There is a decent amount of anecdotal evidence about manual transmissions being a good anti-theft device - but are there any statistics?

Here's a statistic-less article from MSN.com

It's folk wisdom: If no one really drives a manual transmission anymore, then no one's going to want to steal one, right?

Makes sense. It makes good sense, in fact. That little stick on the floor might as well come with a big car-insurance discount; one look down and any thief with an ounce of sense is going to move right along.

Or will he? Does the evidence back up this bit of wishful thinking on the part of manual enthusiasts?

Can anyone find any proper statistics to back or refute the claim? How about percentage of people that can drive stick? Anything?

  • 13
    You should probably mention which country this is about, in many countries manual transmissions are the norm.
    – Mad Scientist
    May 6, 2013 at 12:03
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    How can a manual gearbox be good anti-theft? O.o Only people that uses automatic is like handicapped and old people in Sweden. Neither are the most common thieves.
    – Wertilq
    May 6, 2013 at 12:06
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    I'm looking for any statistics from any country, though I live in the U.S.A. Only 3-5% of vehicle sales are manual transmission here, and as such a low percentage of the population (statistic, anyone?) know how to drive them, it's commonly said that many common thieves might pass it by as 'not an easy target'. I'm looking for studies/statistics/numbers to support or refute this.
    – Ehryk
    May 6, 2013 at 12:55
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    @Ehryk: you say that you're not looking "only for USA statistics", yet in other countries automatic transmission is used mainly by handicapped, and manual is the norm and requirement to get fully recognized driver's license.
    – vartec
    May 6, 2013 at 14:24
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    Since the stolen car is likely to end up being parted out or shipped overseas, I'd be surprised if the transmission mattered at all when choosing a car to steal. I'd be surprised if a car thief didn't know how to drive a manual.
    – Johnny
    May 6, 2013 at 18:45

1 Answer 1


In the USA, it certainly makes at least a minor difference. There is a running theme on Jalopnik of stories like this

They apparently couldn't start it. I had to tell him four different times to push in the clutch, because it's a standard transmission.

My first thought was I guess we don't have driver's ed in school anymore because no one knows how to drive a stick. And my second thing was, don't shoot me because you can't start the car. I'm trying to help you out here. You know. Thankfully they didn't.

Obviously not scientific, as it is only one of many stories like this. But even if only a handful of thieves can not drive stick that is at least a tiny bit safer for American manuals.

It is not a single event either, maybe not common but it does happen somewhat frequently and here is another example

Swahn says one of them pulled out a gun, got in the car, and tried to take off. Deputies say neither of them knew how to drive a car with a manual transmission. They got out and fled on foot.

Also, this story has been reused dozens of times, Carinsurance.com, MSN, and here is FOX

The best information I can see is anecdotal from the police force:

800,000 vehicles were reported stolen in the U.S., one every 40 seconds), but police say that only a tiny percentage of stolen cars have manual transmissions.

So maybe that "tiny fraction" means %.001 or ~5% inline with the manual sales.

I think the best we can do for an answer though is either it depends or it is unknown:

Frank Scafidi, director of public affairs for the National Insurance Crime Bureau, which tracks car-theft trends, says he's not aware of any data to support or refute that idea.

Read more: http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2011/03/28/stick-shift-anti-theft-device/#ixzz2SdCjZyrl

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