What’s behind Colorado’s rising car theft?


The number of reported car thefts has been on the rise in Colorado over the last few years at an alarming rate. While a single cause for this increase has yet to be identified, key findings and data points help lead us to several conclusions.

Among these conclusions are a lack of policy enforcement, arrests not being able to keep up with theft, and more.

Before you consider registering a car in Colorado, here is what to know about these thefts and why they’re increasing so much.

Colorado’s Alarmingly High Motor Vehicle Theft Rate

Colorado’s car theft problem is even more pronounced in the state’s cities, where car thefts have increased by as much as 120.6%.

Despite the complexities involved in addressing motor vehicle theft, there has been an undeniable increase in Colorado’s rate of auto theft. According to the latest statistics from the FBI, Colorado has the 6th-highest motor vehi­cle theft rate in the United States.

Two Colorado municipalities ranked among the top ten in the U.S. for motor vehicle theft. These include the Denver Aurora Lakewood Metropolitan Statistical Area and Pueblo. Those four communities accounted for a significant portion of the state’s total number of stolen vehicles.

Strong Penalties and Policy Against Theft Are Lacking

Colorado has not implemented effective policies to address its car theft problem: A large number of individuals arrested for auto thefts had previous arrests for auto thefts.

Colorado’s criminal laws regarding automobile thefts were recently modified to decrease the penalties for these types of crimes in Colorado.

Car Thefts Target Low-Income Communities

Automobile thefts disproportionately impact poor people in Colorado. Motor vehicles are stolen more often in lower-income communities, so they disproportionately impact these communities. According to the data, the most common type of car theft occurs when someone steals a car from a parking lot or driveway.

There is a correlation between higher levels of inequality and higher levels of auto theft. Areas with the highest levels of inequality, such as Pueblo and Adams Counties, also tend to have the highest levels of auto theft.

Wealthier communities are less likely to experience car thefts. As a result, we can conclude that poor communities in Colorado are more vulnerable to car theft.

Most Commonly Stolen Cars in Colorado

The most commonly stolen cars in Colorado in 2021 were:

  • 1997 Honda Accord
  • 2000 Honda Civic
  • 2004 Ford F-250
  • 2005 Chevrolet Silverado
  • 2005 GMC Sierra
  • 2006 Ford F-350
  • 2015 Kia Optima
  • 2017 Hyundai Sonata
  • 2017 Hyundai Tucson
  • 2017 Kia Sportage

None of the most commonly stolen vehicles in the state are particularly expensive or valuable vehicles.

Possible Reasons Behind the Increase

Colorado’s car theft rate has been on the rise in recent years, and law enforcement officials are scrambling to find out why. One theory is that the state’s thriving economy is attracting more criminals from out of state.

Another possibility is that the state’s lax laws on vehicle ownership and registration make it easier for thieves to operate. Whatever the reason, Colorado residents are advised to take extra precautions to protect their vehicles.

Rise in Car Thefts in Colorado in 2020

The increase in car thefts in 2020 in Colorado is likely due to several factors, including the vulnerabilities created by the pandemic. Among these factors were:

  • How police departmentshandled reports of stolen vehicles.
  • The manner in which judgesdealt with cases involving carjacked cars.
  • Lighter penaltiesfor those who stole cars
  • Economic instabilitydue to the pandemic

In addition, some thieves took advantage of the situation by stealing vehicles from people who had been quarantined due to the pandemic.

Do auto insurance policies cover theft?

Most car insurance policies cover theft. However, there may be some conditions or exclusions that apply. For example, some policies may not cover theft if the keys are left in the car or if the car is left unattended in a public place.

It’s always a good idea to check with your insurer to see what is and is not covered under your policy.

Owners of cars that are not recovered and who have comprehensive car coverage can be reimbursed by their insurers for the full value of the car minus the deductible. Often the complete value of the car plus any repair costs do not fully cover the cost if the car is lost due to theft.

What happens if the car is found?

In cases where the car is found, the insurer may pay only part of the actual value of the car, depending on the type of policy purchased. For example, if the owner had full replacement cost automobile coverage, they would receive 100% of the value of the car.

However, if the owner had liability-only coverage, then the insurer might only reimburse them 80%, 60%, 40% or 20%. Even if the car is found, if the car is in a high-crime area, the owner could face higher rates for future policies.

The main reasons why premiums rise after a car is reported missing include the location where the car is located, whether the car is in a low-crime or high-crime area, how much the car depreciates, and the age of the car.

Colorado has one of the highest rates of car thefts in the country, so insurers tend to increase their prices for everyone living there, even if they haven’t been affected by a crime.

How Stolen Cars Are Used

Sometimes, stolen vehicles are used in the commission of other crimes. Some evidence suggests that breaking into vehicles may be a way of life for some criminals. They may break into vehicles to find somewhere to stay and steal items of value, such as credit cards and money.

However, the increasing number of vehicle theft cases in Denver and Pueblo is emblematic of an increase in crime throughout the city. There is a transience of vehicle theft crimes in Colorado, which often occur in one jurisdiction but are then later recovered in another.

It Pays to Stay Cautious

The rise in vehicle thefts in Colorado has been startling and dramatic. Police departments across the state are figuring out how to deter criminals from stealing vehicles as well as how to recover those that are stolen, but the fact remains: This trend of increasing car thefts across the country makes prevention more important than ever before.

Luke Williams writes and researches for the insurance comparison site, His passions include insurance and spreading awareness about car theft.