17 December 2019

The most sought-after vehicles – usually those with a higher street value – include models from prestige brands such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes.

Despite costing from between £18-100,000 to buy new, the vehicles are stolen and quickly sold on for a fraction of their retail or used value – sometimes for just £1,000. 

The investigation further exposes the activities of car theft gangs as Home Office figures show the number of vehicles stolen in Britain has almost doubled in the last five years (most common vehicles).

According to an AX source, criminals have put a black market value of just £1,000 on an Audi A1, while a Land Rover Range Rover, which costs upwards of £80,000 when new, will go for £1,500-2,000. Once the theft has occurred, the vehicles are typically sold rapidly to a known network which then exports or dismantles them for parts.

Director of Investigative Services at AX, Neil Thomas, said: “The list is quite shocking, despite my 30 years working in the police force. We know how the criminals operate but, with the UK theft figures in mind, it’s a sharp reminder of the problem car owners and the industry faces.

“Rather than the cars that are stolen most in the UK, this list represents the criminals’ wish list of preferred targets. A typical, current Ford Fiesta, for example, would change hands for little more than £200.

“Business and private owners alike are affected by the increase in thefts, so it’s paramount to take precautions to avoid being targeted, or ensure vehicles have robust covert technology so that they can be recovered. Most tracking devices are simply removed after being stolen.” 

“It is reassuring to see the Police Service now treating vehicle theft as part of organised crime and we will continue to support their work in any way we can”

Last month, AX revealed that criminals are using WhatsApp groups to plan and execute car thefts as the UK vehicle crime wave continues. Further research also indicates the growing use of messaging application Telegram for organised vehicle theft.

In 2017-18, nearly 112,000 cars were taken illegally, up from 75,308 in the 2013-14 financial year.

The car thieves’ typical ‘shopping list’ of vehicles

Make / modelRetail Cost (from)Post-theft value
Mercedes C Class £28k £1k- £1.5k
Mercedes AMG £36k £2k- £3k
BMW X5 £56k £1.8k-£2k
Range Rover £84k £1.5-£2k£1.5-£2k
Range Rover SVR £100k £2k-£3k
BMW 2 Series £25K £1.5- £1.8k
BMW 3 Series £31k£1.5- £1.8k
BMW 4 Series £34k £1.5- £1.8k
BMW 5 Series £36k£1.5- £1.8k
Audi A1 £18k £1k
Audi A3£26k£1k
Audi A4£28k£1k
Audi A5£34k£1k

Most commonly stolen vehicles1

Make / modelNumber of Thefts
Ford Focus 530
Ford Fiesta 508
Vauxhall Astra 344
Volkswagen Golf 340
Vauxhall Corsa 306
Audi A3 43
BMW 1 Series 35
BMW 3 Series 32
Volkswagen Polo 31
Renault Clio31

In 2015, AX Operatives tracked a vehicle stolen in the UK back to Uganda, collaborating with the NCA to discover and recover 36 stolen vehicles worth over one million pounds.