Insurance payouts for car thefts rise

Rise in easy-to-steal keyless cars sees surge in motor thefts to highest level in seven years, insurers say

  • Car theft victims are now getting a payout from insurers every eight minutes
  • Around £108m,or £1.2m a day, paid out in claims in the first 3 months of the year 
  • Vehicle thefts over the last five years have jumped 50%, Home Office has warned
  • Keyless cars targeted by criminals who can gain access in as little as 20 seconds

Car theft victims are getting a payout from insurers every eight minutes, according to alarming new data. 

Around £108 million – or £1.2 million a day – was paid out in claims in the first three months of the year, according to the Association of British Insurers.

This was up 22% on the same period in 2018 and comes as campaigners and politicians call on car companies to improve security, especially for keyless cars.

High-tech car thieves working together can steal your keyless car within a few seconds

(PA Graphics)

There was also a big jump in payouts for car damage, with insurers blaming the expensive technology used in newer cars.

The Home Office recently revealed that vehicle thefts over the last five years have jumped 50%, with keyless cars being targeted by tech-savvy criminals who can gain access in as little as 20 seconds.

In total, 16,000 claims were settled by insurers during the period, compared with 14,000 a year earlier, making it the highest quarterly figure in seven years.

Laurenz Gerger, ABI’s motor insurance policy adviser, said: ‘The continued growth in car crime must be reversed.

‘Car security has come on leaps and bounds but needs to keep pace with the ingenuity of car criminals.’

The high tech relay boxes scan for car keys and broadcast their signal to a second unit beside the motor which opens the door and allows it to start – fooling the car’s security system

The cost of repairs to both the vehicles of policyholders and third parties during the quarter was £1.2 billion.

This was the highest quarterly figure since the ABI started collecting such data in 2013.

The ABI put this down to higher costs for parts and technology.

For example, the cost of a headlight for one of the most popular cars – a Volkswagen Golf GTI – has jumped 400% from £163 on older models to £840 on newer ones.

The cost of a Ford Focus windscreen has also risen from £147 between 2008-09 to £468 for post-2015 models.

Despite the cost pressures from increased theft and more expensive vehicle repairs, the average price paid for motor insurance is at a two-year low of £466.

The ABI said this is likely to be due to insurers passing on cost benefits from new legislation and new car purchases typically made by older, lower-risk drivers.

How to protect your vehicle: Everyday items like a drinks can or your fridge can stop the criminals in their tracks 

Every make and model of car which can start ‘keylessly’ is susceptible to a relay attack.

While this might put drivers on edge, there are easy steps you can take to stop you becoming the next victim of a relay theft.

Certain metals are capable of blocking key signals, which means if you store your fob with one of these metals around it, criminals won’t be able to pick them up and steal your vehicle.

The most simple and most ingenious is a metal can. 

The aluminum in a drinks can will stop radio signals being transmitted from your key and stop burglars in their tracks.

Some experts have suggested keeping your keys in the fridge, as the material on the inside will block signals too.

If you’re looking for a low-cost option, some people wrap their fobs in tin foil – although this isn’t endorsed by security firms.

Keeping your keys in a small metal box however can work efficiently. 

Special faraday pouches — cheap wallets which shield the key’s radio signal from being transmitted — are also useful for storing your keys when you’re away from home – in motorway service stations and public car parks.

Experts also encourage drivers to keep them at least 5m away from their front door, to give thieves the worst chance of being able to relay a signal.

But some security specialists advise against hiding your car keys too obscurely in your house — because if serious criminals truly want to steal your car, they will break in and do anything to find the keys. 

Old-fashioned methods like parking in a well-lit area, using a steering wheel lock and installing a proper tracking device to your vehicle are still highly recommended to keep your car safe.

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