Motor insurers are typically paying out more than £1 million a day following a “worrying” surge in vehicle thefts – including keyless car crime.
One new vehicle theft claim is now being made every six minutes on average, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said.
The cost of vehicle thefts and thefts from vehicles surged by 29% year on year across 2018 to a new record high of £376 million – equating to more than £1 million being paid every day.
The number of such claims – 56,000 – was a 12% increase on 2017, with a new theft claim being made every six minutes.
The ABI said the jump reflects increasing vehicle crime, with Home Office figures recording a 50% rise in vehicle thefts over the last five years.
Explaining how keyless car theft works, the ABI said technology which allows drivers to open and start their cars without removing the key fob from their pocket, can be exploited using a technique called a “relay attack”.
Usually operating in pairs, one criminal will hold a device up against the car, to capture the signal it sends out to the key.
It then “boosts” this signal to another device by the front wall of the house, which relays the signal to the key inside.
This fools the car and key into thinking they are within a range of operation, allowing the car to be unlocked and started.
ABI’s motor policy adviser, Laurenz Gerger, said: “The resurgence in car crime is worrying.
“The record amounts paid to motorists by their insurers in part reflects the vulnerability of some cars to keyless relay theft.
“Action by motor manufacturers to tackle this hi-tech vulnerability, allied with owners taking some simple, inexpensive precautions will help reverse this unwelcome trend.”
The ABI said the total cost of all motor claims paid in 2018, including property damage, personal injury and theft was more than £8.6 billion – equating to £16,000 every minute.
This was up by nearly half a billion pounds on 2017 to a record annual high. The average overall claim was £3,082.
Some £4.8 billion was paid out in vehicle repairs – repairing the policyholder’s vehicle or that of a third party and providing a replacement vehicle.
The ABI said the increasing sophistication of vehicles and a weaker pound contributed to more expensive vehicle repairs.
Despite rising payouts, the trade association said the average premium fell year on year in 2018 to £477 – marking the first annual fall since 2014.
But it said the Civil Liability Act must be implemented to reduce high legal costs and help keep motor insurance competitively priced.
Minister for policing and the fire service Nick Hurd said: “I am determined to take swift and decisive action against vehicle theft.
“In January I chaired the first meeting of the vehicle theft task force, which brought together members of industry and the police to significantly strengthen our response to this crime.
“In addition to improving vehicle security standards, the task force will work together to ensure that robust measures are in place to prevent criminals exploiting the salvage process, and to stop access to devices that may be used to commit this theft.”
Here are three tips from the ABI for protecting your car:
1. Park your car in a well-lit area.
2. Keep car keys well away from external doors or windows.
3. Turn off the signal overnight or keep the keys in a signal block pouch.