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What do thieves do with stolen cars? AX Track experts reveal UK crime tactics

Stealing cars can be a lucrative opportunity for criminals. In most cases, these types of crimes are highly organised and complex. 

However, some vehicles are targeted more by criminals than others. In this blog, we’ll run through the most stolen cars in the UK in 2023.But what do thieves do with stolen cars? And why do vehicle thefts rise year after year in the UK? We'll explain everything you need to know in this blog.

Selling stolen cars overseas 

Cars become difficult to sell for a high price once stolen, so many criminals look to dispose of stolen cars overseas. Often, stolen cars are shipped to other countries and sold to unsuspecting buyers. This tactic is particularly common for high-end luxury vehicles — we know it all too well here at AX Track.

AX Track technology was used to remotely track a stolen vehicle hidden inside a steel shipping container which was on its way from the UK to Mombasa Port in Kenya. 

Law enforcement agencies used the technology to track the car to its final destination in Kampala, Uganda, where an international criminal gang were intercepted and arrested.

The operation was so successful that almost £1m of stolen UK cars were identified from the intelligence gathered and repatriated to the UK.

 Find out more about Operation Navigate and some of our successful recovery missions here.

Chopping up cars and selling the parts

Many criminals send stolen cars to chop shops, which provide lucrative opportunities for car thieves.

Once a car is stolen, chop shop operators strip them for parts and sell them to other people who need parts for crashed cars.

Sophisticated gangs often run these chop shops. They’re usually set up in industrial units or mechanic premises, making it challenging to locate a stolen vehicle. But that’s where our technology can make a big difference. Read this blog to find out why we have a 99.1% recovery rate.

Using cars for criminal activity  

Although most criminals target cars to sell them, they’re sometimes used as getaway vehicles during robberies and county lines drug trafficking. Criminals use the car to ship drugs into rural areas and smaller towns, away from cities.

According to recent statistics, specific models of cars are targeted more often by criminals to use as getaway vehicles. These include Audi S3s, Honda Type Rs and Ford Focus RS’. You can discover more about the most stolen cars in 2023 here. 

Cloning cars and selling them on

Criminals sometimes clone vehicles to sell them. Cloning is when one car is given the identity of another by replacing the number plates with those from an almost identical vehicle — the same make, model and colour. 

Leave vehicles in busy areas and assess if someone is coming back

London saw the highest number of vehicle thefts in 2022. Although not always, many vehicle thefts happen in busy places like cities and towns. 

This provides thieves with an opportunity to avoid being caught. Once a vehicle is stolen, some thieves will leave it in a busy area. They will then stay within a close radius, monitoring the area to see whether the Police or anyone else approaches the vehicle. 

If not, they will return to the vehicle when the coast is clear and move onto the next stage of their operation. 

Thieves in more remote areas will use a similar tactic. However, instead of leaving the car in a built up area, they will instead leave it in a field or another large area.

Target particular manufacturers and learn about how their cars work

Some Organised Crime Groups will select particular car manufacturers and learn all about their cars. They will look at the cars' disable systems and figure out how to break into them without causing any commotion. 

Criminals will also find out which models of vehicles are the most desirable and highly target them.

Here at AX Track, we’re dedicated to fighting vehicle crime and providing our customers with peace of mind. Our recovery stands at an unmatched 99.1%. 

We’ve collated some of our most successful recovery missions through the years and you can find out more about them below.

See more examples of how we’ve fought vehicle crime in the past 

Our case studies page is a great opportunity to find out more about AX Track and how we’ve helped others with vehicle recovery in the past. To get started, click below. 


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