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‘Keys left in car’ thefts rise by 141% in December

Don’t warm your car up by leaving the engine running on the drive, warns Admiral car insurance

Key in ignition

Colder weather tempts many drivers to let their cars warm up on the drive while they rush back into the house to finish breakfast or their coffee, but the habit is an open invitation to car thieves.

According to Admiral Insurance, it’s imperative that drivers stay with their vehicles while they’re warming up or defrosting with the engine switched on. If your car is stolen in your absence, and you left the keys in the ignition with the engine running, there’s a very strong chance your insurance will be invalidated.

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“Unfortunately, during the winter months, we see an increase in claims where customers have left their keys in their car, with our data from the last five years showing a spike between November and February,” says Admiral’s head of claims Adam Gavin. “In fact, this type of claim jumps up by 141 per cent during December, compared to October, and as we’ve seen car thefts increase by 24 per cent as the clocks go back, it’s really important to take extra precautions in the darker evenings – and darker mornings – during winter months.”

Gavin says leaving a car unlocked, unattended and running, makes it ‘a sitting target’ for car thieves, adding that Admiral has seen CCTV footage that shows organised gangs of car thieves cruising neighbourhoods specifically looking for cars being ‘warmed up’ on their owners' drives.

While owners may expect their insurer to look favourably on a claim for car theft even in such circumstances, the likelihood is you’ll be heavily out of pocket.

“Should your car be stolen while left unattended with the keys left in the vehicle, your insurance is likely to be invalidated and will almost certainly mean your claim is refused,” says Gavin.

Electric car owners may often have an advantage on wintry mornings, as the onboard tech typically allows them to pre-heat their vehicles remotel  using the manufacturer’s smartphone app. For those less fortunate, Admiral recommends covering your vehicle’s windscreen at night, to prevent the build-up of ice or snow - and reducing the temptation to start the engine and pop back into the house as the screen defrosts.

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Current affairs and features editor

Chris covers all aspects of motoring life for Auto Express. Over a long career he has contributed news and car reviews to brands such as Autocar, WhatCar?, PistonHeads, Goodwood and The Motor Trader.

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