A new study1 by Direct Line Car Insurance reveals that a large proportion of motorists are at a high risk of car theft and break ins due to a lack of security measures. One in seven drivers (14 per cent) have no security measures installed in their car whatsoever – the equivalent of 5.7 million people. And with an estimated 35 million cars on Britain’s roads, this means that almost five million vehicles are at higher risk of theft.

As part of the study, Direct Line analysed where cars were most likely to be stolen, broken into or attempted to be broken into. Vehicles parked in public car parks were more likely to attract the attention of car thieves (20 per cent).2 Worryingly, the second most likely place for a car to be targeted was on-street parking immediately outside the owner’s a property (18 per cent), suggesting that thieves are not deterred by a vehicle owner being home. This was closely followed by parking away from the home, such as while on a holiday or on an outing (15 per cent).

This is a concern for motorists as due to the lack of dedicated parking spaces and garages factored into new developments, on street parking is used now, more than ever before.

While the use of garages has decreased by nearly a third, the use of on street parking has increased by over a quarter (26 per cent) in the last decade. An estimated 1.7 million fewer motorists park their car in a garage now compared to a decade ago3. This trend is particularly prevalent in urban areas where the proportion of motorists parking in garages has fallen by 39 per cent since 2009, with 240,000 fewer people now using garages.

Of those who do have safety features installed in their cars, the most common measures are car alarms, which nearly two thirds of vehicles have (60 per cent), followed by built in steering locks (38 per cent) and vehicle immobilisers (36 per cent). Completing the top five are GPS trackers (17 per cent) and accessory steering locks (12 per cent).

When looking specifically at security measures Brits have in their cars, the North East is the region with the most secure vehicles, with 90 per cent of motorists having at least one security measure installed in their vehicle, while Scotland (79 per cent) is the region with the fewest.

Table one: Most common security features installed in people’s vehicles

Security measure Percentage of drivers who have this security measure
Car alarm 60 per cent
Steering lock (built in) 38 per cent
Vehicle immobiliser 36 per cent
GPS tracker 17 per cent
Steering lock (accessory) 12 per cent
Faraday Pouch (car key signal blocking cage/pouch) 8 per cent
Wheel Clamps 7 per cent

Source: Direct Line Car Insurance 2020

Over the last five years, car theft in England and Wales has increased by 29 percent4, with an estimated 80,000 thefts of vehicles reported between April 2019 and March 2020. This is a significant rise from the 62,000 reported between April 2014 and March 2015, though it is also important to note that over the past three years car theft has been gradually falling, from a recent high of 82,000 in 2018-19. Furthermore, over the past decade vehicle theft volumes have been significantly lower than the previous 10 years, with an annual average of 78,000 car thefts annually between April 2010 and March 2020, compared to an average of 211,000 between January 1999 and March 2010.

Lorraine Price, head of motor insurance at Direct Line commented: “With the research suggesting that a large proportion of people are at a high risk of vehicle theft, it is of vital importance that drivers take every step necessary to protect their cars. With more of us parking on the street than ever before it is essential that we take steps to prevent our cars being targeted. Parking in well-lit areas, even if it means a longer walk to your home, is important, as is remembering to remove anything from the car which may attract thieves.

“While modern vehicles often come with a plethora of security features, this shouldn’t stop all motorists from following simple steps to protect their vehicle. Making sure the car is always double locked is essential, while protecting your keys and using a faraday pouch to block the electronic signal will prevent it being scanned by thieves. Other simple yet effective measures like using a steering lock or wheel clamp will make cars less attractive to thieves and much harder to steal.”

  1. Research conducted with Opinium between the 28th August and 1st September, among a nationally representative sample of 2,001 UK adults
  2. Research conducted with Opinium between the 14th February and 18th February, among a nationally representative sample of 2,007 UK adults
  3. Analysis of the National Travel Survey data published by the Department of Transport on 5th August 2020 looking at location of vehicles parked over night
  4. Trends in incidents of crime from year ending December 1981 to year ending March 2020, Crime Survey of England and Wales, year ending June 2020, published by the ONS on 28 October 2020. Figures relating to all thefts of vehicles reported annually. A change in reporting methodology resulted in no data being collected for the period January 2000-March 2001.