Thefts of cars (and parts) rise again: all cars are at risk

February 09, 2024 by

  • Car thefts increased in 2023
  • “Alarming” increase in number of ‘chop shops’ dismantling stolen cars for their parts
  • Parts being stolen from cars (instead of the car itself)
  • Cars of all ages and value are targeted by thieves, not just expensive premium brands
  • The Ford Fiesta was the most stolen car in 2023
  • Carwow recommends taking extra security measures to protect your pride and joy

Recent media stories of expensive SUVs being stolen may give you a false sense of security if you own an older or more mainstream brand; however, with a rise in illegal ‘chop shops’, where stolen cars are dismantled for their parts to sell-on, and an increase in vehicle thefts in 2023, carwow’s research shows that cars of any age, or value, are being stolen or attacked for their parts.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says that payouts for vehicle thefts rose 35% in the last quarter of 2023 alone, compared to the same months the previous year, showing it’s more important than ever to protect your pride and joy with additional security.

For example, last year, Essex police’s Stolen Vehicle Intelligence Unit identified or recovered a record number of over 700 stolen vehicles worth over £27m. This included the likes of a Ferrari, Range Rovers, etc., plus a £360,000 Rolls Royce Cullinan it found in a shipping container, presumably ready to be shipped overseas. And that’s just Essex, which was fourth in the league of areas with the most cars stolen in 2023. London was top followed by South Yorkshire and the West Midlands.

Tracker, the stolen vehicle recovery experts, reported that the number of illegal ‘chop shops’ increased dramatically in 2023 with UK police forces uncovering 34 of them nationwide in just the first six months of the year, which is more than the whole of 2022. Essex seems to be a hotspot for chop shops (as it has several ports for international trade), where its Police have investigated over 100 of them in recent years.

While premium brands are particularly attractive to criminals, at the other end of the spectrum, Essex police also reported a spike of over 100 Ford Fiesta thefts in one month last year. 

Less exclusive cars are still proving attractive to thieves thanks to the value of their parts. Carwow has heard of 10 year old small hatchbacks having their entire front end stolen overnight, steering wheels being removed from BMWs and expensive headlights being taken from several Porsche models.

“The alarming increase in the number of chop shops largely reflects a rise in demand for good quality used parts in recent years, partly due to the new part supply chain

delays. However, the cost of living crisis has also fuelled illegal activities,” explains Clive Wain, Head of Police Liaison at Tracker.

It’s also thought that demand for spare parts has been fuelled by rising repair costs (the ABI reported that repair costs increased 32% at the end of last year), plus a growing interest in repairing cars that have been written-off.

Carwow recommends that all car owners should take extra security measures. This includes:

  • Make life harder for car thieves by fitting visible security devices and a tracking device to the vehicle and consider security posts, if possible. This just might make them think twice about taking your car. 
  • Carefully consider where you’re parking – away from dark or quiet streets ideally.
  • Always lock your car: although professional thieves seem able to access a car quite quickly, leaving your car unlocked makes it too easy for them.
  • If you have a garage, consider using it so that your car is less visible.
  • Don’t leave your car unattended with the engine running while defrosting on cold mornings.
  • Keep important paperwork and spare car keys away from the vehicle.
  • Keep your keys safe: don’t leave them too close to your front door (thieves have used long sticks through letterboxes to retrieve them) and put them in a tin box or faraday bag that blocks signals from electronic devices thieves use to trick your key fob into unlocking the car.

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