Stolen vehicle recovery rates plummet to 28% as insurers pay out £1.44bn

Only 28 per cent of stolen vehicles in 2021 were recovered, down from 80% in 2006

Police

Vehicle thefts in England and Wales are costing insurers nearly £1.5 billion per year, while recovery rates have plummeted. Of the 101,198 vehicles stolen across the two nations in 2021, only around 28 per cent were recovered, according to an analysis of Home Office figures by Claims Management and Adjusting, with insurers paying out an estimated £1.44 billion.

By comparison, there were around 180,000 vehicle thefts in 2006, of which 80 per cent were recovered and insurers only had to pay out £360 million. One key difference is that the average value of a stolen vehicle in 2006 was £10,000, whereas it was £20,000 in 2021.

CMA’s managing director Philip Swift is a former police detective. He described the fact that 72 per cent of stolen vehicles are never recovered as a “staggering failure”.

“It is way too simplistic to say car crime is down from 500,000 offences in the mid-1990s to 100,000 today, so we’ve largely solved it,” he said. “Even from 180,000 a year in 2006, when the Home Office stopped publishing the annual car theft index, the picture has changed dramatically. 15-odd years ago, the typical theft was an old Ford Escort worth less than £5,000 taken for ‘joyriding’ and later recovered, often burnt-out. Now, we commonly see nearly new Range Rovers worth £100k stolen by professional criminals, and they’re seldom found.”

Swift said the situation has worsened for both drivers and insurers, with the former less likely to be reunited with their stolen cars and the latter paying out far more than they used to.

He added: “Another piece of the puzzle is the changing method of theft, with keyless technology and electronic security bypass frequently and thoughtlessly blamed. Indeed, some point to the fact that around half of recovered vehicles are undamaged nowadays, compared to just 15 per cent a decade ago, as some sort of success. It isn’t. It’s a crumb of comfort at best. Unfortunately, the suspected method is often not recorded by constabularies now, either. Again, lack of data is disguising the true - frankly embarrassing - scale of the UK’s vehicle crime problem.”

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