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The Most Stolen Vehicles In England & Wales


The Most Stolen Vehicles In England & Wales

Car thefts are back on the rise again - and police say that high-powered and expensive cars are still the ones the thieves target most often across the UK as a whole.

The latest statistics from the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service, covering 2015, show that a car’s age isn’t necessarily a factor which will prevent it from falling prey to theft.

Indeed, one of the 10 cars most often stolen in the UK is the Ford Escort - which hasn’t been in production since 2004. In contrast to their more modern counterparts, such vehicles are often targeted simply because thieves know that they only have very basic anti-theft protection, unless it has been fitted by the owner post-sale.

Thefts Rise 9% 

The total number of vehicle thefts throughout Wales and England rose by nine per cent in 2015, with a total of 75,656 cars reported stolen.

You’re proportionately most likely to fall victim to car theft if you own an Audi S3, the police’s figures show. This top-of-the-range sporting model can reach 60mph from a standstill in less than five seconds - which is probably one of the reasons it’s so popular among thieves, who know they stand a fair chance of outrunning anyone who tries to catch them in the act. 

Yet for the retail price of more than £32,000, you get a car which is relatively low-key compared with lots of other models which are designed to go like a scalded cat - and this probably accounts for a large measure of its popularity among the criminal fraternity.

Not Just Thoroughbreds At Risk - But Workhorses Too

But while the S3 is a desirable ‘hot hatch’, the other main targets for those who’d want to have it away with some flash wheels are at the utilitarian end of the market.

The next two positions on the shopping list of car thieves are the Land Rover Defender and the Range Rover.

The former slipped out of production without much of a fanfare in January 2016, but the latter is a major success story for Tata, the Indian company which now owns parent firm Jaguar Land Rover. And that’s despite owners having to stump up anything from £23,000 to £62,000 for the privilege of driving around in one of these Solihull-built cars right up to the model’s withdrawal. 

By comparison, the £30,600 starting price for a Range Rover Evoque makes them seem rather unassuming and plain. But if you want the all-singing, all-dancing Range Rover of the type which has been a favourite with the country set (or at least people aspiring to join them) for several generations, you can expect to have to wave goodbye to at least £75,000.

The Defender’s popularity stems from the fact that they are no longer in production, according to Steve Launchbury, an engineer at vehicle crime research body the Thatcham Institute.

Many, he says “are stolen to order for distribution overseas, by organised gangs who have invested in specialist tools to reverse-engineer the vehicle’s security systems.”

Land Rovers Among Criminals’ Favourites

Indeed, insurers are so worried about the rising trend of Defender thefts that one of the UK’s biggest specialists in covering such vehicles, agricultural specialist NFU Mutual, has gone to the lengths of urging owners to be more security-conscious.

Most Defender thefts are, police believe, carried out by organised gangs who are intent on exporting the vehicles abroad, thanks to their sound reputation for being able to tackle the toughest terrain and mechanical durability, which in theory means that someone who, unwittingly or otherwise, buys one of these vehicles is getting something which is likely to give them a long period of solid service.

Dr Ken German, a director of the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators, said any individual vehicle’s risk of being targeted comes down largely to the potential market for that vehicle, not just in the country from where it is stolen, but also anywhere else in the world.

“Enthusiasts and collectors will pay thousands – sometimes tens of thousands – of pounds for a nice example [of the most popular models]. When you add in the fact that most don’t have the security systems that come as standard on modern cars, you can see the attraction for criminals.”

Thefts Go High-Tech

But another trend is for thieves to use radio signals to block those between an electronic key and the vehicle. They then break into the car, and download information from the vehicle’s on-board diagnostic system onto a blank key, after which they can simply drive the vehicle away - and potentially, all this can be done in a matter of seconds, according to the UK’s National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS).

These so-called ‘keyless’ vehicle thefts are also rising due to wider availability of devices designed to be able to override a car’s immobiliser system. And the UK’s Home Office has expressed concern that: “Once the knowledge of electronic compromise spreads from more seasoned offenders to more casual ones, thefts will start to rise.”

