What is Happening to Stolen Cars in 2023?

When a car is stolen, it's easy to imagine it being taken for a joyride a la Grand Theft Auto, everyone's favourite video game or abandoned somewhere. In reality, however, car theft is often more complex. Many stolen cars aren't used for joyriding pleasures and are instead sold for profit or stripped for parts. We have heard a lot about it in the new over the past months. So is it getting worse in the UK? What does all this mean for you? We've got the lowdown on the state of stolen cars in 2023.

How Many Stolen Cars are There in the UK Each Year?

In 2022, around 58,000 vehicles were stolen. Let that sink in for a minute, as it amounts to about 159 cars per day and 1,117 weekly. Even worse, 2022 saw a 58% jump in vehicles stolen from the previous year. However, it was down from 74,769 in the 2020's pandemic year. 

What Do Thieves Do With Stolen Cars?

Sell the car overseas

One way thieves dispose of stolen cars is by selling them overseas, where they can fetch a higher price than here in the UK. In some cases, stolen vehicles are shipped to other countries and sold to unsuspecting buyers. This is a common tactic for high-end luxury vehicles in high demand.

Sell the car for parts

Another way thieves dispose of stolen cars is by selling them for parts. A car thief can easily dismantle a vehicle and sell the parts individually, which can be more profitable than selling the car as a whole. This is especially common for older or rare vehicles with valuable parts.

Use the car for criminal activity

In some cases, thieves may use stolen cars to commit other crimes. For example, the stolen vehicle may become a getaway car during a robbery or be used to transport drugs and other illegal items. 

Clone the car

In some cases, thieves may clone a stolen car by creating false documents and licence plates to make it appear as if the vehicle is legitimate. Doing so allows them to sell the car without arousing suspicion. This is a common tactic for high-end vehicles that are difficult to sell on the black market.

Abandon the car

Finally, some thieves may simply abandon a stolen car after using it for a short period. This is often the case for joyriding or when the vehicle is no longer useful to the thief. Abandoned cars can create a nuisance for local communities and may be expensive to tow and dispose of properly.

What is the Most Common Brand and Model of Car Stolen?

The UK's most commonly stolen car brands are Ford, Volkswagen, Vauxhall, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Ford has been the most frequently stolen car brand for several years in a row, likely due to the popularity and commonality of the brand, notably the Ford Fiesta and Ford Focus models. 

Volkswagen, Vauxhall, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz are also targeted by thieves due to the high quality and demand for these vehicles, with some of the most commonly stolen models including the Volkswagen Golf, Vauxhall Corsa, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

What are the Hardest Cars to Steal?

The hardest cars to steal are those with advanced security features and anti-theft devices, such as immobilisers, alarms and GPS tracking systems. Fortunately, all new cars typically come equipped with these devices, as well as additional security features. Manual transmissions and push-button ignitions can make it more difficult for thieves to steal a car. 

The Tesla Model 3, Audi A4 and A5, Subaru Legacy and Outback, BMW X3 and X7 and 2020 Jeep Gladiator are among some of the most challenging cars to steal due to their advanced security features. 

What Percentage of Stolen Cars are Recovered?

The overall recovery rate for stolen vehicles in the UK is approximately 50%, according to the latest statistics from the UK government. However, this rate can vary depending on several factors, such as the make and model of the vehicle, the location of the theft and the type of theft.

For instance, according to a 2020 report by Tracker, a stolen vehicle recovery provider in the UK, the recovery rate for high-end vehicles such as luxury cars and SUVs was as high as 95%. These cars are usually fitted with advanced security features and are more likely to have tracking devices, which make it easier for the authorities to track them down.

Conversely, motorcycles have a lower recovery rate of around 20-30% because they are easier to steal and transport, making them more vulnerable to being dismantled for parts. In general, while the recovery rate for stolen vehicles in the UK may not be 100%, it is still relatively high compared to many other countries. 

This is primarily due to a concerted effort of law enforcement and vehicle recovery providers, as well as the use of sophisticated security measures and tracking devices by vehicle owners. It's important to report any stolen vehicle to the authorities as soon as possible and provide all relevant information to increase the chances of recovery.

How Can I Prevent Car Theft?

To stop car theft, it's necessary to take preventative measures such as locking doors, using anti-theft devices and parking in well-lit areas. If your car is stolen, report it to the police and provide as much information as possible about the car's make, model and licence plate number. Taking these steps can help prevent car theft and increase the chances of recovering your stolen vehicle. Of course, there's always insurance to fall back on if the car can't be recovered. As long as you have a minimum of Third Party Fire or Theft so think about what level of insurance cover you need.

What Happens if Someone Gets Caught Stealing a Car?

You could face serious criminal charges and penalties if caught stealing a car in the UK. The consequences of car theft vary depending on the specific circumstances of the crime but can include fines, imprisonment and of course a criminal record. 

For instance, if the car is valued at over £5,000, you could face up to seven years in prison if convicted. Additionally, if the theft resulted in damage to the car or other property, you may be required to pay for the damages. Car theft is a serious offence.

It's the Sound of the Police

So, that's the state of play with cars in 2023. Car theft is a major issue, and thieves have many methods of disposing of stolen vehicles, from selling them overseas to stripping them for parts. By taking the right actions, such as using anti-theft devices and parking in well-lit areas, you can minimise the chance of your car being stolen. So do take care! 👍🚘