The U.S. News Best Places Data Drill Down, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that sheds light on multiple data points to help readers make the most informed decision when choosing where to live in the United States. Visit our 2016 Best Places to Live ranking to see which of the 100 most populous metro areas made it to the top of the list based on good value, desirability, a strong job market and a high quality of life.

Your ability to use a car to commute is imperative if you live in an area where public transportation is limited. When it comes time to find your next home, the safety of your car should play a major role in your sense of security.

As apartment and condominium communities offer an increasing number of amenities to appeal to potential renters and buyers, resident parking – and secured parking – is often considered a major plus, if not a must, for many.

[Read: 10 Places With the Lowest Burglary Rates in the U.S.]

U.S. News compiled data on car thefts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 2014 – the most recent year for complete data from the bureau – to determine which of the 100 largest metro areas in the country had the highest rate of car theft.

Albuquerque, New Mexico, takes the top spot for highest rate of car theft, with a total of 6,131 thefts in 2014 and 676.9 thefts per 100,000 people. The City of Albuquerque acknowledges its high rate of auto theft on its website, noting New Mexico’s shared border with Mexico gives car thieves added incentive because they can take the stolen vehicles across the border and sell them.

In San Francisco, which takes the No. 3 spot on the list with 631.7 car thefts per 100,000 people, secured garage parking remains a fairly low priority for renters, says Charley Goss, head of government affairs at the San Francisco Apartment Association. Instead, he says many residents take public transportation or use a bicycle to get around the city rather than pay additional rent to park a car off the street.

"The city will try to minimize the amount of parking that's provided [in a new apartment building], because it would like to incentivize public transit or certain green ways of transportation," Goss says.

Auto insurance companies not only recommend diligence about locking your car and keeping valuables out of sight to avoid tempting any passersby, but may also offer reduced premiums for drivers who park in a secured garage.

If you know that you live in an area with high rates of car theft, you can take advantage of long-term parking garages run by the city or a private third party, or one provided by your landlord if you live in an apartment building.

Here are the 10 metro areas with the highest rates of car theft in the U.S.

10. Seattle

Seattle takes the No. 10 spot for highest rates of car theft out of the 100 largest metros in the U.S., with 469.1 thefts per 100,000 people. Despite racking up 17,560 vehicle thefts in 2014 and a higher-than-average property crime rate, Seattle maintains a lower-than-average crime rate, boosting it to the No. 7 spot in the Best Places to Live 2016 rankings.

9. San Jose, California

The capital of Silicon Valley is known for its high cost of living and the high income of its residents – many of whom are big in the tech industry. The known wealth in the area may be a contributing factor to the number of car thefts reported: 471.4 per 100,000 people. Similar to Seattle, San Jose’s property crime remains below average compared with the rest of the country.

8. Spokane, Washington

This eastern Washington metro area had the fewest total car thefts in the top 10 with just 2,578 in 2014, but Spokane’s population of just over half a million people means the auto theft rate is 472.3 per 100,000 residents. While violent crime has managed to remain below the national average, property crime in the Spokane area has been consistently higher than the national average for decades.

[See: The 20 Best Places to Live in the U.S. for Quality of Life.]

7. Fresno, California

With 491.5 car thefts per 100,000 people, Fresno has the seventh-highest rate out of the 100 largest metro areas in the country. Fresno’s high rates of both property crime and violent crime, along with a high rate of unemployment and low average annual salary, contribute to the metro area’s low overall ranking (No. 97 out of 100) for Best Places to Live 2016.

6. Milwaukee

The only metro area not in the western half of the U.S. on the list, Milwaukee's rate of car thefts is 539.4 per 100,000 people. With just over 1.5 million residents in its metro area, Milwaukee experienced 8,496 car thefts in 2014, and additionally it has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country.

5. Stockton, California

Stockton isn’t the only Central Valley metro area on the list, with 559 auto thefts per 100,000 people. In addition to above-average property and violent crime rates, Stockton’s high unemployment rate and high cost of living contribute to its taking the No. 98 spot on the Best Places to Live 2016 list.

4. Bakersfield, California

A bit further south in California's Central Valley, Bakersfield also makes the list with 5,328 car thefts in 2014, a rate of 603.9 incidents of theft per 100,000 people. Property crime rates have been declining in the Bakersfield area since 2012, but they remain above the national average. Another metro area with a struggling job market in addition to high crime rates and low incentive to move to the area, Bakersfield ranks No. 95 in the overall Best Places to Live 2016 ranking.

