Car theft rates surging around the UK after Ulez expansion and new clean air zones

Car theft

Car, van and motorcycle theft is on the rise

Felix Reeves

By Felix Reeves

Published: 10/10/2023

- 08:39

More than 90 per cent of all vehicles stolen and recovered were stolen without the keys

The number of cars, motorcycles and vans being stolen is on the rise with a 33 per cent increase in the first half of 2023 compared to the previous year.

New data shows how the theft of vehicles around the UK has grown by a third, year-on-year.

Stolen car recoveries increased by 39.5 per cent, with light commercial vehicle (LCVs) recoveries also seeing an increase of 19 per cent.

However, Tracker, one of the UK’s largest vehicle tracking systems, found that the recovery of motorcycles leapt up by a staggering 113 per cent.

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The spread of vehicle thefts appears to be random, with no pattern of criminals looking to steal high end items.

The highest value motorcycle recovered by Tracker was a £9,000 Honda CRF1000L, while the lowest was a £1,600 Yamaha 125.

In 2022, the Lexus RX450h became the first hybrid vehicle to enter Tracker’s most stolen and recovered cars league table, placing in sixth.

The trend continued in the second half of 2022 and into the first six months of 2023, with the model placing in second place this year.

The Range Rover Vogue, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Mercedes-Benz S-Class all placed in third place.

The highest value stolen car recovered between January and June this year was a Mercedes-Benz AMG, with a staggering retail price of £182,000.

On the other hand, criminals also targeted low-value vehicles, namely a £1,000 Audi A4.

Clive Wain, Head of Police Liaison at Tracker, highlighted how a number of motoring policies are affecting the number of vehicles being stolen.

He said: “The ongoing shortage of new and used vehicles as well as spare parts is still having an impact on thefts, even though the supply chain challenges have eased slightly in recent months.

“However, zero emissions ambitions and the growing number of clean air and zero emissions zones, as well as the expansion of London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone are driving a surge in sales of electric and hybrid vehicles.

“Unfortunately, when we see a trend in car sales, we know that will very quickly be reflected in car thefts, as demonstrated by the Lexus RX450h moving rapidly up to second place in our most-recovered table.”

Criminals were also targeting cars with keyless entry by using relay devices to bounce the signal from the car fob to the device, allowing them to enter and use the car.

In 2017, 80 per cent of all vehicles stolen and recovered were stolen without the keys, with the latest data showing the number rising to 93 per cent.

Clive Wain continued, saying: “Professional criminals steal to order, and to meet market demand, so it is unsurprising to see a hybrid being stolen so often.


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“We expect to see an even greater number of low and zero emissions vehicles in our list of recoveries, taking more of the top spots.”

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