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Vehicle Theft Report: The UK’s Most Commonly Stolen Car Parts

While we all generally take precautions to prevent our vehicles from being stolen, it seems not all of us are as careful when it comes to protecting our car’s parts from theft. One in five (20%) have experienced a car part theft – whether it be a stolen wing mirror, wheels, or the re-sale hot commodity of catalytic converters, we reveal.

To find out which car parts are the most at risk, which ones are most commonly stolen and how much it costs to replace them, our car insurance team surveyed more than 2,000 UK drivers. We’ve also taken a closer look at which areas of the UK experience the most car part thefts, and the specific parking locations that might leave you and your car more vulnerable to becoming a victim.

Wing mirrors, number plates and wheels are among the most commonly stolen car parts

When it comes to which car parts are the most frequently targeted by thieves, wing mirrors top the list with over 1.4 million UK drivers (17%) having had one stolen in the past. The wing mirrors on many modern cars are more than just mirrors; they often house valuable sensory equipment that can be worth a lot of money, which potentially makes them a target for thieves.

Number plates and wheels are also high on the list, tied for second place with 13% of our survey participants having experienced the theft of these items. The car emblem (12%) and catalytic converter (10%) round out the top five, Catalytic converter theft is actually increasing, doubtless due to their high value.

One in five drivers have experienced a vehicle part robbery costing over £1,200

As well as investigating which car parts are most often targeted by thieves, we also wanted to find out how much these thefts are costing drivers across the country. The average value of car parts stolen in the UK is £746.63, according to calculations from our research. And as many as one in five drivers (20%) have experienced car part theft that cost them over £1,200 to replace.

The value of stolen car parts is highest in Greater London, where it reaches an average of £985.58, and lowest in Wales with an average of £510.38.

On-street parking is the number one trouble spot for car part theft

Wondering how to prevent having parts of your vehicle stolen? Avoid leaving your car parked on the street, if possible.

On-street parking as the worst location for car part theft, with 19% of respondents saying they have fallen victim to this crime while their car was parked on the street outside where they live, the survey reveals. A further 14% said they experienced car part theft while their car was parked on the street in a residential area, and 13% said their car was parked on their driveway when parts were stolen.

The top five car part theft trouble spots

Rank Location Percentage of participants who have experienced a car part theft in this location
1 On the street outside where I live 19.0%
2 On the street in a residential area 14%
3 On my driveway 13%
4 In a city/town centre 9%
5 On the street in a city/town centre 8%

As for the locations where you are least likely to experience a car part robbery, public parking seems to be the safest. We found that parking at a train station resulted in the lowest percentage of car part thefts at 3%, followed by at a school (3%) and at a gym or leisure centre (4%).

The UK’s top 10 car part theft hotspots

Having looked at specific locations that are likely to leave you most vulnerable to car part theft, but which cities have the highest risk?

Based on the percentage of drivers who reported having a car part stolen, our ranking revealed London as the number one city where cars are most vulnerable, with 28% of London drivers having experienced a stolen car part. This was followed by Birmingham, where 24% of drivers reported a car part theft, and Sheffield with 23%.

On the other hand, residents of Edinburgh (8%), Brighton (10%) and Belfast (14%) were the least likely to have experienced car part theft, according to our findings.

Rank City Percentage of individuals who have experienced a car part being stolen
1 London 28%
2 Birmingham 24%
3 Sheffield 23%
4 Leeds 22%
5 Manchester 20%
6 Southampton 18%
7 Plymouth 18%
8 Norwich 18%
9 Cardiff 18%
10 Glasgow 17%

Almost one in three drivers (32%) do not take any additional measures to secure their cars

In light of the fact that one in five of us have experienced car part theft, it’s surprising that almost one in three (32%) drivers admitted to not taking any extra steps to secure their cars against theft when asked what measures they took.

Of those who did take extra measures, the most common was taking out comprehensive car insurance, which 29% of drivers said they have done. This won’t prevent theft from occurring but could offer some extra cover should you fall victim to car part theft by offering the highest possible financial protection for your car.

The second most popular measure was parking in an area with CCTV (16%), followed by buying a steering wheel lock (13%).

The top five measures drivers take to secure their cars

Rank Measure Percentage of drivers who have taken this measure to secure their car
1 Investing in comprehensive car insurance 29.0%
2 Parking in an area with CCTV 16%
3 Buying a steering wheel lock 13%
4 Installing locking wheel nuts 12%
5 Parking in a secure garage 12%

How to reduce the risk of vehicle part theft

1. Always fully lock your car

Although thieves can steal parts from the outside of your car like your wing mirrors or number plate, making sure to lock all windows and doors will prevent them from accessing anything inside your vehicle. Plus, many car alarm systems are activated by locking the car.

2. Be careful where you park

On-street parking is particularly risky, our research reveals. So try to park your car away from the road if you can – preferably in a locked garage. If this isn’t an option, then make sure to park in a well-lit area, ideally with CCTV cameras nearby.

3. Invest in extra security measures like locking wheel nuts

To make your vehicle as secure as possible, consider investing in further safety measures such as locking wheel nuts to secure your wheels and special security screws for your number plate. It may also be worth looking into buying a lock or guard for your catalytic converter.

4. Use a car cover

Using a car cover to keep your vehicle hidden from view could prevent it from being targeted by thieves, as they won’t be able to spot any valuable items like high-tech wing mirrors and may be deterred by the extra effort it would take to remove the cover.

5. Get comprehensive car insurance

Taking out comprehensive car insurance, is worth considering if you don't have it already. Although it won’t prevent any car parts from being stolen, it offers the highest level of protection for your car.

Brought to you by our car insurance experts at Comparethemarket

Methodology & sources

Results gathered from a survey of 2,013 17+ UK drivers, conducted between 29.07.2022 - 01.08.2022.
Data relating to the total number of car parts stolen, and the average cost to replace stolen car parts are based on those respondents who have experienced car part thefts over the past five years, or more.