Essentially, car manufacturers are engaged in an ongoing game of ‘cat and mouse’ with the thieves - but the scales are weighted in favour of the latter, especially when many car owners’ very carelessness is added into the equation. Ian Crowder, a spokesman for the Automobile Association (AA) remarked: “The weakest link remains the driver and how they look after their keys.

“Thieves loiter at places such as car parks and petrol stations looking for an opportunity,” he added.

Most-Targeted Vehicles

So how at risk is your vehicle? NAVCIS has produced a chart showing the 10 models which are most often stolen, in proportion to the numbers of each vehicle on the UK’s roads. The vehicles filling those 10 most ‘at-risk’ positions - with the figure following it denoting the numbers stolen per 1,000 on the road - are:

  • Audi S3 - 8.6
  • Land Rover Defender - 5.8
  • Land Rover Range Rover - 3.8
  • Audi Q7 - 3.7
  • Ford Escort - 3.6
  • BMW X5 - 3.1
  • Audi A5 - 3.1
  • Mitsubishi Shogun - 2.4
  • BMW 5 Series - 2.4
  • Toyota Hilux - 2.4

It’s clear from these figures that pick-ups and general utility vehicles are among those at greatest risk - filling four of the top 10 positions - and another reason which may contribute to this is that thieves know that, not only is the vehicle itself a useful workhorse, but it is also likely to be filled with valuable tools and equipment, capable of being easily sold on to a specialist market.

Trackers A Useful Tool 

Another alarming fact to emerge from NAVCIS’ figures is that only about 43 per cent of stolen vehicles are ever recovered. This proportion is so low partly because only a minority of vehicles is equipped with a tracking system.

There are two basic types available, one which provides basic tracking information of the vehicle, and another which is capable of immobilising it if it is reported stolen. Fitting of these involves an up-front cost of typically a few hundred pounds, with an annual subscription fee also payable to have the vehicle listed on a national database.

The manufacturer of one of the best-selling tracking systems claims that the proportion of vehicles fitted with the technology which are recovered goes up to 95 per cent - compare this with the figure for general recoveries quoted earlier - with more than eight out of 10 being found again within 24 hours of a reported theft.

No Substitute For Good Old-Fashioned Care

But while vehicle thieves, police and owners continue to be engaged in an ‘arms race’ when it comes to vehicle thefts and their prevention, the low-tech means of protecting vehicles from the risk of falling prey to thefts of and from them remain the most effective.

So Dyfed Powys Police is among the forces which endorse the following list of precautions which owners of all vehicles are recommended to take to minimise the risk of falling victim to vehicle theft:

  • Always park in an open, well-lit and secure area if possible, in view of CCTV cameras. Use a garage if you have one.
  • Shut all windows, and ensure the boot and sunroof and closed and locked whenever leaving your vehicle, no matter how briefly.
  • Whether or not the vehicle has an alarm/immobiliser, consider using some other visual form of deterrent, such as a steering wheel lock or gearstick lock.
  • If there is no onboard electronic lock, consider getting one fitted.

Trackers Save On Insurance Costs

The fitting of a tracking system is increasingly being recognised by insurance companies by way of a reduction in premiums, with discounts typically ranging between 2.5 and 15 per cent depending on the type of system fitted, and whether it is Thatcham-approved.

Of course, no vehicle can ever be guaranteed to never fall prey to the attempts of a particularly determined thief, thanks simply to the potential gains to be made by selling on someone else’s pride and joy.

But the above brief and succinct advice shows that our own determination to avoid thefts, and the care we take in the steps aimed at doing so, are the biggest factors in ensuring that our vehicles don’t become a target.

Or you could always just buy an old banger - but then again, as those police figures show, you might want to steer clear of a Ford Escort…

If you’re in the market for a quality used car - perhaps one which has effective security to safeguard it against theft - you’ll always find a wide selection, and get friendly, helpful advice to guide you towards the right choice, at Philip Paul’s Newtown showroom.