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Which Cars are Stolen the Most in the UK?

Thievery in the ‘good old days’

There was a time when the car most likely to be stolen was probably a Ford Escort or Cortina. Joyriders were the most prevalent culprits and your motor was likely to be found burned out in some remote layby, married to a lamp-post or wall, or in some dodgy backstreet garage, being turned into a potential death trap by some cut-and-shut jockey with a cheap welding kit. Most thefts were ‘opportunist’, carried out using a coat-hanger, brick or hammer. Car security systems were at best basic and the baddies were always ahead of the curve.

When you added ‘theft from cars’ – car stereos, handbags, cameras, etc. – to ‘theft of cars’, the headline in those days was “One car crime in Britain every single minute.”

As recently as 2002, a newspaper report highlighted, “Cars made by Vauxhall occupy nine of the top 10 positions in the “stolen vehicles league”, seven of these revolved around different types of Astra mark two’s. The only other make of car in the top 10 is the Ford Orion, 1987–89, which was second in the most “at risk” category.”

Eventually, the automakers responded with increasingly sophisticated security systems, while in the meantime a whole industry flourished providing retrofitted car alarms. The sound of wailing and screaming alarms came to define the weekend urban soundscape in Britain during the 80s and 90s, although there’s precious little evidence that a single car theft was ever prevented.

Fast forward to the second decade of the 21st century and we have a very different scenario. Unfortunately, car theft has not gone away – far from it. According to the DVLA, over 50,000 motors were stolen in 2019, which works out to around one every nine minutes. Only around 40% of stolen cars are ever returned to their rightful owner, which means 30,000 cars just ‘vanish’.

But today the popular game of ‘nicking cars’ is almost unrecognisable compared to the ‘good old days’.

Big business

Car theft is big business these days. And unsurprisingly, it’s the high-margin, high-value targets that are in the sights of the crooks. According to the police, cars are often stolen to order, with an end customer or an onward chain already identified. Gone (mostly) are the unsophisticated local thugs with a brick and a very bad attitude. These days, if your car is targeted it is likely to be by a highly skilled and trained team, armed with some very smart gadgets to beat even the best electronic deadlocks.

It’s a high-risk, high-cost operation – which is why most of the criminals are now looking for a big financial return, not just a wild, booze and drug-fuelled joy-ride.

With the average value of a car on the UK road now priced at well over £25,000, we are talking about big business. Very big business; a quick crunch on a calculator will tell you that the total annual value of stolen vehicles in the UK is over £1.25 billion.

And the car most likely to is…

So which cars are the most likely to be stolen in 2020? The answer may surprise you if you’re thinking that the sophisticated electronic engine management systems, immobilisers, smart keys, central locking and all the other expensive gadgetry that’s built into some of the top motors on today’s roads should keep you safe from unwelcome attention.

The DVLA’s top ten of the most stolen cars in 2019 includes prestigious BMWs, Mercedes, Audis and VWs. At number two on the chart sits the Range Rover Autobiography model, which has an on the road price somewhere north of £80,000.

The Ford Focus and the Vauxhall Astra hold their places in the top ten, keeping the link with the past alive – although at around £20,000, the days of picking one up in the pub car park for a couple of hundred are well gone. There’s plenty of margin for the criminal gangs, as well as plenty of sales volume.

But even for today’s smarter, classier thieves, the ubiquitous Ford Fiesta remains an irresistible proposition. Quick and easy to access and start up, and eminently ‘disappearable’ among the country’s estimated population of over 1.5 million Fiestas on Britain’s roads in 2019, the humble hatchback still enjoys the dubious fame of being the UK’s most stolen car.

Outsmarting the thieves

So, what can we do, faced with a new generation of smart, determined car thieves? The police advice is sensible and practical, as we’d expect:

1. Always lock it. Does this really need saying? Apparently, yes it does.
2. Close windows and sunroofs – it’s amazing how many of us just make life easy for the bad guys.
3. Secure your number plates with security screws. The thieves will want to change them, quickly and easily. Make it more difficult.
4. Park in a well-lit, busy area wherever possible. Police estimate that most cars are accessed within 30 seconds – thieves don’t like bright lights and audiences while they do their dirty work.
5. Don’t leave papers in the car. What’s in your glove box?

Having your car taken without warning is traumatic enough in itself. Police files are full of unfortunate people who have lost their family’s passports, wallets and bankcards, smartphones – all manner of highly valuable stuff that a thief will just consider a welcome bonus, and will pile on extra misery for the hapless victim.

