Car theft watchdog closes its doors - go to top

Car theft watchdog closes its doors

car theft

Every 12 minutes somebody in Australia steals a car and more than a quarter of owners never see it again. Even so, the theft watchdog, National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council, has just closed its doors. Be extra vigilant if you own a Holden Commodore/Toyota HiLux, live in Penrith/Tamworth, or go out on Friday/Saturday nights.

A picture of car theft

During 2020-21 thieves stole 47,803 vehicles in Australia, 15% fewer than last year:

  • Some 55% of vehicles were stolen from homes
  • Motorcycles had the lowest recovery rate (47%)
  • 28% of stolen vehicles were never recovered
  • Queensland had the most short-term and Victoria the most profit-motivated thefts
  • Only ACT and NT saw a lift in the theft rate per 1,000 registrations
  • Friday and Saturday nights from 4pm-12pm were still peak times for thefts.

As you might expect, popular cars are popular with thieves who want to make a profit. The top 10 of profit-motivated theft includes four Holden Commodore models and three Toyota HiLux models.

End of car theft watchdog

Over the last 5 years, Australia’s total vehicle thefts have reduced by 16% from 57,034 in 2016-17. Some of the credit for reducing car theft in Australia goes to National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council, which has just closed its doors. The Insurance Council of Australia decided to withdraw its usual contribution of $1.25 million per year. State and territory governments were providing the remaining $1.25 million.

In 22 years of operation, the watchdog helped reduce car theft by 60%. Two of its notable contributions were the introduction of compulsory vehicle immobilisers, since July 2001, and the ban on registering written-off vehicles. At the same time, modern cars have become harder to steal.

However, car theft has increased in 4 of the last 5 financial years. The two main concerns are the use of stolen cars in serious crime, and exporting of stolen car parts, which usually lack serial numbers so are difficult to trace.

It’s not clear whether closure of the Council will inhibit collection of this type of information. Ironically, an independent review in October 2020 said insurance companies and the police valued insights from these data and more work was needed. Yet others claim insurance companies no longer focus on car theft because it contributes less than 10% of all motor vehicle claim costs.

How to theft-proof your vehicle

There are some simple ways to theft-proof your vehicle – and to invite thieves.


  • Leave doors unlocked, windows open and keys in the ignition
  • Put spare keys in magnetic containers near the wheel
  • Leave valuables in view or place them in known hiding spots
  • Keep rubbish or mess in a car as it encourage thieves to look for something valuable
  • Store ownership documents in the car.


  • Lock doors, close windows and take the key with you
  • Use a steering wheel lock, which acts as a strong visual deterrent
  • Park wisely, for example, facing a wall so it’s harder for thieves to drive away
  • Use a dashcam in surveillance mode so it works while you are away from the car
  • Keep keys at home well away from your vehicle.

Remember your greenslip does not cover you for theft of your vehicle. Your greenslip covers people who are injured or die in an accident involving your vehicle. Compare the cheapest greenslips here.

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Corrina Baird

Writer and expert

Corrina used to lend her car to her kids and discovered first hand what Ls, Ps and demerits mean for greenslips. After 20 years of writing and research in financial services, she’s an expert in the NSW CTP scheme. Read more about Corrina

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