A wheel problem as more car parts become target for thieves

  • Steering wheel theft up 133%, coupled with doubling airbags and gear stick thefts
  • Keyless car thefts up 19% in a year as skills and tactics of thieves evolve
  • Worst year for catalytic converter theft, accounting for 20% of all car theft claims 

New data from LV= General Insurance (LV= GI) reveals that more car parts are becoming a target for thieves such as airbags, steering wheels and catalytic converters, with thefts of keyless cars also continuing to rise.

Since 2017, thefts of steering wheels have risen by 133%1, with demand for airbags, gear sticks and any dashboard components also doubling. The average claims cost for theft of a steering wheel and airbag is around £7,000, with the most expensive claim reaching £41,000 due to a write off of the vehicle because the entire dashboard was stolen.

Thieves are selling these items on to car garages, who are able to fit these parts at a much lower cost compared to buying them brand new. With the cost of living crisis and bills rising for many, car owners may also be more inclined to accept a ‘second hand’ part to help lower the costs of maintaining and running a car.

Evolving tactics

As the technology of keyless cars evolves, so are the skills and tactics of thieves out to steal them. As such, LV= GI is also seeing a peak rise in thefts of newer keyless cars such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Land Rover, up 19% from 2021. The last peak seen on this scale was a 22% increase from 2019 to 2020, with thefts much lower between 2020 and 2021 (down 6%), and before 2019.

However, it’s not just higher value cars on the rise, with car brands such as Hyundai, Kia, Vauxhall, Ford, Lexus and Toyota also becoming a target for any parts thieves can get their hands on. Thefts are mainly concentrated in areas including London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.

How precious is metal?

Catalytic converter thefts have been on the rise for a number of years, accounting for around 10% of car insurance thefts since 2016. However, the car part which is highly desired due to the precious metal hit a record high last year, accounting for 20% of all car insurance theft claims, and has remained a substantial problem in the first half of 2022.

Alex Hammond-Chambers-Borgnis, Interim Underwriting Director at LV= General Insurance, comments “We’re certainly seeing an increase in car related thefts and any spare parts opportunistic thieves can get their hands on to make some extra cash. This is also being fuelled by the fact car parts are currently in very high demand as a result of global supply chain disruption, which is adding to the problem.

“With second hand cars also sky rocketing, we’re seeing all types of vehicles being stolen, and keyless cars in particular remain a problem. The technology of keyless cars continues to improve as more cars are produced, but unfortunately it doesn’t take long for thieves to work out a way to steal them and advance their own tactics.”

Tips from LV= on the best way to keep your car secure:

  • Purchase a faraday pouch - lined with a conductive fabric mesh to stop the signal and keep well away from your vehicle.
  • Make sure your car is locked, check for obvious signs, such as lights flashing, beeping or mirrors folding in.
  • Invest in a steering wheel lock or wheel clamp as they require noisy drills or saws to cut through so may deter thieves.
  • Check your locking settings for single and double locking. Single locked means that if you smashed the window you could manually open the car by reaching in and pulling the handle from the inside. Some key fobs require a second pressing of the locking button to enable all security features.
  • Consider driveway parking posts (fold down bollards) which are a cheap but efficient way of deterring would-be thieves.
  • Install a tracker system in your vehicle, such as a Thatcham approved device, for an extra layer of security. This will help the police recover and return the car more easily.

For further information:

Natasha King
Senior Press Officer, General Insurance
07443 237651


LV= General Insurance claims data from 2017 to 2022.