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What to do if your car is stolen

Mar 5, 2021

The days when you could break into a car with just a coat hanger may be long gone, but that hasn’t deterred car thieves. Despite many vehicles being fitted with advanced anti-theft technology, the number of vehicles being stolen soared last year.

According to data from the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA), 2020 saw a 33% increase in car thefts compared to the previous year. That’s a total of 74,769 recorded thefts. It’s hard to imagine what that figure might have been without two national lockdowns.

This increase in car theft is an ongoing issue and the number of cars being stolen has risen by more than 50% over the past six years. All the evidence points to that figure continuing to rise.

Unlike the opportunist, joyriding car thieves of the 90s, car theft today is an organised, targeted activity. The majority of cars stolen these days are vehicles being stolen to order, to be exported overseas, to be broken down for parts, or to be used in other crimes.

No one wants to be the victim of car crime, but it does happen. The key is being prepared for it and to do what you can to reduce the risk. In this article, we’ll look at which cars are more appealing to thieves, what to do if your car or its contents are stolen, and ways you can make your car more secure.

Which kinds of cars are stolen the most?

It would seem that some vehicles prove more tempting than others to would-be car thieves.

The DVLA data also revealed that the Ford Fiesta was the most targeted model of car in Britain last year. Perhaps not surprisingly considering Ford Fiestas have been the most-registered model of car for more than a decade. However, nearly 3,400 Fiestas were reported missing last year – that’s slightly more than 1,000 more compared to 2019. Whatever way you look at it, that’s a big increase over 12 months.

Second on the list of most-stolen cars in 2020 was the Range Rover, with 2,881 recorded vehicle thefts. Next up were the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and BMW 3 Series. Fiat Ducatos and Ford Transits are also being targeted, with thieves potentially looking for expensive tools and equipment locked inside.

Other vehicles on the list ranged from everything from Lamborghinis to lawnmowers (the ride-on variety). Whether you drive a car with 100bhp or 1,000bhp, you don’t want thieves to get their hands on it. But should the worst happen…

The DVLA data revealed that the Ford Fiesta was the most targeted model of car in Britain last year.

A thief wearing black gloves trying to pick the lock on a car
What to do if your car is stolen

According to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 72% of stolen cars will never find their way back to their owners. Of those which were returned, 48% were damaged, 30% beyond repair. These figures make for stark reading if you find yourself a victim of car theft.

Discovering your car has been stolen is a horrible feeling. But there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of being reunited with it again.

The first thing to remember is to try and stay calm. Easier said than done, but there are all sorts of reasons why your car may not be where you left it. For example, it could have been towed, someone else with keys may have borrowed it and not told you, or you might have just parked in a different place and forgotten. It happens to the best of us.

If it turns out not to be any of the above, and it has been stolen, there are certain steps you need to take.

  • Contact the police: Dial 101 to report your vehicle missing with the police and get a crime reference number (you’ll need this when making an insurance claim). They’ll ask you to provide the make, model, colour, and registration plate of your car, so have all the information ready before making the call.
  • Get in touch with your car insurance provider: Car insurance is designed to make things as easy as possible. Having telematics insurance can make the process even simpler. With this type of insurance, you don’t just get a black box that monitors your driving behaviour and location. It also acts as a theft tracking device. But more about that later… Once you have recorded the crime with the police, contact your car insurance provider as soon as you can, making sure you have your crime reference number and insurance policy number to hand.
  • Let the DVLA know: If your insurance claim goes ahead, you’ll need to contact the DVLA to tell them your vehicle is no longer in your possession. Even if your car is never seen again, officially it is now owned by your insurer, and the DVLA needs to know. They will also refund you any outstanding vehicle tax. The amount you get back is calculated from the date you get in touch, so be as quick as you can.

You can find more information about what to do if your car is stolen on

What to do if items are stolen from your car

Seeing that a window of your car has been smashed is never going to be a high point of anyone’s day. It’s easy to panic, but rest assured while you may not be able to recover stolen items, they may be covered by your car insurance – or even your home insurance.

Things to consider if you decide to make a claim for any personal items stolen from your car is that a claim on your car insurance would affect your no-claims bonus. Not really a problem if you are new to driving and are yet to accumulate several years. However, if you’ve built up a sizable no claims bonus over a number of years, you might find the money you save on future car insurance renewals is considerably more than the value of the items you are claiming for. Do your sums before making a claim.

