It's the sort of threat most people don't think about until it actually happens: stolen cars. But car theft is on a steep decline, according to new report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Citing recent data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the NICB says 699,594 cars were stolen in 2013. That's down 58 percent from 1991, when vehicle theft hit a record 1,661,738.
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More impressively, the decline occurred while registered vehicles and the general population rose. In 1991, thieves purloined 659 cars for every 100,000 Americans. In 2013, the rate fell to just 221.3 cars per 100,000 people.
In historical terms, today's rate isn't the lowest. NICB notes that in 1960, thieves made off with just 182 cars for every 100,000 people. But a lot of that stems from lower ownership rates. Back then, every 10 Americans accounted for just 4.1 registered vehicles. By 2012, that density ballooned to 8.1 registered vehicles for every 10 Americans. The federal data referenced by NICB includes buses, motorcycles and heavy-duty trucks — all classified as motor vehicles by the Federal Highway Administration — but if you look at auto thefts as a percentage of all registered vehicles, not people, recent years present the lowest overall rate.