• West Midlands sees trebling of car theft claims in past five years
  • More than 112,000 vehicles stolen in the last financial year – the equivalent of one every four minutes and 41 seconds
  • The West Midlands has seen the sharpest rise in car theft claims over the last five years, while Scotland has seen the sharpest fall
  • 45 per cent increase in car theft since 2013-14

New analysis1 by Direct Line Car Insurance has revealed a sharp rise in car theft in the past five years, with a 45 per cent increase on the number reported in 2014. Across the UK 112,174 vehicles stolen in the 2017/18 financial year alone, which translates into 307 cars being stolen every day.

According to the analysis of crime data published by police forces of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the increase in car theft over the last five years had been preceded by a six-year decline in vehicle theft. Between 2008/09 and 2013/14 the number of cars stolen fell by 48 per cent, from 150,000 to just over 77,000. This number has again risen to over 112,000 on 2017/18.

Analysis of claims data2 suggests that this increase in car crime over the last five years is being fuelled by thefts in England. The West Midlands, the North West and the North East & Yorkshire have all seen the volume of car theft claims more than double since 2014. Meanwhile, the volume of car theft claims in Scotland fell by 23 per cent and in Northern Ireland they remained at the same level.

Table one: Change in volume of car theft claims, 2014 to 2018

Region Change in volume of car theft claims Car theft claims per 10,000 registered vehicles
West Midlands +214% 16
North West +110% 17
North East & Yorkshire +104% 5
Greater London +61% 33
East Midlands +60% 8
East of England +48% 7
South West +43% 4
South East +29% 4
Wales +29% 4
Northern Ireland 0% 1
Scotland -23% 10
United Kingdom +63% 11

Source: Direct Line Car Insurance 2019

Last year the West Midlands saw a threefold increase in car theft claims compared to 2014, making it the fastest-growing region for car theft. The majority of these claims were made by residents in the B postcode area, covering Birmingham and parts of the surrounding areas, accounting for one in eleven (nine per cent) of the claims made in the last five years alone.

London, meanwhile, remains the car crime capital of the UK based on volume alone, with around 33 cars stolen for every 10,000 registered on the road3. According to Direct Line’s claims data, five London postcodes appear in the top ten for the highest number of vehicle theft claims over the past five years: E4 (Chingford), E6 (East Ham), E17 (Walthamstow), E11 (Leytonstone and Wanstead) and IG1 (Ilford).

Birmingham has four postcodes in the top ten (B31, B90, B62 and B13), while Manchester has one – the M20 area – although it experienced the highest number of car theft claims in the UK over the five-year period.

Steve Barrett, Head of car insurance at Direct Line, commented: “With an alarming increase in the number of cars stolen over the last five years it is more important than ever to do all we can to prevent cars from being stolen. Using a combination of measures such as parking in a well-lit area or through security features such as steering wheel locks, or by ensuring that the car alarm system is fully activated by double locking the vehicle could help make it as difficult as possible for a thief and may help buy time for the alarm to be raised in case a theft is in progress.

“It’s important for car owners to ensure that they have a comprehensive insurance policy in case the worst does happen. It’s worth considering a provider that won’t take away your No Claims Discount if your car is stolen, to minimise the disruption caused by the theft*.”

Direct Line’s ‘No Blame’4 policy means that you won’t lose any of your earned No Claim Discount if your car is stolen, because it’s not your fault.

Top tips to prevent car theft

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 when deterring potential thieves. 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.

Looking at the time of day that owners are most likely to realise their vehicle has been stolen, early morning comes out top with nearly half (49 per cent) occurring between midnight and 9am, and 23 per cent between 6am and 9am. This is largely due to owners leaving home to commute to work. By comparison, only 19 per cent of crimes are reported between 6pm and midnight.

Cars are also slightly more likely to be stolen on a weekday than at weekends, with seven per cent more crimes reported from Monday to Friday than on Saturday or Sunday.