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The most frequently stolen cars in the UK

Robber attempting to break into a car

Car theft is on the rise, with a theft occurring approximately every eight minutes in 2023. The 64,087 cars reported stolen to the DVLA in 2023, represents a rise of nearly 5% from the previous year's 61,106.

In an age of heightened awareness of online security risks and scam callers, we still seem to forget to keep our real-world possessions safe from crooks. Figures released by DVLA in response to a Freedom of Information request from leasing company Leaseloco have shown not only an increase in car theft, but also which cars are stolen most often.

Although the security built into cars is more sophisticated than it used to be, thieves have also moved with the times: remote control codes for locks and alarms can be detected and copied; car computer systems can be compromised; GPS trackers can be jammed.

Here is the list of the cars that were most frequently stolen in the UK during 2023.

  1. Ford Fiesta - 5,976 stolen (a reduction of 0.1% compared to 2022)

    The number of Fiestas stolen in 2023 was down compared to the previous year. Down by just three, actually, despite the model being discontinued in 2023. Once again, the Fiesta has the dubious honour of being Britain's most stolen car. Compared to some of the posh rides on this list it may not be the most obvious choice for thieves, but there are many reasons that a cheaper model may be targeted over its flashier counterparts.

    Fiestas are still ubiquitous: they can be found on every street and being so common they are unlikely to catch the attention of onlookers in the same way a shiny luxury model would. The security level in such cars is generally lower with fewer and less sophisticated anti-theft measures. Although a car at the Fiesta's value and desirability level is unlikely to be stolen to order, the model's discontinuation by Ford does leave a healthy market for spare parts. As budget cars, Fiestas are more likely to be parked on the street than in secure garages. Small hatchbacks have always been a popular choice for opportunists and joyriders.

  2. Ford Focus - 2,120 stolen (a reduction of 3.0% compared to 2022)

  3. VW Golf - 2,038 stolen (an increase of 0.1% compared to 2022)

  4. Mercedes-Benz C-Class - 1,786 stolen (an increase of 29.6% compared to 2022)

    A brand with many desirable, high-value models that may be stolen to order. Alternatively, they may be stripped for their expensive parts (which are much harder to track and identify than whole vehicles) Again, stripping for parts is also a lucrative option. The 29.6% increase in Mercedes theft will, no doubt, have the company taking another look at its security features.

  5. Range Rover Sport - 1,631 stolen (a reduction of 28.6% compared to 2022)

    Land Rovers / Range Rovers are always in demand and there is no shortage of ways to profit from stealing them. Again, they may be stolen to order or stripped of parts. They may also be exported and sold overseas.

    Despite being the fifth most stolen car in the country, the reduction of 28.6% over the previous year will be a relief to Jaguar Land Rover, who have invested £10 million in upgrading the security on older client vehicles. The company has also made additional contributions to help fund policing and erode the illegal movement of stolen cars out of the country.

  6. Range Rover Evoque - 1,489 stolen (a reduction of 2.8% compared to 2022)

  7. BMW 3 Series - 1,466 stolen (a reduction of 0.8% compared to 2022)

  8. Vauxhall Corsa - 1,110 stolen (a reduction of 13.3% compared to 2022)

  9. Vauxhall Astra - 1,086 stolen (a reduction of 12.4% compared to 2022)

  10. Land Rover Discovery Sport - 954 stolen (an increase of 15.2% compared to 2022)

    JLR insists that its ongoing security efforts are a work in progress. The Discovery Sport's disappointing performance on this list shows that there is still work to do.

The 21st century thieves' toolkit

The advent of technology that makes our lives more convenient and comfortable has introduced new vulnerabilities. Crowbars, screwdrivers and the "slim jim" so beloved by movies and TV shows are supplemented by a whole new array of advanced tools that most of us wouldn't even recognise.

Lock picking

Conventional locks can be defeated by gadgets called turbo decoders. The decoders are legitimately used by locksmiths, but the internet makes them easily accessible to those in a less helpful profession. It is basically a high-tech skeleton key.

Fob hacking

With an increasing number of alarms and entry systems relying on wireless signals rather than physical contact, interception and/or copying of the codes that open our cars to us was always on the cards.

One particularly troublesome trick is what is known as a relay hack. The crook's relay detects the necessary signal from the driver's fob. All the thief needs to do is get close enough to the fob for this to happen. If the fob is in the pocket of a coat hanging up by the front door, the thief may not even need to enter the house. Similarly, if the driver is out and about with the fob in their pocket, the thief need only stand close enough for his gadget to do its undetectable work. Once the code is copied it can be relayed to the car, making the vehicle think the driver is present and thus circumventing security measures.

There are also devices that will enable a thief to connect to a vehicle's on-board software and thus access the information needed to clone a fob.

The lesson learned

It seems clear that, however advanced our cars' security measures may be, resourceful criminals frequently find ways to bypass or defeat them. It is not sufficient to depend entirely on electronic precautions. Our cars are real, not virtual objects and to protect them fully we would be wise to park them in secure places and consider supplementing high-tech alarms, immobilisers and remote-controlled locks with physical impediments to make it all more bother than a would-be crook is willing to tackle.

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Number plate regulations

When a car is on the road, it is an offence to display number plates bearing any number other than the vehicle's officially recorded registration number. If you purchase a private registration, learn how to transfer private plates before displaying the new number.

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