The alternative is making a claim via your home insurance. Your contents insurance covers your personal property – and, depending on the type of policy you have, may follow you and your belongings wherever they are. So, whether your items are stolen from your home or the backseat of your car, you may find you are covered.

The choice is entirely up to you. Claim through your car insurance or through your home insurance. Just not through both.

Rest assured while you may not be able to recover stolen items, they may be covered by your car insurance – or even your home insurance.

A thief putting their hands on the side window of a parked car
What to do if your stolen car is recovered

Well, this is a peachy scenario. The police have tracked down your stolen car and it is on its way back to you. Wonderful news!

But there are a few things you need to do once you’ve been reunited with your beloved motor. Firstly, you need to let your insurer know straight away. They’ll want to know if the car has been damaged, used to commit another crime, or is potentially unsafe to drive. The police will be able to advise you on this.

Depending on the damage, your insurers will let you know if it can be repaired, or if it needs to be written off.

How to make your car more secure

Car thieves are proving to be a determined bunch, and savvy crooks will go to great lengths to get what they want. But if you are worried about your car being stolen, there are some things you can do to reduce the risk.

There are all sorts of hi-tech, anti-theft solutions around, but sometimes it’s the simplest of things that can make the biggest difference. To avoid having to make those dreaded calls to the police, your insurers, and the DVLA, here are some of the ways you can make your car more secure.

Turn your wheels to the curb and invest in a steering wheel lock

So simple, yet so very effective. Every car thief wants to make a speedy getaway: straightening up, reversing and manoeuvring out of a space will slow them down. Wheels turned towards the curb or another vehicle could be the difference between thieves attempting to break into your car or walking straight past it. The same can be said if they see a car with a steering wheel lock, it’s just another thing they’ll need to deal with. A steering lock is a small, but wise investment.

Keep valuables out of sight

It could be argued that leaving sought-after items like tablets, mobiles, laptops and sat navs in plain view is asking for trouble. Always hide valuable items in the boot or your car. In fact, hide all items (bags, clothes, whatever) in the boot to take away all temptation. The only electronic item you should leave in your car is a dash cam. It will record everything and could even get the thief’s face on camera.

Strengthen your windows

You might want to consider putting clear security film over your car windows. It doesn’t sound much, but it makes the glass considerably stronger and will leave minimal damage if someone does manage to smash their way through.

Think about where you park

Well-lit, busy areas are a much better option when parking your car than dark, quiet ones. The safest parking space you find might not necessarily be the most convenient or closest to where you’re heading, but it could prevent damage to your vehicle or theft. Pop on your trainers and walk that extra distance!

The only electronic item you should leave in your car is a dash cam. It will record everything and could even get the thief’s face on camera.

A busy road with cars parked along the side
How black box insurance can help if your car is stolen

Black box insurance (or telematics insurance) offers a number benefits. The most obvious one is that it can save you money on your insurance, helping you earn discounts on future renewals based on how you drive.

But that black box technology can also come in extremely useful should your car be stolen. By acting as a tracking device, the black box can help police locate your car and return it to you safely.

It’s a great option for anyone looking to save money on their car insurance. Whether you’re a first-time driver or you drive a more powerful car, a black box could help the police recover your car faster.

You could install a vehicle tracker to do this, but with telematics insurance you get that added protection at no extra cost. As long as the device is active and stays in the vehicle, your car can be tracked. If your stolen car is found and returned to you undamaged, you’ll also save money as you won’t have to claim against your insurance at all.

Is telematics insurance right for you?

At Smartdriverclub, we’re specialists in telematics insurance and offer a range of policies to provide your car with the protection it needs. Whether you drive an old banger or a top of the range sports car, no one wants their vehicle to be stolen. Our SmartPlug device takes the stress out of a stressful situation – and could help track your car down.

If a thief has left your car but made away with any of its contents, our personal belongings cover will protect items up to £100 if they are damaged or stolen from your car. We also offer in-car equipment cover of up to £1,250 or 15% of the value of your car for a CD player, radio, sat nav or any other audio or visual equipment, as long as they are permanently fitted to your car.

Our telematics insurance can also come in handy if you are involved in an accident. The data recorded by the black box during the accident can be used to help settle the claim quickly.

As well as 24-hour theft tracking, our insurance provides the cover you’d expect, including windscreen cover, personal injury cover, 30-day European cover, courtesy car cover, as well as fire and theft cover.

The SmartPlug device is easy to install and we’re always on hand to help with any problems you may have.

Get in touch with the team or get an online quote for telematics insurance today.