Car theft is on the rise

During recent months, there has been a sharp increase in severity of car theft claims for motor traders and fleet owners .

This has highlighted a market concern for clients, brokers and insurers alike!

The increase has been primarily driven by claims involving multiple cars/vehicles, parts and a resurgence of catalytic converter thefts.

Catalytic Converters Thefts

Most modern cars are fitted with catalytic converters, a pollution-control device fitted to the vehicle’s exhaust system to reduce harmful emissions from the engine. By using catalyst metals – typically platinum, palladium and rhodium – gas emissions passed through the converter are transformed into less toxic substances such as oxygen and water. Although only very small amounts of these metals are used, they are valuable commodities fetching up to $1000 USD per ounce. This means converters are an attractive target for thieves.

Although not all instances have followed the same pattern, the marked increase since the latter half of 2015 has a number of common trends:

Light commercial vehicles have been specifically targeted (especially Mercedes Sprinters and VW Crafters). Vehicles with high vehicle axles are also being singled out as they give easier access to the catalytic converter, as are vehicles that have adopted the Euro 6 CAT standards of reduced exhaust emissions.

The majority of thefts appear to be in the areas surrounding Sheffield, Leeds and notably Manchester in the North. Areas in the South and East of London are also highly affected.

Vehicle theft

The number of instances of multiple vehicle thefts has also been on the rise. These thefts appear to be conducted by organised gangs, able to arrange for more than one vehicle to be stolen and moved on at a time. Again, there have been a number of commonalities:

  • The premises have been ‘scoped out’ beforehand, sometimes by people posing as potential customers
  • The highest severity instances occured where access to multiple vehicle keys was possible alongside poor key security management

Parts theft

In addition, there has been an upsurge in the number of parts theft. As above, these appear to have been carried out by thieves able to move large quanitites of items. Common trends include:

  • Particular targeting of BMW and Land Rovcer parts
  • High-performance tyres and alloy wheels especially where left unsecured

It’s apparent that vehicle dealerships are particularly at risk of parts, vehicle and catalytic converter theft. This is especially so for risk locations with minimal physical security and protection deterrents.


Although vehicle sales make up the majority of risks affected, the repair garages and body shops that keep customer vehicles on site have also been targeted. Specifically for catalytic converters, the cost of each stolen item costs an average of £1,900, not to mention the inconvenience caused to businesses and their customers. This in turn adds Credit Hire (and associated costs), as well as the detrimental reputational impact to the client.

Mitigating the risk

To ensure that your cars / vehicles are safe, make sure you are aware the current trends and up to date with appropriate risk management measures can help to reduce the risk. In particular:

  • Adopting deterrent measures such as detector-activated remotely monitored CCTV and monitored security alarms.
  • Removing theft-attractive items from sight or to inaccessible areas, security lighting and property marking devices can also help.
  • Physical protection measures for instance, vehicle bollards, defensive vehicle parking strategies, palisade fencing, use of robust locks and key cabinets, andfitting of catalytic converter guards.
  • Effective key security management and access control including regular audit checks of where keys are and who has signed them out.
  • Regular security audits, such as daily fence checks for damage and signs of attempted entry, ensuring lighting is working and fixed where appropriate, and reviewing CCTV coverage and detection.

Questions / Quotations

If you have any questions or wish to discuss any of the matters raised, please do not hesitate to contact Rowlands & Hames or visit one of our various Motor product pages:

Motor Fleet Insurance

Motor Trade Insurance


Rowlands & Hames would like to thank Allianz Insurance for this article.

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Car Theft - Door lock being picked.