Aviva report on vehicle theft

Four out of five vehicle-related thefts happen during the hours of darkness

Data shows trends that can help prevent car crimes.

Analysis of the latest ONS data 1 for the period from April 2019 to March 2020 showed that four out of five thefts from and of vehicles in England and Wales occurred when it was dark, which an Aviva study confirms. Our data 2 also reveals that motor theft claims in 2019 were higher between October and December when the days were shorter. Compared to the annual monthly average, vehicle-related theft claims were higher by 10% during these months and as much as 29% higher than in June 2019, when we received the lowest number of motor theft claims. 

Four fifths of thefts from and of vehicles occur while parked at home 

An analysis of the ONS data found that vehicles are most likely to both get broken into and stolen when parked at home. Four-fifths (79%) of all vehicle-related thefts took place while the cars were parked at the driver’s home, most commonly when parked on the street (39%). 

The ONS data also reveals that an unlocked door was the most common access route for the thieves, as the door was not locked in nearly half of cases (47%) where theft from vehicle occurred. Breaking a window was the second most common access route (19%), followed by a forced lock (13%). 

Where theft of a vehicle occurred, manipulating the signal from a remote locking device was the main method of entry (36%). Almost a quarter of thieves (24%) used a key or electric fob, but in more than one out of seven vehicle theft cases, the doors were left unlocked. 

This graph shows the most common ways people break into cars and steal things from inside them versus stealing the cars themselves by percentage. Read the long data description.

Aviva’s analysis also found that vehicles between one and five years old were at greatest risk of being stolen (37%), although a third of stolen vehicles were more than ten years old. Just over a quarter of stolen vehicles were returned to their owners, but nearly half of those were damaged, with 30% damaged beyond repair. 

car method of entry
Method of entry in incidents of theft of vehicles. Figures may not add up to 100 as figures have been rounded up

The most commonly stolen items 

Unsurprisingly, car thieves were most often after valuables like jewellery, purses, wallets, handbags, briefcases and even shopping bags as well as cash, chequebooks, credit cards, clothes, and documents, which accounted for 39% of items stolen. After valuables, the most stolen items included exterior fittings (19%) and electrical equipment (13%), like satellite navigation systems, televisions, videos, MP3 players, DVD players, and computer equipment.

This graph shows the most commonly stolen items by percentage. Read the long data description.

Almost a quarter of motorists don’t keep their vehicles locked at all times

most commonly stolen items
Items most commonly stolen from cars. Figures may not add up to 100 as more than one response is possible

Our research also reveals that most car owners take security of their vehicles very seriously, even when parking at home. A nationally representative survey of over 2,000 UK adults, including 1,383 car owners 3 found that more than three quarters (77%) of motorists make sure they always lock the door which means almost one in four don’t — either intentionally or unintentionally. 

This graph shows people’s car locking habits by percentage. Read the long data description.

We also found that majority of car owners are aware of the risk of opportunistic theft and never leave items in their vehicles that could attract thieves, both when parking at home and away, for example, while on holiday. However, more than one in five survey respondents said they’ve regularly or occasionally left various items in their vehicles, including things that were found to be most attractive to thieves including jewellery, purses, wallets and handbags, briefcases. 

car locking
How often people lock their car when parked at home

Almost nine out of ten car owners use security features or devices to protect their vehicles 

Asked how they keep their vehicle safe from thieves, the majority (85%) use some sort of security features or devices.. At 53.51%, a car alarm was by far the most common security feature, followed by car immobilisers, dash cams, and car key protectors. Only 12.22% of survey respondents said they don’t use any security features or devices to protect their vehicles.

This graph shows the most common car security measures by percentage. Read the long data description.

Simple measures can make a big difference in reducing the risk of vehicle-related theft

car security
Most common methods used by owners to keep their car safe. Figures may not add up to 100 as more than one response is possible

“Criminals take advantage of the cover of darkness. Sadly this means there can be more opportunities for vehicle crime when nights are longer,” says Sarah Applegate, Aviva Risk and Governance Lead. “We’ve seen this trend in our home insurance claims and the same appears to be the case for vehicle-related thefts."

“But there are simple steps people can take to reduce their risk. Simply locking vehicles and not leaving items on show inside reduces the risk, while items like steering locks, parking posts and garages put physical barriers in the way of a possible theft. Only around a third of drivers with garages store their vehicles in them all the time — and almost the same percentage never put their vehicles in their garage. Taking a few extra minutes to lock up and secure a vehicle can make a big difference in the eyes of a thief.”

Download the report