Car theft is on the rise: What should you do? | PEMCO

May 7, 2023 by PEMCO Insurance

car-theft.pngPacific Northwest drivers are at high risk of walking out to their parked cars and finding nothing but an empty space.  

Washington is now the third-worst state in the nation for auto theft, according to new stats from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), despite being only the 13th most populous state. That places it behind No. 1 California and Texas, which are the two largest states by population.  

In fact, there was a shocking 31% increase in theft in Washington in 2022 alone.

1 in 67 registered vehicles (46,939 of them) in Washington were stolen in 2022, as reported by The News Tribune. No comparable stats are available for Oregon. 

Car theft isn’t equally widespread throughout the PNW. Metro areas appear to be driving the trend, according to law enforcement sources like the Puget Sound Auto Task Force.  

The good news is, no matter what part of the PNW you call home, there’s plenty you can do to keep your vehicle safer. Here’s what to know about the cars most at risk, how to make your car less of a target, what to do if it happens, and how PEMCO can help: 

Which cars get stolen most often? 

For nearly a year, owners of many Hyundai and Kia models have been fitting their cars with steering wheel locks, GPS trackers, and other anti-theft devices to combat a well-publicized spike in thefts following the release of “tutorials” on the social media platform TikTok that teach would-be thieves how to start those cars without a key.  This viral hack may be a large driver behind the swift uptick in car thefts in 2022 (remember, that number is 31% in Wash.).

In case you're curious, we've included more details on the rise in Kia and Hyundai theft here, as well why it's these models, specifically, that are notoriously "easy" to steal. Simply put, it has to do with their keys lacking computer chips for theft immobilzer systems. If you drive a Kia or a Hyundai and want to know what to do, here is another good resource. Call your local dealership to see if they are offering a software upgrade for your model.

But other models are in thieves’ crosshairs, too. And it’s not always the new and shiny ones! Older cars are frequent targets because they have fewer antitheft devices and their versatile parts can be sold easily, making them worth more chopped apart than they would be whole. (On the opposite end of the scale, high-tech cars like the BMW3 series and Tesla models S and X have among the lowest theft rates.) 

The latest state-by-state data from NICB shows these cars are favorites among thieves in Washington and Oregon (the top three are the same!): 

Washington’s top-10 most-stolen vehicles 

  1. Ford Pickup (full size) 1999; 3,086  

  1. Honda Civic 1998; 3,019  

  1. Honda Accord 1997; 2,383  

  1. Chevrolet Pickup (full size) 1999; 1,162 

  1. Honda CR-V 2000; 989  

  1. Toyota Camry 1999; 657  

  1. Subaru Legacy 1998; 653  

  1. Dodge Pickup (full size) 2001; 487  

  1. Toyota Corolla 1999; 477  

  1. Ford Pickup (small size) 1998; 42 

Oregon’s top-10 most-stolen vehicles 

  1. Ford Pickup (full size) 1999; 1,584  

  1. Honda Civic 1998; 1,405  

  1. Honda Accord 1997; 1,099  

  1. Honda CR-V 2000; 825  

  1. Subaru Legacy 1999; 665  

  1. Chevrolet Pickup (full size) 1997; 442  

  1. Subaru Forester 2003; 432  

  1. Subaru Impreza 2000 ;382  

  1. Toyota Camry 1991; 323  

  1. Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee 1996; 313 

We’ll update that list when NICB releases its 2023 numbers. We expect to see Kia and Hyundais ranked higher.

How can I prevent car theft? 

No car is theft-proof, but there’s plenty you can do to shift the odds in your favor. The simplest deterrents are free: 

  1. Park inside a locked garage. It’s the single biggest thing you can do to deter every type of car-related crime. If your garage is too packed for your car to fit inside, here’s how to declutter it and make room. 

  1. Lock doors, close windows completely, and take the keys. Whether your ignition is keyed or keyless, leaving your car less than fully secured dramatically increases its risk.  

  1. Never leave a car running unattended. Not only is it illegal to leave your car warming up in the driveway, but running cars invite thieves.  

  1. Choose well-lit, busy parking areas. If possible, pick a spot in view of security cameras. 

  1. Use alarms or deterrent devices. Most thieves prefer uncomplicated targets, plus you’ll get a discount on your PEMCO auto insurance for having a car alarm. 

  1. Activate manufacturer-based subscription services. Programs like General Motors’ OnStar or Toyota Connected Car Services can help law enforcement locate your car geographically. They may also allow you to lock or disable your car remotely to prevent thieves from taking it farther.  

  1. Add a GPS tracker like LoJack to your car. If that’s not in your budget, iPhone users may consider a cheaper, although less precise alternative, the Apple AirTag. Remember: Even if you know where the car is, never attempt to recover it yourself. 

What should I do if my car is stolen? 

  1. Report the crime to the police. If you see the theft happening, call 9-1-1. If not, you can use a non-emergency phone number or report the theft online. Keep a copy of your crime report – particularly the number – so you have it for your insurance claim. 

  1. If you subscribe to a manufacturer-based subscription service, notify the service immediately so they can work with the police in finding your car. 

  1. Let your insurance company know. We can help if you’ve selected Comprehensive coverage on your PEMCO Auto policy. Lenders normally require it, but for cars you own outright, it’s optional. If you’re not sure if you have it, check your account at, talk with your local PEMCO agent, or call a representative at 1-800-GO-PEMCO. And to learn more, check out this story from our “Real Claims” series explaining how PEMCO helped when a customer’s Kia was stolen

We’re with you, PNW! 

Sharing timely, carefully sourced information from trusted safety organizations is an important part of PEMCO’s worry less, live more commitment to PNW drivers. We’re proud to partner with organizations like the National Insurance Crime Bureau. 



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