An insurance company has issued a warning to farmers and country home owners who own Land Rovers and luxury 4x4s after a sharp rise in the number  being stolen to order in the countryside.

Rural insurer NFU Mutual has urged drivers to ramp up the security on their vehicles after cars, such as the Land Rover Defender, are being targeted by professional car thieves to be stripped for parts or stolen completely.

The insurer has said that thefts of the iconic Defender have risen by 14 per cent since the model went out of production in 2016. Global demand for Range Rovers has also resulted in a significant spike in the cost of theft on these vehicles in the last year.

The Midlands, North East and South East are the regions most prone to Land Rover theft, based on the firm’s claims data.

NFU Mutual works with the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS) to help recover vehicles, and has traced vehicles stolen from Britain to locations as far flung as Africa and the Middle East. More recently, the insurer has tracked a Range Rover, worth £60,000, to Antwerp, Belgium, and recovered two more of the luxury SUVs covered under mattresses in a shipping container in Felixstowe.

NFU has advised owners of these vehicles to secure them with measures such as old-fashioned steering locks, tracking devices and keeping the vehicles locked in a visible and well-lit location, if possible.

On modern vehicles that are fitted with keyless tech, the insurer recommends keeping the keys in a faraday pocket or sealed box to block any keyless signals to the car and away from windows and letterboxes, as well as the measures mentioned above.

Clive Harris, agricultural vehicle specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “Whether they’re compromising keyless technology or dismantling Defenders, thieves are deploying a range of tactics to feed demand for classic and modern 4x4s from organised criminal gangs operating around the world.

“People in rural areas are feeling increasingly vulnerable and farms, which rely on 4x4s for mobility as part their business, are left particularly hard hit. We’re urging owners to ensure they have adequate security measures in place.”