LAND Rover owners are warned to be on their guard, as thefts are back on the rise after a decrease between April and June of this year.

Traditional Land Rover Defenders, in particular, are in high demand since production ceased in 2016, and rural insurer NFU Mutual is urging farmers and enthusiast owners to increase their security measures as organised criminal gangs are scouring the countryside and stealing the iconic cars.

Rebecca Davidson, NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist, said: “Land Rover Defenders continue to be a target for thieves and every week farmers and enthusiast owners are waking up to find their precious Land Rovers gone - or stripped of bonnets, doors and wings.

“There’s a burgeoning black market for parts, with many of these beloved classics getting dismantled in driveways and farmyards, or being whisked away to chop shops.”

At least four Defender thefts a week were being reported to NFU Mutual in January 2020, and while numbers fell to six a month from April to June the number of thefts have risen sharply again towards pre-lockdown levels.

The insurer revealed that its claims costs for theft of Defenders rose 34 per cent to £2.1m in 2019 - three years after the last traditional Defender rolled off the Solihull production line.

First launched in 1948, Land Rovers have become a prized classic vehicle owner’s choice, as well as still being used every day on farms across the country.

NFU Mutual is advising owners to use a combination of physical security and sophisticated electronic measures to protect their precious vehicles.

The insurer's top tips for keeping Land Rovers safe include fitting an accredited alarm for security and tracking device to locate your vehicle if stolen, having a mechanical immobiliser such as a steering wheel or pedal lock fitted, and keeping the vehicle in a lockable building or parking it in a well-lit area which is overlooked.