Thefts of premium cars have doubled in five years – here’s how to protect yourself

Thefts of premium cars have doubled in five years – here’s how to protect yourself
Thefts of premium cars have doubled in five years – here’s how to protect yourself

The number of high-end cars stolen across the UK has more than doubled in the last five years.

Between January and October this year more than 14,300 premium models were stolen, compared with the 6,600 taken in the same period in 2015, according to insurance data.

In the first half of this year more premium cars were stolen than in the whole of 2015 and insurers are warning that 2019 could break records for the number of high-end vehicles targeted by thieves.

According to the latest analysis of data by Direct Line Insurance, premium cars now account for 37 per cent of all car thefts despite representing only 25 per cent of all cars on the road.

Direct Line’s definition of premium includes Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Infiniti, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus, Lotus, Maserati, Mercedes, Mini, Porsche, Tesla, TVR and Volvo.

Alfa Romoe Giulia Quadrifoglio
Alfa Romeo is among the premium brands identified in the Direct Line data (Photo: Alfa Romeo)

Gone in 38 minutes

The insurer’s data shows that since 2015 more than 67,700 of these premium cars have been stolen, the equivalent of one every 38 minutes.

While the number of premium cars has grown in the last five years, the rate at which they are stolen has grown even more. According to Direct Line’s figures, there are 1.7 million more premium cars on the road now than in 2015. That’s a 26 per cent increase over five years but the number of reported crimes has risen 117 per cent in the same period.

Read more: The worst UK postcodes for car theft

Technology to blame?

Figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) show that overall payments for car theft claims reached a seven-year high earlier this year, with new technology thought to be partly to blame.

Many premium models were among the first to get “keyless entry” systems which use transmitters in a keyfob to remotely unlock and start the car. However, these systems have proved vulnerable to relay attacks where criminals intercept and mimic the key signal, allowing them to open and start vehicles without the key.

With their relatively high value, premium models are an obvious target for organised gangs.

Read more: Gone in 10 seconds: Thieves able to drive away some of Britain’s most popular cars in a matter of seconds

Steve Barrett, head of motor insurance at Direct Line, commented: “Our shared love of cars and technology has led to increasingly luxurious vehicles, but also a steady rise in car prices and an increased possibility of theft. Our analysis shows that certain premium car brands can be at heightened risk of being stolen so it is important for car owners to take additional precautions especially in the darker months to ensure their vehicles are not easy targets for thieves.

“Many owners believe that parking in their driveway can be an effective deterrent to thieves, though our research shows that parking in driveways does not deter thieves. We would, therefore, encourage policyholders to protect their cars by investing in anti-theft equipment, such as a steering wheel lock. Such simple yet effective devices make cars less attractive to thieves and much harder to steal.”

Capital crime

cars parked in Kensington
London is the UK’s worst area for theft of premium models (Photo: Shutterstock)

The figures show that, on a regional level, London is the premium car theft capital, accounting for more than a third (34 per cent) of all premium car thefts over the past five years. This works out at around one premium car being reported as stolen every two hours, and accounts for nearly half (49 per cent) of all reported car thefts in the capital.

London is followed by the West Midlands (15 per cent) and the North West (14 per cent), meaning that these three regions account for nearly two thirds (63 per cent) of all premium car thefts across the UK, despite only accounting for 56 per cent of all car thefts.

Top tips to prevent car theft

In light of its findings Direct Line has offered some advice on how to protect yourself from car thieves

  • Keep the vehicle locked. Modern cars’ smoother locking mechanisms can make it difficult to hear if the car locks. Double-check that it is locked before leaving your vehicle, even if you are just ducking away for a few minutes. Never leave the vehicle running when you are not with it, and ensure the car is locked when parked outside your home.
  • Invest in the right technology – Most modern cars are fitted with alarms and immobilisers as standard. However, thieves’ technology is advancing in line with that of manufacturers’, and a “belt and braces” approach to car safety could make the difference. Steering wheel, pedal and gear locks are inexpensive, easy to install and off-putting to criminals, while tracking devices or CCTV systems fitted near your car can help track down your vehicle and the perpetrator should it be taken.
  • Keep your keys safe – The easiest way for a criminal to steal a car is by taking the keys, so always ensure you store your keys out of sight of doors or windows.
  • Block signals – Some manufacturers make it possible to switch your key off. If this is not possible for your car, invest in a “Faraday pouch”. The pouch, often referred to as a cage, shields its contents from static electric fields, distributing the electric charges around the cage’s exterior protecting items within. They are relatively inexpensive and available from many retail outlets.
  • Park smart – If you don’t have the luxury of a private garage or off-street parking, do try to park in a well-lit, populated area whenever possible. Thieves will always target vehicles left in areas where they have little chance of being seen, so parking in side roads or areas away from street lights could put your vehicle at risk.

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