3. San Francisco

As the largest metro area on the list, San Francisco is third with 631.7 car thefts per 100,000 people, equal to a total of 29,400 incidents in 2014. But the Golden City’s high rates of violent and property crime don’t outweigh the metro area’s ever-flourishing job market and high desirability among U.S. residents. San Francisco owns the No. 9 spot in the Best Places to Live 2016 rankings.

2. Modesto, California

The sixth and final California metro area on the list, Modesto has the second-highest rate of auto theft out of the 100 largest metro areas in the country, with 649.7 thefts per 100,000 people. With a population of roughly three-quarters of a million people, the Modesto area has one of the highest violent and property crime rates in the country. It ranks No. 99 in the Best Places to Live 2016 ranking, beating out only San Juan, Puerto Rico.

[Read: The 10 Most Stolen Cars.]

1. Albuquerque, New Mexico

The second-most eastern city of the 10 places with the highest rates of car theft, Albuquerque saw 676.9 auto thefts per 100,000 people in 2014. The City of Albuquerque notes New Mexico’s close proximity to the U.S. border with Mexico lends to a higher chance of vehicle theft, as criminals may not only be seeking joy rides or compensation from chop shops, but also the potential to take the car over the border to sell in Mexico.

Tags: real estate, renting, new home sales, existing home sales, pending home sales, crime, safety, cars


Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

Recommended Articles

The Guide to Living in a Co-Op

Devon Thorsby | July 9, 2020

Here's what you need to know about how a co-op works differently from traditional homeownership.

What to Do if You Get Evicted

Maryalene LaPonsie | July 8, 2020

With government protections being lifted, many people could face eviction notices in the months to come.

How to Find a Real Estate Agent

Devon Thorsby | June 30, 2020

Here's how to find a real estate agent to help you confidently navigate a home sale or purchase.

Should You Buy a Condo?

Geoff Williams | June 26, 2020

Before you commit to owning a home, consider factors like maintenance fees and proximity to neighbors.

What to Know About Moving to Canada

Devon Thorsby | June 25, 2020

Planning and preparation can make your move to Canada a success.

The Guide to Buying a Home Sight Unseen

Dima Williams | June 24, 2020

While feasible, purchasing a home sight unseen requires more work and attention.

How to Look Up the History of Your House

Devon Thorsby | June 23, 2020

Find out anything from previous owners and environmental records to who died on a property.

Is My Agent Selling My Home Right?

Steven Gottlieb | June 19, 2020

A few questions can help you know if your real estate agent has the skills to sell your home at the right price.

Prepare Your Home for a Hurricane

Kimberly Lankford | June 19, 2020

Hurricane season runs from June through November, and even some small steps can make a big difference in protecting your home.

What to Know About Moving to Austin

Devon Thorsby | June 18, 2020

Find out if you should be one of the many people putting down roots in Austin, Texas.

How to Renovate a House

Devon Thorsby | June 17, 2020

Plan your home remodeling project carefully, and consider your skill level combined with your budget.

How Much Does a Tiny Home Cost?

Devon Thorsby | June 16, 2020

Living in a tiny house may sound like a great way to save, but some details require a hefty investment.

How to Prepare for a Long-Distance Move

Lisa Larson | June 12, 2020

Follow these 10 tips for getting your family and home ready to relocate to a new city or state.

Neighbor Rights Regarding Construction

Devon Thorsby | June 11, 2020

Construction noise can be a nuisance for homeowners and apartment dwellers, so it's important to know your options.

Do's and Don'ts of Buying Vacant Land

Devon Thorsby | June 9, 2020

Buying a home can be complicated, but purchasing land to build on is a whole new ball game.

15 Affordable DIY Backyard Games

Devon Thorsby | June 4, 2020

These at-home projects will get you and your crew outdoors this summer to make the most of your backyard space.

25 Affordable Home Organization Ideas

Devon Thorsby | June 2, 2020

These tips will bring order to your home – and keep it that way.

Outlook for the Housing Market in the Recession

Devon Thorsby | May 28, 2020

Are we in a recession? Here's a look at how the pandemic will affect the housing market.

What to Know Before Moving to Miami

Devon Thorsby | May 26, 2020

Beyond the sunny weather and beaches, Miami offers residents global business opportunities and multicultural attractions.

Should You Move to Florida?

Devon Thorsby | May 21, 2020

Whether you're aiming for South Beach or the Panhandle, there are a few things you should know before making Florida your new home.