Armed with the knowledge about which cars tend to get stolen the most, we might want to give some careful thought to the subject before we decide on our next set of wheels. Check out the security tips that are available. Always buy from a reputable dealership, to be sure you don’t end up buying someone else’s car.

And last, but by no means least, whether we like it or not, we have to think about insurance, and that means studying the small print carefully. If the worst comes to the worst, is your policy going to pay up properly and rapidly? What are the ‘get out’ clauses that might become problematic?

Car thieves are smart; we need to be smarter. This much, at least, has not changed.

Which Engine Size is Best?

If you’ve ever tried to buy a car, new or used, you’ll know that finding the perfect engine size for you can be difficult. It’s important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of both larger and smaller engines, to help you make up your mind which is best for you.

What does engine size actually mean?

Engine size, otherwise known as “engine displacement” or “engine capacity”, relates to the total volume of the engine’s cylinders. Larger cylinders mean more space for air and fuel mixture, which ultimately means more power. Generally you’ll find engine size is described in litres. There are 1,000 cubic centimetres in a litre, but often engine sizes are rounded up to the nearest half litre. A 1575cc engine would be described as “1.6 litres” for example, whereas a 1535cc engine would be described as “1.5 litres”. Often the word “litres” isn’t even used, you will just see “1.5” or “1.6” for example.

Engines contain cylinders – ranging anywhere from three to twelve, depending on the vehicle. The vehicle’s cubic capacity is broken up into equal shares per cylinder. So, for example, a four-cylinder 2-litre engine, 2000cc, will have 500cc per cylinder.

What are the benefits of smaller engines?

You may wonder why anyone would want a small engine, but the reality of it is under the right driving conditions smaller engines are actually much more fuel-efficient. This is compounded by recent advancements in engine technology, which is making engines more efficient than ever. A small engine driven locally at relatively low revs will be very affordable to run. Many driving enthusiasts also enjoy lower capacity engines because they can be more engaging to drive, requiring more gear shifts and allowing driving enjoyment while still remaining safely within the road’s speed limits.

What are the benefits of larger engines?

Larger engines are more powerful, which means that they’re generally used in bigger vehicles. Large estate cars and people carriers, for example, are rarely found with engines under 1.6 litres because they have much more weight to carry in the vehicle itself. Smaller engines can be prone to becoming over-stressed if they are placed in too large a vehicle. That’s why if you’re buying a large family car it’ll generally have a larger engine, but if you’re buying a smaller hatchback it’ll generally have a smaller engine. A small engine in a large vehicle can be a false economy, because the engine has to work so much harder to pull the vehicle that it actually uses a lot more fuel. This is where a bigger and less stress engine will actually be more affordable to run. This is especially true if you’re travelling longer distances at higher speeds, which larger engines can do at considerably fewer revs.

How do you decide which is going to be best for you?

The first thing to think about is what kind of vehicle you’re looking for, when you’re thinking about engine size. For example, if you just need a small hatchback, a smaller engine is going to be perfectly suitable for you. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a larger family vehicle, a van, or an off-road vehicle you will likely be looking at larger engine sizes – due to the fact that they are bigger and heavier vehicles.

The next thing to do is think about the reality of your driving needs. What are you actually going to be using the car for? If, for example, you’re only going to be using it to pop to the local shops and back three times a week, then a hatchback with a small petrol engine is going to be absolutely perfect for you. If, on the other hand, you need a vehicle that you’re going to be able to comfortably do a long daily commute in, you’re going to need an engine with a larger capacity to keep the revs low while you chew up those motorway miles. Honestly assess your needs from a vehicle.

What about the running costs?

Assessing the running costs of a vehicle is a complex prospect, and it’s far from as simple as “small engines are cheaper, bigger engines aren’t” – there are many different considerations you need to make. Bigger engines, for example, are not always the least efficient option. If you are constantly driving your vehicle that has a smaller engine at higher revs, for example, it’s actually going to use a lot more fuel. There’s also the increased wear and tear on an engine that’s always “working hard” – it doesn’t take too high of a repair bill to eclipse any fuel savings you might have made.

Manufacturers have tried hard in order to mitigate the perceived lack of power in smaller engines, in a number of ways. Ford, for example, now have the EcoBoost engine, which uses a turbocharger to increase the power of the engine without raising its overall capacity. Something to consider, however, is that this makes the engine more complicated and introduces another potential failure point compared to an older and simpler engine. The new family of small turbocharged engines are still too new to be able to make any reasonable judgements about long-term reliability, which is something to think about.

