More than 1,100 minors have been charged with vehicle theft in the past three years, Ministry of Justice figures show.
MoJ data obtained by insurance company, Direct Line, revealed 1,156 children under 18 were charged with vehicle theft between 2019 and 2021 in England and Wales.
The statistics highlighted the need for enhanced vehicle security and protection, said the insurer.
The average age of the offender was 15, although some were aged as young as 10 or 11.
Rachel Armitage, professor of criminology at the University of Huddersfield, warned stealing cars is often a “gateway crime” for young people.
This can lead to other more serious offences, such as burglary.
Professor Armitage said: “Many prolific car thieves start committing vehicle crime at a young age, often in their early teens.
“Unfortunately, car crime can often be a gateway crime to more serious offences.
“Offending can sadly be driven by older family members, or to fund an illegal drug habit, so it is important we also consider how vulnerable children can be supported to help prevent them engaging in criminal activity in the first place.”
Direct Line’s head of motor insurance, Lorraine Price, said: “More than one car theft each day is committed by a child or teenager, which is a sad reflection of our society.
“Having your car stolen can be incredibly distressing and cause significant inconvenience for the victim.
“While car owners shouldn’t have to take additional precautions to protect their vehicles, they can reduce the risk of being targeted.”