it sinks in. You’ve been the victim of car theft.

Unfortunately, this is an experience many have every year. Even though vehicle thefts have declined slightly, the FBI says that in 2011 alone, more than 715,000 cars and trucks were stolen. Of these, less than half were recovered, with total losses of $4.3 million.

Recovery Rates by State

Progressive Insurance revealed a thorough report which details the best and worst states when it comes to recovering a stolen vehicle. They concluded that the average chances of a vehicle being recovered is 46%. As mentioned above, Washington is at the top of the list with a recovery rate of 71%, followed by Utah (63%), South Dakota (61%), Nevada (61%) and California (60%).

Chart of Best States for Stolen Car Recovery

Except for California, these states are sparsely populated. In fact, California’s recovery rate is extremely impressive, considering the fact that the Golden State has the highest number of vehicle thefts thanks to its large population and dense urban areas.

This video shows the California vehicle recovery authorities in action.

Meanwhile, in other states with dense urban areas such as New York, Florida, Texas and New Jersey, the number of auto thefts is unsurprisingly high with many stolen cars winding up in “chop shops” and sold for parts, but even they don’t have the worst recovery rates.

Unfortunately, that distinction goes to Mississippi (29%), Alabama (28%), Arkansas (28%), Pennsylvania (26%) and—worst of all—Michigan (19%).

Worse States for Stolen Car Recovery

So … what does this mean for a car owner? First, remember that these numbers tell you how likely you are to get your car back if it is stolen. It doesn’t tell you if you are likely to be the victim of car theft. For that, we need a broader picture.

Here are the top 10 states with the highest number of auto thefts in 2012:

  1. California
  2. Florida
  3. Texas
  4. New York
  5. Illinois
  6. Georgia
  7. New Jersey
  8. Maryland
  9. North Carolina
  10. Nevada

Likewise, some cars are bigger targets than others. According to the National Insurance Crimes Bureau, here are the top 10 stolen vehicles in the country based on 2012 data:


So, let’s say you’re a school teacher living in rural Alabama driving a 12-year-old Ford Taurus. Even though you live in a low-recovery state, your chances of being an auto theft victim aren’t that high anyway, and your car doesn’t carry that much value. Expensive comprehensive coverage may not make much sense.

Conversely, if you drive a Toyota Camry right in downtown Philadelphia, you’re a prime target in a state with a low recovery rate. Consider the expense of replacing your vehicle and look at comprehensive policies that will give you peace of mind.

Ultimately, there is almost no way to know for certain who will be a victim of auto theft and who won’t. So, besides carefully weighing your risks and choosing an appropriate type and amount of coverage, never forget these basic, common-sense rules:

  • Never forget to take your key with you when leaving your car.
  • Close and lock all windows and doors.
  • Park in well-lit areas. If your house has a garage, use it.
  • Keep valuables out of sight.

Find Cheap Auto Insurance in Your Area

video source:
InsuranceCrime (Jun 19, 2013) – “Forty-Six Stolen Luxury Cars Returned to Port of Los Angeles”