Keep your belongings safe when they’re in your car and see if you need personal possessions cover.
It’s a different story with third party, fire and theft policies though – just 13% of 168 policies included personal possessions cover as standard and most won’t let you add it as an optional extra either.
Even if you do have cover, try to avoid leaving valuable items in your car. Of the comprehensive policies that did include personal possession cover as standard, just 18% covered possessions worth £400 or more.
Most policies had a much lower level of cover, with just under 50% having up to £250.
According to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data 81% of incidents happened in the evening or night – and the vast majority (45%) of those between midnight and 6am – compared to just 19% in the day.
Most thefts from vehicles (73%) happened during the week, in the early hours of the morning. This is likely a prime time for potential thieves because it’s dark and quiet, as most people will be at home, sleeping.
It’s best not to leave your car unlocked while unattended – even for a short time – as it’s the most common way for thieves to break into your car.
Leaving your vehicle’s door unlocked can be viewed as negligent by insurers, and some might not pay out for claims because of it.
|How break-ins happened||Percentage of incidents|
|Door was not locked||47|
|Offender broke window / tried to (attempts)||19|
|Offender forced lock / tried to (attempts)||13|
|Offender manipulated signal from remote locking device(3)||12|
|Offender used a key/electric fob||7|
|Window was left open||1|
|Offender forced / broke / bent / prised door||1|
With more cars having keyless entry, manipulating the signal from the locking device (relay theft) is becoming more common, contributing to 12% of car break-ins.
Unsurprisingly, the most common stolen possessions from cars were valuables, including wallets, handbags, credit cards and jewellery.
As most thefts happened during the night, this could indicate that many people keep important possessions in the car overnight. Some insurers won’t cover possessions left in plain view – for example, you’ve forgotten your wallet on the front passenger seat – and there are usually limits on the value of items covered.
Exterior fittings, like bits of trim, hubcaps and badges were the second most commonly stolen items, likely due to the ease of plucking them off the car.
|Items stolen||Percentage of incidents|
|Electrical equipment (4)||13|
|Other vehicle parts||8|
|Glasses / sunglasses / spectacles||7|
|Food / toiletries / cigarettes||5|
|Various household items / gadgets||5|
|CDs / tapes / videos / DVDs||4|
|Other (non-vehicle parts)||8|
Tools were stolen in 10% of thefts, so if you use your car for work and keep tools in it, make sure you have the right car insurance for business use.
Thieves also seemed to target high-value and easy to sell items, like electrical equipment, including sat navs and laptops.
The good news is that in-car electronics like sat-navs and stereos usually have separate cover on car insurance. When we checked, 96% of comprehensive policies included cover for factory-fitted audio equipment and sat-nav systems.
For separate stereos and sat-navs, 88% of the policies included cover for audio equipment and 85% for sat-navs.
Even if your car insurance policy does include cover for your possessions left in the car, exclusions are common. Look out for:
Make sure you have proof you had the items in the first place, usually receipts and photographs.
Your insurer might make deductions from the value of the items for wear and tear.
Your insurer might not pay out if there are no signs of someone breaking into your car, as this shows you didn't lock it up properly.
You need to hide your personal possessions in the car, usually in the glovebox or boot. Some even specify that these are lockable, particularly with convertibles and open-top cars.
Insurers will often have a list of items that are excluded from personal possessions cover.
These typically include money, credit cards, vouchers, documents and goods for business or trade.
Most insurers have a limit for the amount covered under personal possessions, but some also apply a further limit as a percentage value of the car.
For example, they might cover up to £1,000 of possessions, or up to 10% of the value of the vehicle.
This means that if your car is worth £5,000 but £1,000-worth of possessions is stolen from it, you’d only be able to claim for £500-worth of goods.
Even in a locked vehicle use gloveboxes, door pockets and the boot
Open the glove box and remove your boot cover to show there’s nothing to steal
Avoid a build-up of things like clothing, tools and electronics
Personal possessions cover can have so many exclusions that it might be worth looking at your home contents insurance for better cover.
When you make a claim for the loss of personal possessions under your car or home insurance you’ll probably have to pay an excess towards your claim.
You could also lose your no-claims bonus and your future premiums might be more expensive.
Because of this, if the items are low value, you might be better off covering the cost yourself.
If you notice your car has been damaged and things are missing, then call your local police on the non-emergency number, 101.
If you actually catch someone trying to break into your car, call 999 for an emergency response.
In either case, you’ll need a crime reference number from the police to give to your insurance company to start a claim.
Last checked 3 June 2021
ONS Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) data for April 2019 to March 2020