Written by Neil Thomas
Which keyless cars are the most stolen? A look into vulnerable models
Recent years have seen keyless car theft reach new heights. Modern technology allows thieves to bypass sophisticated security measures — all without the presence of the driver's key.
Keyless car models are often equipped with convenience features like keyless entry and push-to-start systems, making them prime targets for advanced criminals.
In this blog post, we explore why keyless car theft is on the rise, which keyless cars are the most stolen and measures drivers can take to protect their vehicles.
The rise of keyless car theft
As vehicle technology advances, so do the methods deployed by modern thieves to exploit vehicle security vulnerabilities.
While convenient for keyless car owners, the absence of a key can lead to a higher risk of theft.
Known as 'relay theft' or 'signal boosting,' keyless car theft involves thieves using key fobs and other devices to access a keyless vehicle.
This is a growing concern for manufacturers and keyless car owners, with keyless entry found to be the most common way for thieves to break into vehicles in England and Wales, accounting for over a third of all break-ins.
Theft through relay attacks has become the go-to method for car thieves and is performed using two devices: a relay transmitter and a receiver.
The transmitter amplifies the key fob's signal while the receiver replicates the signal at the car's location. Put simply, the thieves effectively 'trick' the car into thinking that the key fob is within a suitable range.
Keyless car theft in action!— Police Service NI (@PoliceServiceNI) July 27, 2022
Even if your car and home are secure, thieves can still unlock, start and steal your car.
They only need to be within a few metres of your key to get the signal, even if it’s inside your home.https://t.co/1qaBdoruJ8#WeCareWeListenWeAct pic.twitter.com/pff8Ivc0l0
Which keyless car models are the most stolen?
Keyless models of cars are often more at risk than those with your typical car key. Not all new cars are keyless, but it's becoming evermore popular with the convenience it provides to drivers.
So, which keyless models are the most susceptible to theft?
According to the latest Confused.com figures, Land Rover’s have a jaw-dropping rate of 924 thefts per 10,000 in the year ending March 2023, with many criminals leveraging keyless technology to steal these lucrative vehicles.
Mercedes-Benz was the second most popular, with 323 stolen per 10,000. Although you'd assume these brands have sophisticated security systems — which they do — car hackers can lead on advanced hardware to bypass them.
The Times reports that devices are being sold online for as little as £1,300 that can see thieves steal cars in just 90 seconds.
Thatcham Research conducted an independent assessment on the security of keyless car models, rating cars based on their vulnerability to relay attacks.
Models that were granted ‘Superior’ ratings for their security:
- BMW X6 M50d
- BMW 218i Gran Coupe M Sport
- Land Rover Discovery Sport D150
- Mini EV
- Porsche Taycan
- Škoda Superb
- Toyota Supra.
Models that were granted ‘Poor’ ratings for their keyless system security:
- Mazda CX-30
- MG HS Excite T-GDI
- Subaru Forester e-Boxer XE Premium
- Vauxhall Corsa Ultimate Turbo 100.
The Metropolitan Police also outlined six keyless car models that had been targeted most across London in the early weeks of 2023, warning drivers to protect their cars against keyless theft. The models were:
- Mitsubishi Outlander
- Nissan Navara
- Kia Sportage
- Kia Niro
- Hyundai Ioniq
- Hyundai Tucson.
Throughout their messaging, the police advise drivers to invest in a Faraday pouch, a signal-blocking pouch lined with metallic material. Let's explore Faraday pouches and other preventive measures drivers can take to combat keyless car theft.
Protecting your keyless car
With the growing sophistication of methods thieves use to steal keyless vehicles, owners need to be proactive in protecting their cars. Here are a few methods you can explore.
1. Invest in a Faraday pouch
A Faraday pouch — otherwise known as a signal-blocking pouch — can block the signals required for relay theft thanks to the materials it's made from.
Tests of Faraday pouches have found them to be generally effective at blocking signals, but the price and quality of material can vary across different pouches, so conduct a little research before purchasing.
You can also test your Faraday pouch by placing the key into the pouch and attempting to start your car with the key inside. You should regularly test your pouch to ensure it still works over time.
It’s also important to remember that any spare keys you own are also protected.
2. Use physical barriers
A steering wheel lock or gear shift lock can act as great physical deterrents for thieves. While these measures may not completely prevent theft, they can act as visible deterrents for thieves who may only come equipped with relay theft technology.
Parking in a garage overnight is an ideal way to stop keyless car theft, but if you don't own a garage, park defensively. Parking defensively can include blocking your car in with another car.
3. Turn off your fob's wireless signal
The wireless signal on some keyless fobs can be switched off, preventing any signal from being relayed by thieves.
You'll find how to turn off your wireless signal in the car's manual. If you can't find anything in the manual about turning off the signal, get in touch with your manufacturer to see if it's possible.
4. Keep keys away from your car
Alongside housing keys in a Faraday pouch, keep them far away from your car and away from the windows and doors of your house. This will make it harder for criminals to detect and amplify a signal.
One simple way to do this is if you park your car on the street. Parking at a distance from your house can make it harder for thieves to amplify a signal, and they may not necessarily know which house contains the keys.
Ensure a swift recovery by installing a tracking device
Unfortunately, none of the methods listed above give you absolute protection against keyless car theft. If you were to fall victim to keyless car theft, having a covert tracking device installed gives you the best chance of recovery.
Thieves can often detect standard tracking devices as they're usually installed in the same place in every vehicle.
That's why looking for covert tracking devices installed in hidden places is important, making it difficult for thieves to locate.
AX Track devices are fitted by specialists, with the location kept secret at all times. The technology is also Thatcham Research accredited and Secured by Design (SBD), meaning it's undergone rigorous testing to meet industry standards.
Want to see how our devices have impacted vehicles across the UK? Download our stat sheet to see why we're the experts in tracing, locating and recovering vehicles.