Statistics for Car Theft in Australia 2024

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In Australia, in both cities and rural areas, car theft is a significant problem which fosters genuine causes of concern for the general public and the authorities.

This concern is not unwarranted. Incredibly, a light commercial or passenger vehicle is stolen, on average, every 11 minutes. Overall, that equated to more that 38,000 thefts in 2021.

Moreover, the advancement of technology within the automotive industry means that the tactics used by car thieves have also evolved – making the security of vehicles even more vulnerable. Subsequently, it seems, we are more at risk than ever.

In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the statistics behind car theft in Australia to try and understand why it is so prevalent. During it, we will explore the patterns, hotspots, and emerging trends underlying this criminal activity. We will also analyse the numbers, examine the dynamics and shed light on some of the factors that contribute to the prevalence of car theft in this country. So, buckle up, lock your doors and let’s get going.


Car theft rates in Australia

It may surprise you to learn that with enhancements in security technology, it has become virtually impossible for thieves to hotwire the latest models of cars – thus debunking the popular misconception that it is still a prevalent way to steal motors. However, as mentioned at the top, car theft is a significant issue in Australia, with a passenger or light commercial vehicle being nicked, on average every 11 minutes. Therefore, it is still a big problem.

In terms of car theft demographics by state, Queensland had the highest number of individual car thefts in 2021, with over 11,000 cases. By contrast, the Northern Territory, Tasmania and the ACT enjoyed much lower levels of car theft – most likely because less people live there than in other parts of the country.

Interestingly, the effect of COVID-19 on rates of car theft has been significant. In 2021, the theft of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles decreased significantly, probably due to COVID-19 lockdowns. After all, the restrictions imposed during the pandemic may have limited opportunities for thieves to steal cars, resulting in a decrease in car theft incidents.


Most stolen car models in Australia

You might be wondering which car gets stolen the most in Australia. Well, the answer is the Holden Commodore VE MY06_13. Indeed, this vehicle has had the dubious honour of being number one for the last three years – not the best PR for the automotive brand.

That said, the impact of COVID-19 on car theft rates has been significant, resulting in a decrease in the number of stolen cars due to lockdowns and restrictions. However, there are still regional variations when it comes to car theft. These stats make telling reading.


Motor Vehicle Thefts for Australia 2021

  • NSW – 10,896 (22.8% of total thefts)
  • VIC – 12,651 (26.5% of total thefts)
  • QLD – 12,977 (27.1% of total thefts)
  • WA – 5,635 (11.8% of total thefts)
  • SA – 2,802 (5.9% of total thefts)
  • TAS – 996 (2.1% of total thefts)
  • NT – 670 (1.4% of total thefts)
  • ACT – 1,176 (2.5% of total thefts)


Motor Vehicle Thefts for Australia (Passenger/Light Commercials) in 2021

  • NSW – 8,525 (22.3% of total thefts)
  • VIC – 10,163 (26.6% of total thefts)
  • QLD – 11,059 (29% of total thefts)
  • WA – 3,924 (10.3% of total thefts)
  • SA – 2,111 (5.5% of total thefts)
  • TAS – 780 (2% of total thefts)
  • NT – 595 (1.6% of total thefts)
  • ACT – 1,030 (2.7% of total thefts)


Common Methods of Theft

In Australia, thieves use various cunning methods to steal vehicles.

One common technique involves using electronic hacking devices to override modern keyless entry systems. In particular, this method takes advantage of vulnerabilities in the technology, which, ironically, is aimed at enhancing the vehicle’s security in the first place.

In addition, opportunistic thieves often target unsuspecting victims who leave their cars unattended, whether during quick stops at convenience stores or while warming up their cars on cold mornings.

The illegal trade of stolen cars has also seen an increase in the use of relay attacks, in which criminals intercept and amplify signals between key fobs and nearby parked vehicles, allowing them to unlock and start the car with alarming ease.

As a result of these advanced methods of theft, it is clear that preventing your car from being stolen requires a multifaceted approach that stays ahead of these evolving tactics.


Factors contributing to car theft

Car theft in Australia is driven by a combination of factors. First and foremost is the allure of high-end and luxury vehicles, which often become prime targets due to their resale value. At the same time, economic motivations also play a role, with stolen cars sometimes being used in other criminal activities or shipped overseas for illicit markets.

Geographical and demographic considerations are also significant, as densely populated urban areas tend to witness higher rates of car theft compared to rural regions. Additionally, the prevalence of keyless entry systems and modern technology has introduced new vulnerabilities, making it easier for tech-savvy thieves to exploit electronic security features.

Moreover, socio-economic factors, such as unemployment and poverty, contribute to the desperation that can drive individuals to engage in car theft for financial gain.


Budget Direct’s 2021 Car Theft Survey

Did you know that almost 70% of Australians have never experienced car theft or theft of their belongings from their car? According to Budget Direct’s 2021 Car Theft Survey, only 7.4% of Australians have had their car stolen, while 18.2% have had their belongings stolen from their vehicle.

The survey also highlighted some interesting demographic trends. Respondents aged between 18-24 years had the least experience of car theft. In addition, men were more likely to have their belongings stolen than women – possibly because women tend to keep their car keys hidden.

Furthermore, there were regional differences in the rates of car theft. Queensland had the highest number of car theft cases, while the ACT, NT and Tasmania, experienced lower totals as a result of their smaller populations. As mentioned, the effect of COVID-19 lockdowns brought about a notable decrease in car thefts over the course of 2021.


Recovery and insurance after car theft

While almost 70% of Australians have never had their car stolen, of those who have, some 70% have not had the stolen items or vehicles recovered. If you find yourself in this soul-destroying situation, it can leave you feeling hopeless, angry and violated.

To help you navigate car theft recovery and insurance claims, there are four important things to keep in mind:

1. Prevention of Car theft: Make sure you proactively take measures to safeguard your car. This may include always parking in areas that are well lit and getting after-market immobilisers installed if you drive an older vehicle. Always secure your keys, as these are needed to start and drive modern vehicles.

2. Stolen vehicle tracking: Stolen vehicle tracking systems use advanced technology to help authorities locate and recover your stolen car more quickly. If your car doesn’t currently have this technology, it is worth having it installed.

3. Stolen vehicle investigation: It’s important to report the theft to the police immediately. They’ll begin an investigation and try to accrue evidence to increase the chances of recovering your stolen vehicle.

4. Insurance claims: Having comprehensive car insurance that covers theft is crucial. This will offer financial protection and ease the burden of replacing your stolen vehicle or belongings.


Final Thought

There is no doubt that car theft rates in Australia are alarming, with one vehicle being stolen every 11 minutes. This is especially the case in Queensland, which has the highest number of reported cases and the Northern Territory has the highest rate of thefts per 1,000 registrations.

At the end of the day, you can’t totally protect your car from being stolen. But factors like inadequate key protection and sneak thefts are contributing factors to the high theft rates.

Therefore, it’s crucial for car owners to take necessary precautions to protect their vehicles. Doing this will significantly improve your chances of your vehicle not being nicked.