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Is your car on thieves’ hit list?

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Car theft is up by a fifth in a year and with some thieves getting their hands on nearly 100 motors a week, an insurer reveals the vehicles on ‘stolen to order’ wish lists.

Performance hot hatches and estates are “very desirable” for car thieves, especially the Audi RS6, RS4 and S3, along with the Ford Focus Rs and Honda Type Rs.

According to the research from insurer Direct Line, these models are sought after “due to their usefulness as a getaway car” when committing other crimes such as commercial burglaries, as well as having high resale value on the black market.

With the most prolific car thieves stealing between 60 and 95 vehicles a week with some given a ‘stolen to order’ list of five or six cars, it’s no wonder theft rates are on the rise.

According to Home Office figures, 108,542 vehicles were stolen between April 2021 and March 2022 in England and Wales, equivalent to an average of 279 thefts each day. This also represents a 22% increase from the previous 12 months.

Direct Line conducted interviews with convicted car thieves, who said these lists can be “very proscriptive, especially if parts are required to repair a damaged car or change another car’s identity.

They said orders for export can also be very specific too as certain cars are expensive to buy in certain countries due to tax.

Low returns on stolen cars

However, the financial reward for car thieves is itself low, with them typically gaining up to 5% off the value of the stolen car, “despite the huge distress this crime causes for the vehicle owner”.

It revealed thieves often net just 1.25%, with £2,000 a typical value for an Audi S3, or a similar Mercedes and BMW model valued at about £40,000. A less popular car worth £20,000 would only generate £250 for the car thief.

‘We’ll go and get them’

One thief said: “I started stealing cars just for order, just basically: what car did you want and I’ll go and get it for you.

“Have to go and find five or six in a week and then try and burgle the house for all six of them. You’ll get someone that’ll order an Audi A3; someone will order a non-specific Type R, and then you might get someone who’ll order an A6. When you’ve got three cars to go and get in the night; we’ll go and get them three cars in a night.

“Well, sometimes it goes down to colour because they’ve got plates that will match that, but other than that it’s, ‘just get this shape, this model’, done.”

Waiting game

To avoid trackers, criminals typically leave stolen cars in a public place such as on a street or in a field for a couple of days before returning. If the vehicle has not been taken, they assume it has not been tracked. Stealing the highest value, prestige cars such as a Bentley or Rolls Royce is typically seen as only the domain of the most professional thieves. These cars are less attractive targets due to their high level of security and the difficulty hiding the vehicles when stolen, Direct Line said.

Lorraine Price, head of motor insurance at Direct Line, added: “People will be horrified to learn the distress car thieves are causing to secure just a fraction of the value of a vehicle when they sell it, or the parts on the black market. It is not just the victims that pay the price, it has an impact on all motorists in the cost of insurance premiums.”

Rachel Armitage, professor of criminology at the University of Huddersfield, said: “Our research [commissioned by Direct Line] shows that the money generated by car thieves is often a fraction of the value of the vehicle, even if it was being sold legitimately second hand.  This in turn drives the need for a volume of thefts for criminals to generate large sums of money.

“People may be shocked to learn that criminal gangs have specifically targeted their vehicle for theft due to the model and colour of the car.”