On the other side of the argument, larger engines tend to put out more emissions – petrol engines produce more carbon dioxide, and diesels produce more nitrous oxide. Both of these are very bad for both the environment and human beings, respectively. As such, governments levy heavier penalties on drivers of those vehicles in the form of road tax. Larger engine cars are almost universally in a higher road tax band, so this needs to be a part of your budgeting.

Deciding the right engine size for you

There’s no right or wrong answer, as long as you buy a car you love and enjoy. Look to your driving habits and the needs you have of your vehicle to help better decide whether to choose a smaller or a larger engine.

Should I Buy a Car Warranty?

Many car dealerships and manufacturers offer warranties on their cars to protect you if something goes wrong, but did you know that you can also but separate warranties that will extend the cover you receive as standard? These warranties can protect various aspects of your car and can help you partially or totally pay for repairs or damage to the vehicle while it’s active. Sounds good, but is a warranty worth the paper it’s written on, or are they just an extra expense you can do without? Let’s take a look.

What is a warranty?

A warranty is a form of insurance that is designed to cover the cost of repairs to your car if something goes wrong. In exchange for a small amount of money, a month for the length of the warranty, the company whose warranty you buy will pay for the cost of repairs to the parts of the car under warranty no matter how much it costs. It is common for new cars to automatically come with a warranty, typically lasting between five and seven years, although some car companies offer ten-year warranties too. These are included in the cost of the car, but you may then want to extend this warranty further. You may also want to pay separately for a warranty on a second-hand car, especially if you don’t have much information about its condition.

What does the warranty cover?

This might sound like an obvious question, but it’s one that you need to ask yourself when you look at any warranty on a vehicle. While warranties can be comprehensive, there are often conditions attached which you need to pay attention to in order to decide whether the warranty is worth buying. For one thing, the warranty might not cover all the parts of the car that you wanted it to and may exclude elements such as the tyres and windscreen while covering elements you’re less worried about such as the fuel tank and exhaust.

A second factor to take into account is that there are often requirements you need to follow to maintain your warranty. Some warranties require you to keep up with annual servicing, which needs to be treated as a regular expense or have mileage restrictions to stop you from driving too far. If this is the case, you need to decide whether these restrictions make your warranty worth the money. If the mileage restrictions are too strict to allow you to use your car as you’d like, or if the cost of servicing is higher than the money you’re likely to save, it might not be worth the money.

On top of these considerations, there is also the excess to take into account. Warranties tend to require you to pay a portion of the cost of repairs regardless of how much it costs, called the excess, which is set when you take out the warranty. Setting your excess low means that you have to pay more per month, but you won’t have many out of pocket expenses if and when you make a claim. Conversely, if you choose a high excess, you’ll have to pay less per month but more of the cost of the repair. Again, your circumstances will determine which you choose. Newer cars that are less likely to have expensive problems with them are good candidates for a high excess because you’ll more than likely never need to claim on it. Older cars that may suffer serious engine or electrical faults may require low excess warranties because any problems that occur are likely to cost more.

Other considerations

While the above considerations make the decision sound like a fairly straightforward weighing up of pros and cons, there are some other things to bear in mind that might sway your decision. One of the best things about taking out extra warranties, rather than relying on free or manufacturer warranties, is that you can tailor the cover to what you think you’ll need. Free warranties tend to cover a pre-determined set of potential problems, but many cars have known faults that tend to occur after a certain number of miles. By choosing an extra warranty, you can be sure that the problematic elements of your car are covered, while other elements that are less sensitive aren’t being paid for.

A second thing to bear in mind is that some warranties come with potentially useful extras that you won’t get as standard with a free warranty. For example, many optional warranties give you free breakdown cover in with the price, which can usually cost as much as one to two hundred pounds a year. Alongside this, the warranty might cover or discount other expenses such as MOT and servicing at selected garages, which on its own can save you enough money to make the warranty worth it.

The verdict

Extra warranties can be a great way to get that peace of mind you need when you buy a new or used car, and potentially to save hundreds or thousands on repairs. Buying an extra warranty gives you total control over your cover, so you’re paying for what you want to be covered and not what you don’t. Warranties also give you access to extra benefits that you can’t get with free warranties, which may be worth the cost on its own. However, it’s important to double-check every aspect of your warranty to make sure that it covers what you need. In some cases, the amount of money that you pay each month for the warranty can exceed the cost of potential repairs, or the excess that you’ll have to pay to make a claim is too high for it to be worth the cost. On top of that, warranties tend to cover certain expensive parts of the car and not other cheaper areas that break more frequently, so you may find that you are paying for cover that you never end up using. All in all, it very much depends on your circumstances and the age of your car as to whether it’s a sound investment.

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