Vehicle theft bill soars to £1.54bn

Claims Management & Adjusting (CMA), the UK’s oldest specialist motor insurance loss adjuster, estimates that vehicle thefts are now costing UK insurers £1.54bn a year, with a further decline reported in the stolen car recovery rate.

CMA managing director Philip Swift said: “Vehicle theft costs to UK insurers increased again last year, up by £100m to £1.54bn. With the number of thefts and vehicle values static, this rise is due to a further five per cent decline in stolen car recovery rates.

“The sad fact is, if your car is stolen, you are unlikely to ever see it again. A Freedom of Information Act request to Kent police recently revealed an astonishingly low six per cent recovery rate. According to our analysis, the nationwide picture is better, with around 23% of stolen vehicles currently recovered. However, it is a continuation of the steady downward trend we have seen since 2006, when over three quarters of stolen cars were successfully recovered.

“Unfortunately, vehicle theft and its victims are simply not a priority for many UK police services. Essex recently put as much in writing to us, highlighting their ‘unprecedented workload’. The picture is worse in pound note terms than the ‘joyriding’ epidemic of the 1990s, when there were half a million thefts a year. Today, less cars are taken but organised criminal gangs target high value models like Range Rovers, often for parts or export.

“A lack of data clouds understanding, with forces such as West Midlands not even recording the theft method. We were recently asked to believe that professional thieves used sophisticated security bypass equipment to steal an old Ford. Does that sound likely or just a convenient, often accepted, explanation designed to expedite an insurance payout?

“Years ago, the excellent Operation Igneous demonstrated how a more thoughtful approach could expose fraudulent claims and reduce vehicle crime by 30%. A plan to roll it out UK-wide was shelved on grounds of cost – a false economy if ever there was one. We at CMA adopted much of the Igneous methodology and it continues to deliver exceptional results.

“The future of vehicle crime investigation lies in quickly utilising data from modern connected cars, but this will require far closer co-operation between insurers, the police, vehicle manufacturers and associated parties.”