Direct Line reveals national spike in cars ‘stolen to order’

According to Direct Line’s latest research, car thieves typically secure at most 5% of the value of a stolen car, although it is often only 1.25% of its value.

Related topics:  Theft
Tabitha Lambie | Editorial assistant, Barcadia Media
15th November 2022
Car Theft
"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."
- Lorraine Price, Direct Line head of motor insurance

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 represents a 22% increase from last year.

Interviews with car thieves commissioned by Direct Line have revealed that the most prolific thieves can steal between 60-95 cars a week. For a popular performance car valued at approximately £40k, such as Audi S3, Mercedes, and BMW, a thief will receive £2000 in commission. A less popular car worth £20k would only generate £250 commission.

Performance hot hatches and estates are most desirable amongst car thieves, especially Audi RS6s, RS4s, and S3s as well as Ford Focus RSs and Honda Type Rs. Thieves commented that these models were sought after due to their popularity as getaway cars when committing other crimes such as commercial burglaries and high resale value on the black market.

Direct Line has confirmed that it is common amongst car thieves to ‘steal to order’, with criminals given a list of five or six cars at a time. Often these orders are very proscriptive, especially if parts are required to repair a damaged car or change another car’s identity.

Equally, orders for export can be very specific since certain cars are especially expensive to buy legitimately in certain countries due to taxation.

Commenting on determining factors when stealing a car to order, one thief noted that mainly, people targeting “high-end cars” since they buy a car that’s been seriously damaged, worth £50k for £10,000 because it’s been in an accident. Then they “send some type of criminal to go steal that same type of car, and swap everything over.”

Another car thief commented that 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.”

Hoping to combat this growing issue, Direct Line is partnered with the University of Huddersfield on a ‘Truth about Car Theft’ campaign, which includes detailed academic research with prolific car thieves to understand the motive, means, and opportunities for vehicle crime.

Commenting on these findings, Rachel Armitage, University of Huddersfield Professor of Criminology, has said:

“Our research 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."

Lorraine Price, Direct Line head of motor insurance, 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.”     

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