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Number of stolen cars soars by nearly a third

Increasing number of thieves are bypassing modern vehicle security systems, according to data collated by RAC Insurance

Words ByClaire Evans

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The number of vehicles stolen has risen by 30% in the past three years, from just over 65,700 in 2013 to almost 85,700 in 2016.

According to data gained from police forces in England and Wales, the worst region for car theft in 2016 was London, with almost 26,500 thefts reported by the Metropolitan Police in 2016. That’s a 29% increase on 2013.

With 5930 stolen vehicle reports, the West Midlands was the second worst region in 2016. Its rate of car theft has risen by 43% since 2013.

However, the area that has seen the biggest increase in car crime is West Yorkshire. Thefts rose from 3561 in 2013 to 5597 in 2016 – a leap of 57% in three years.

RAC Insurance director Mark Godfrey said: β€œUnfortunately, these figures show a very unwelcome rise in the theft of vehicles. We fear that thieves are now becoming better equipped with technology that’s capable of defeating car manufacturers’ anti-theft systems. This is bad news for motorists as it has the effect of causing insurance premiums to rise at a time when they are already being pushed up by a variety of factors.”

Historically, car theft was a much bigger problem, with more than 300,000 vehicles stolen in 2002. Technological advances in immobilisers, car keys and alarms helped reduce the number of thefts, which bottomed out around 2013.

However, thieves are using new technology to hack into cars' onboard diagnostics systems to take control of them.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: β€œNew cars have never been more secure and the latest technology has helped bring down theft dramatically - which is why less than 0.3% of the vehicles on our roads is stolen today.

"Manufacturers invest billions to stay one step ahead of the criminals, and the latest models feature sophisticated immobilisers, tracking devices and encrypted key codes to prevent cloning. However, technology can only do so much, and we continue to call for stronger safeguards to prevent the sale of cloning technologies, signal blocking and other devices that have no legal purpose.”

RAC Insurance says black box technology used with telematics insurance policies can be a useful weapon against thieves.

β€œWe have seen several instances where we’ve been able to track stolen vehicles using RAC telematics devices, and have even helped the police successfully recover vehicles,” said Godfrey.

Even if your car isn’t susceptible to hacking, it can still be vulnerable – our top tips outline some simple ways to keep it safe.


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Revealed: the most frequently stolen cars in the UK

Below we count down the 10 most popular models with UK car thieves. Is yours one of them?

10. BMW 5 Series

The 5 Series on this list was replaced by a new model at the start of 2017, but it was still the best car of its kind when it went off sale, so it's perhaps not surprising that it features here.

Read our full BMW 5 Series review


9. Land Rover Defender

An evoluton of the original Land Rover, the Defender is a favourite among farmers and other countryside dwellers. However, while it's a very capable off-roader, its on-road manners leave a lot to be desired and security is basic.

Read our full Land Rover Defender review


8. Range Rover Vogue

The luxurious and cosseting Range Rover has little in common with the Defender, aside from the Land Rover badge on its rump and the fact that it's popular with thieves.

Read our full Range Rover review

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