Do Classic Cars Get Stolen?

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The question of whether classic cars get stolen is a common one, and it’s one that many car enthusiasts are concerned about. It turns out this concern is often for good reason.

After all, these vehicles can often be worth a lot of money and hold a great deal of sentimental value. So, do classic cars get stolen?

Classic cars are regularly targeted by thieves and can be stolen to order. This is because they are easier to steal than modern cars, are often valuable, and are hard to recover once they are stolen.

In this article we investigate how classic cars are targeted by thieves and what can be done to protect classics from being stolen.

Are classic cars easily stolen?

Classic cars are easily stolen thanks to their outdated security features and the fact that they are often stored away from the owner’s property.

Classic cars are worth a significant amount of money, and thieves know this. This makes them an attractive target for criminals who are looking to make a quick profit.

In fact, many modern classics are also now worth more than their original purchase price, making them an even bigger target for criminals.

The most common type of classic car theft is where the thief will break into the owner’s garage or storage unit and simply drive the vehicle away. They may steal the keys first, or they may hotwire the car.

However, thieves can also target classic cars that are left on driveways overnight, or parked on the street, by towing or lifting them onto a flatbed truck.

Thieves have also been known to strip classic cars for their rare parts, which can be sold for a significant profit.

Volkswagen Golf GTI
Modern classics are also targetted by thieves

Why do classic cars get stolen?

It’s a sad reality, but classic cars are stolen on a regular basis all around the world.

Older cars are often less secure than newer ones, making them easier targets. Many don’t have alarms, and those that do are often not as sophisticated as modern systems.

This makes it easier for thieves to disable them once they have gained access.

Classic cars are also regularly left unoccupied for long periods of time, sometimes away from the owner’s home. This makes them easy targets for thieves looking to make a quick getaway without being detected.

Buick Reatta interior
A lack of security makes classic cars a target

Unique identification marks, such as the VIN, can also be altered far more easily than in modern vehicles, so it’s harder for the authorities to track down stolen classics.

The reduced risk of being caught makes stealing a classic car even more appealing to criminals.

What types of classic cars are most likely to get stolen?

Cars built before the year 2000 are the most likely to be stolen thanks to their lack of security features. In addition, cars that are particularly rare or valuable are also at a higher risk.

Classic cars that are highly investable are the most at risk of being stolen, and the desirability of classic cars fluctuates depending on the market valuations.

For example, in recent years there has been an increase in the theft of Japanese classic cars such as the Nissan Skyline and the Toyota Supra. This is due to their popularity amongst car collectors, and the resulting rocketing valuations.

Toyota Supra Mk4
JDM cars have become popular in recent years, making them targets for thieves

Iconic classics such as the Porsche 911 are also particularly sought-after by thieves, especially older models with little to no security.

What are the consequences of having a classic car stolen?

Having any car stolen is a traumatic experience, but losing a classic car can be especially devastating.

Sentimental Value

As well as the financial loss, classic cars often hold great sentimental value for their owners.

Many people have a great deal of emotional attachment to their classic cars, and the loss of the vehicle can be devastating.


The theft of a classic car can also have a significant impact on the owner’s insurance premium, as well as their ability to get insurance cover in the future.

Some insurers may even refuse to cover a stolen car, and the owner may be left out of pocket as a result.

What’s more, if an insurer does pay out on a stolen classic, it can be very difficult for the owner to negotiate the correct value.

Vehicle Value

As soon as a classic car is stolen, its value immediately decreases. Many people buy classic cars as an investment, and there’s nothing an investor loves more than a clean bill of health when it comes to a car’s history.

Once a classic is stolen, its history is tainted forever more, and its value declines as a result.

Even if the car is recovered by the authorities, it is often damaged or vandalised beyond repair. This can leave the owner with a near-worthless hulk that takes up space and costs money to store.

BMW 2002

Difficulties selling

If the car is returned after being stolen, it can be difficult or even impossible to sell.

Potential buyers will always be wary of buying a stolen car, particularly a classic. The vast majority of buyers will move on to another vehicle rather than take the risk, no matter how low the price.

No way to get around

Thankfully most people buy classics as second or third cars, but some people use them as daily drivers.

If a daily driven classic car is stolen, it can leave the owner stranded until it’s recovered or the insurance company pay out.

There are few things worse than being without your car, especially if you rely on it to get to and from work.

Difficult to replace

Another consequence of having a classic car stolen is the difficulty in replacing it. Many classics are one of a kind, and even those that aren’t can be difficult to find in the classic car market.

This is particularly true if the car is rare or valuable. It can take years to find a replacement, and even then it may not be up to the same standard as the original.

Overall, the theft of a classic car is a serious issue that can have a profound impact on the victim.

How can owners protect their classic cars from theft?

The best way to protect a classic car from theft is by using a number of different security measures in conjuction with each other. These measures include:

  • Using a steering wheel lock
  • Installing an alarm system
  • Fitting a tracking device
  • Installing an immobilizer
  • Keeping the car in a garage

Other security measures include installing a hidden kill switch, using a brake pedal lock, and simply ensuring you remove valuables from the car to deter opportunistic thieves.

Parking the car in a secure location is one of the most important things you can do to protect it from theft.

Thieves are much less likely to target a car that’s parked in a well-lit, busy area than one that’s parked in a dark, isolated spot.

Our classic BMW is garaged with additional security features, such as a steering lock

For those who do live in an area with high levels of crime, or don’t have access to a garage, investing in a security camera and motion-sensing light is a good way to deter thieves. It will also help identify them if the worst does happen.

While no security measure is 100% effective, using a combination of them will make it much harder for thieves to steal your classic car.

What do thieves do with stolen classic cars?

Stolen classic cars can be broken down and sold for spare parts, or sold whole to unsuspecting buyers. Many stolen classics are exported internationally, where there is a thriving market for American and European classics.

It’s very rare that a thief will keep the car for themselves. The motivation is almost always financial.

Some of thieves are opportunistic and will simply take the car if they see the circumstances arise. Others are part of organised gangs who specifically target classic cars.

These gangs will often have information on where valuable cars are stored, and will use this to their advantage. They will sometimes have buyers lined up before the car is even stolen.

Once a classic car is stolen, it can be very difficult to track down and the recovery rate for stolen classics is particularly low.

Stolen Nissan Skyline that has been crashed
Sometimes stolen classic cars end up totaled

Should you worry about your classic being stolen?

While there is a lot to be concerned about when it comes to classic car theft, the reality is that it is still quite rare.

The vast majority of classics are never stolen, and those that are tend to be cars that are not properly secured. As long as you take the necessary precautions to protect your car, the chances of it being stolen are very low.

However, it’s always important to be aware of the risks and to take steps to minimize them.

Classic car theft is a serious problem, but it can be avoided with the right security measures in place. By taking a few simple precautions, you can protect your classic car from thieves and enjoy it for years to come.

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Adam Chinn writes about the intersecting worlds of classic cars, driving pleasure, and smart investment strategies. Starting his journey at 26, he’s proven that one doesn’t need to be wealthy to begin investing in classic cars.

Adam’s insights have been recognized on platforms such as MoneyInc, Swagger Magazine, and Top Speed.

Click here to learn more >>

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