Range Rovers become thief magnets, causing values to plummet



Tim Coen, a property investor, loved his Range Rover Sport but decided it was time to go green. He wanted to trade in the gas-guzzling sport utility vehicle for an electric Porsche.

There was a snag, however. A string of Range Rover thefts in the UK has caused insurance premiums to skyrocket. While the Porsche was being built, his coverage provider said it wouldn’t re-insure the Range Rover. He searched online and the cheapest quote he could find was £48,000 ($60,100).

The eye-watering cost has sent the SUV’s resale value tumbling. The Leeds-based entrepreneur, who runs investment firm North Property Group, paid £103,000 for his Sport SVR two years ago. He checked its value online three months ago and it was supposedly worth £75,000. Now, it would only fetch about £45,000, according to the same site.

Coen, 34, can’t even sell it — he would need to fork out an extra £25,000 to pay off the finance because of the drop in valuation.

“I was trying to be a bit more eco-friendly, but now I’m probably not because I’ve got two cars rather than one,” said Coen, whose previous Range Rover was stolen in London in 2020.

He isn’t the only one to have seen the value of his vehicle go into reverse. The average price of a used Range Rover has fallen 9.3% since May to £35,224, versus declines of 5.7% for all luxury SUVs and 2.8% for all cars, data from car site Auto Trader shows.

Range Rover prices fell 2.8% in November alone, Auto Trader said, the steepest drop since insurance costs spiked. The declines follow a surge in second-hand car prices during the pandemic, when new-vehicle production slowed due to semiconductor shortages and other supply chain crises.

Insurance relief

Jaguar Land Rover is now considering a bespoke insurance product for UK customers struggling to get an affordable quote on the wider market, the manufacturer said in a statement to Bloomberg News. Last year, it stopped providing insurance cover for customers and subsequently ended a partnership with insurance provider Verex.

The average cost to insure a Range Rover more than doubled to £3,270 in the year to October, according to comparison site Confused.com. In the same period, overall car insurance rose 57%. In north London, the average quote this year for a male aged between 36 and 50 driving a newer Range Rover model was £5,186. Some drivers, like Coen, are being quoted astronomical sums.

“Although not all models have seen declines, the price performance of used Range Rovers overall has been softer than the much healthier picture of the wider used market,” said Erin Baker, editorial director at Auto Trader. “While there are inevitably quirks in any particular market, higher insurance costs may well be a factor.” JLR argued that Range Rover resale values had fallen less than other luxury SUV models on alternative sites.

Newer Range Rover models have become a magnet for criminals, particularly in London, due to their value and their keyless technology. The parts on their own are valuable, too.

Relay attacks

While other luxury SUVs also are popular targets for criminals, six of the 10 most-stolen car models in the UK in the year to March 2023 were Range Rovers, according to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. The Range Rover Velar was the model most targeted.

Thieves have used relay attacks, where hand-held radio devices extend the signal from a key inside the house to open the car. Newer keyless technology can prevent this, while drivers are increasingly purchasing special cases for the fobs that prevent the signal from being transmitted. JLR has been rolling out ultra-wide-band technology to protect its cars against this.

Another technique deployed by thieves is to cut into a part of the car and send fake signals to it that the key is present. A new criminal justice bill being brought by the UK government aims to stamp out the devices used in this type of theft. Other thieves hope car owners simply leave them unlocked.

Once stolen, criminals often change the plates and ship them overseas.

In an effort to reassure existing owners and potential buyers, JLR said last month that it had spent £10 million since September 2022 on security updates for 65,000 Range Rover and Range Rover Sport vehicles made between 2018 and 2022. This included updating software preventing thieves from driving away without the keys to the car. As a result, JLR said, thefts of vehicles made during these years had fallen 40%.

Police

JLR is also working more closely with police officers to help them identify the tools and tech used to steal cars, which could then be used as evidence, said Lee Walton, who runs the company’s vehicle theft reduction group. He added that one of the 40-strong team is sent to examine stolen cars when they are found, to establish the tactics used by criminals.

Nonetheless, the thefts continue. One Sunday night last month, Nigel Pocklington, the chief executive of energy supplier Good Energy Group Plc, was fast asleep at his home in Clapham, southwest London, when he was woken by a phone call at 1 a.m. It was the company behind the tracker for his Range Rover asking if he could check whether the car was still parked in his drive. It was not.

Video footage from a camera on the front of Pocklington’s house showed the thieves were able to open his 2019 Velar in a matter of seconds. Sawing through the steering wheel lock took longer, but they still managed it.

Luckily, the police were able to find the car within 10 minutes, thanks to the tracker, and it was returned. There was, however, damage to the bumper and steering wheel lock worth about £3,000.

“I’m fairly certain that I won’t be claiming the insurance for the damage, partly with an eye to making sure I get a renewal,” Pocklington, 52, said.

JLR said last month that its order book stood at 168,000 vehicles, with the Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Land Rover Defender models making up most of demand and suggesting the crime wave isn’t putting off buyers.

But some have decided that owning a Range Rover isn’t worth the risk. City banker Stephen Joseph, 44, had his car stolen from his home in southeast London in September 2021. He never got it returned and decided to get a Volvo as a replacement instead of another Range Rover.

“I just thought there’s too many getting stolen,” Joseph said. “They’re too desirable.”

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