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Brokers can help their clients mitigate theft of high-risk vehicles.

Depending on what you drive and where you drive it, some South African drivers face a much higher theft risk than others – often leaving brokers unsure of how to adequately insure high-risk vehicles.

About 60 cars are hijacked daily, according to The South African Police Service, with Gauteng experiencing nearly half of all hijackings in Q2 2023/24.

Certain types of vehicles are more prone to being hijacked: popular sedans, hatchbacks and coupes (representing almost half of all vehicles hijacked). This revelation comes from the most recent crime statistics report, which covers July 2023 to September 2023.

When it comes to theft, data reveals that criminals are targeting older, low-value models less; instead, expensive cars with keyless entry and computerised systems are now in criminals’ crosshairs. The reason for this shift is due to a change in consumer demand for vehicles and vehicle parts.

High-tech thieves

Similar trends are reflected in Discovery Insure claims data. “Discovery Insure’s data shows high-risk motor vehicles are more than 10 times more likely to be stolen than motor vehicles with average risk,” says Discovery Insure’s Head of Marketing and Technical Marketing, Precious Nduli.

Some car manufacturers have resorted to offering free safety upgrades for high-risk models. However, says Nduli, as higher-end vehicles boast more sophisticated computerised systems, so too have criminals advanced their theft methods.

“With keyless-entry, criminals are now hacking into vehicles’ computer systems to start the engine, they’re using fob relaying, where receivers and transmitters read the vehicle’s security key when the owner is nearby, and key cloning, to name just a few methods,” she adds.

Managing risk

The first step for brokers is to be on top of vehicle theft trends because these often change. Brokers should be aware of changes in crime patterns, vehicle technology, and industry regulations, which can all influence the insurance landscape. To get the most accurate and up-to-date information, brokers should look at official crime statistics databases in South Africa and contact vehicle manufacturers directly for additional, make-specific insights. Insurers usually inform their tied agents and brokers about which vehicles have a high theft risk and require a tracking device.

Keeping track

Brokers are also encouraged to advise their clients to install tracking devices (some insurers have a list of vehicles deemed high risk and are required to install approved tracking systems). With high-risk vehicles, a tracking device is compulsory to reduce the risk of theft.

“Wireless tracking devices that combine a telematics sensor with stolen-vehicle recovery technology help insurers successfully find and recover stolen vehicles,” says Nduli. “For example, Discovery Insure’s Crowd Search Sensor, which uses this type of technology, has up to a 90% higher recovery rate than a standard tracking device.”

Candid conversations

To further help insure high-risk vehicles, brokers should talk candidly to clients about their premiums. Insurance premiums are often influenced by the perceived risk associated with a particular vehicle, and charging a higher vehicle premium for the higher level of theft risk becomes a necessity. Brokers need to be aware of crime patterns and trends, as crime rates and insurance premiums can vary regionally; vehicles considered ‘less risky’ in one area may have different risk profiles in another.

Clients with high-risk vehicles that use keyless entry and start functionality can also get a Faraday pouch. These pouches are a simple and low-cost solution to prevent signals from being sent or received by the fob. Other options are to disable the key fob transmission or purchase an old school steering wheel lock.

Of course, no technology, premium or excess amount can replace vigilance, emphasises Nduli. “Brokers must still remind their clients to take the usual anti-theft precautions, like parking in well-lit, secure areas, checking where Google Maps or Waze is taking them before embarking on a trip, being aware of any suspicious activity near their vehicle or while they’re driving, and making double – or even triple-sure that their vehicle is locked after parking it.”