Land Rover Defender owners are being urged to take extra steps to protect their vehicles as an insurer reports a sharp rise in thefts of the famous 4x4s.
Rural insurer NFU Mutual saw a 34% increase in claims in 2021 and says Defender thefts are on course to rise further in 2022.
The insurer has seen claims including outright theft of the vehicle as well as instances where key parts have been stripped by thieves. It says the soaring prices of classic and used vehicles and a ready demand for spare parts are driving the increase in thieves targeting the iconic vehicle.
It has also seen a huge 87% jump in the value of claims made by its customers. In 2021 claims from NFU Mutual customers relating to Defender thefts reached £2.6 million.
Police have warned that older Defenders are particularly vulnerable to theft due to their basic security features and have urged owners to add physical deterrents to protect their vehicles.
Rebecca Davidson, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “We’ve been insuring Land Rovers since they first appeared on British farms, and their iconic status makes these vehicles a regular target for both opportunistic thieves and organised criminal gangs.
“From trusted farm vehicles to coveted collectors’ pieces, Defenders have universal appeal. With older models retaining their vintage value and newer used cars soaring in price, thieves are scouring the countryside for Land Rovers, as well as dismantling them for parts.
“We know that when prices go up, thieves are quick to cash in and the decrease in rural theft that we saw over lockdown is well and truly over.”
Workhorses at risk
DC Chris Piggott of the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service said: “We are particularly concerned that the older Land Rover Defender models, the workhorses which are so important to farmers’ everyday activity, are at risk because of a lack of modern security systems.
“Owners should therefore fortify their vehicles as much as possible, using a combination of measures such as immobilisers, tracking devices and pedal and steering wheel locks.
“It’s also common to see vehicles stripped for parts in situ, but good site security and simple, cost effective measures can make life difficult enough for thieves for them to abandon their attempts.”
‘It has such an impact on your life’
Stephen Murgatroyd, from St Agnes in Cornwall is among the NFU Mutual customers whose Defenders have been targeted by thieves.
Crooks managed to bypass an alarm and steering lock to steal his 4x4 from his driveway before using it in an attempted cashpoint raid. He only found out when a friend in the police contacted him to say it had been discovered elsewhere.
“When he phoned that morning, he asked me where my Defender was and I told him it was on the driveway. He said it can’t be, as I’m looking at it while I’m talking to you,” said Stephen. “Where I usually park, it would have been hidden by trees, but I had left it further down the driveway as I had been painting the house that week, so the thieves would have seen it from the road.
“I couldn’t believe it. I don’t know how they managed to do it without disturbing us or any of our neighbours.”
Stephen added: “We were burgled a number of years ago and that same emotion came back. It’s very unpleasant and can have such an impact on your life, but the thieves don’t think about that.”
Matthew Weaver, from Staffordshire, also fell victim to thieves who ignored CCTV cameras on his farm to strip his Defender of its doors and bonnet.
He said: “They were brazen and didn’t seem to care that they were in full sight of the CCTV. I have a video in high definition of the Defender being casually stripped for parts while I slept in the house. They knew exactly how to remove each part so they clearly planned the job
“The same thing happened to others in our area within a day or two of my theft. I think these parts are being targeted because they are hard to come by at the moment.”
How to protect your classic Land Rover Defender from theft
To help owners protect their vehicles, NFU Mutual has come up with the following tips:
- Keep the vehicle locked at all times when not in use
- Fit an accredited alarm for security and a tracking device to locate your vehicle if stolen
- Fit a mechanical immobiliser such as a steering wheel or pedal lock
- Thieves will often target component parts so consider marking them using a forensic marking solution or system
- Keep the vehicle in a lockable building if possible, or park in well-lit areas which are overlooked
- Have the vehicle identification number etched on windows
- Consider fitting a hidden battery isolation or a fuel cut-off switch
- Take photographs of unusual features, modifications, damage or repairs which could aid identification if stolen
- Ensure any valuables are removed from the vehicle
- Don’t share information on social media which could indicate where Land Rovers are kept
- For modern vehicles, keep electronic keys in a faraday pocket or box at night