What is ‘relay’ car crime and what can you do to avoid it?

‘Relay car crime’ is when thieves break into cars that have keyless entry systems.  The BBC released footage of a recent relay car theft in Birmingham. It is scary to watch. The thieves pull up outside a house and hold a relay box against the brick walls of the house to receive a signal from the key inside. The relay box can scan through the walls to pick up the signal from the car key. This is then transferred to a second box which is being held by the other thief standing by the car. The car’s system has been duped into thinking the car has been opened by the key. The thief is then able to drive off with the car.

Soar in vehicle theft

According to the RAC, vehicle thefts have soared by as much as 30% in the last three years, following a decade of decline in car thefts. There is strong evidence that these thefts are the work of organised criminals who steal the luxury cars and ship them overseas. In fact, according to What Car magazine, the top ten most stolen cars in the UK are:

  1. Range Rover Sport
  2. BMW X5
  3. Range Rover Vogue
  4. Mercedes C-class
  5. BMW 3-series
  6. Mercedes C63 AMG
  7. BMW 5-series
  8. Audi RS4
  9. Audi Q7
  10. Range Rover Autobiography

What action can you take?

Police recommend the use of an effective steering wheel lock for cars. This is one deterrent, but despite the hi-tech nature of this crime, there is an effective low-tech solution. When you have parked your vehicle at home, make sure you put your keys in a metal box to ensure the signal cannot be hacked. Something like this steel petty cash box is ideal. By placing your keys in this overnight, thieves will be unable to steal the key signal.

As technology continues to evolve and with a plethora of connected devices and keyless systems, insurers need to consider what the face of crime might look like in the future.

If you have a fleet of vehicles and want more information about protecting your fleet, please get in touch.

Over 30 years history of professional service and advice to our clients

Insurance broker based in Bristol and Exeter

BRISTOL OFFICE: Castlemead House, St Johns Road, BRISTOL BS3 1AL

Bristol: +44(0)117 945 3900


EXETER OFFICE: Leeward House, Fitzroy Road, Exeter Business Park, EXETER EX1 3LJ

Exeter: +44(0)1392 348999


Proud members of:

Important information