Your van is probably your most important work tool and if something happened to it you could find yourself having to cancel jobs and lose income while you get it and its contents repaired or replaced. Even if you can claim for the cost on your insurance there’s still an excess to pay.
Van theft is on the rise. Research from comparison site Comparethemarket.com predicts there will be a total of almost 12,000 van thefts in the UK in 2022 – a 48% rise compared to 2019. There were tools stolen in 67% of break-ins, which could also stop you doing your job.
Tool theft from vans is at a record high, according to a study by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles published in September. It found that more than a third of van drivers had tools stolen in the previous 12 months – up from a quarter the year before – with the average value of the tools stolen at a whopping £2,500. These people were forced to stop work for an average of six days as result.
However, the good news is that there are things you can do to make your van harder to break into and steal, and deter criminals from targeting it. Read on for our top tips.
If you need to renew your insurance, find out how to get cheaper car insurance quotes and haggle with car insurance companies to save money.
1. Beef up your locks
You should keep your van locked and close windows whenever it’s unattended. It’s a good idea to change the locks that came with your van, as criminals will be familiar with the types of locks fitted on popular models. If you bought your van second hand, others may still have a key to your van or have made copies of the key before it was sold.
You can fit your van with hooklocks, which use a hook bolt instead of a standard deadlock and make doors harder to prise open, robust locks that can resist hammer blows and being crowbarred, and are anti-drill and anti-pick, and locks that can’t be broken into with a screwdriver – one of the most common ways thieves get into vans.
Alternatively, you can add extra locks to boost the security of your van’s existing ones. Slamlocks lock doors as soon as you close them – particularly useful if you’re unloading or delivering items, when you might forget to lock the doors yourself. There’s more chance of accidentally locking your keys inside though.
Or you can fit deadlocks between the van door and adjoining door panel, which put a bolt into a bracket and are locked manually with an external key. These are especially worth the investment if you leave your van unattended for long periods of time. Any extra visible locks also have the added benefit of acting as a deterrent to potential thieves.
2. Secure the tools in your van
Ideally, you should remove your tools from your van when you’re not working. If this isn’t possible, make sure they’re out of sight – covering or tinting windows makes it harder for would-be thieves to see what’s inside – and get a lockable tool vault that can be bolted to the floor of your van.
Another option is to attach expensive tools to the inside of your van with a security cable. A sign saying no tools are kept in your van overnight may deter criminals and you can also mark your tools with a UV pen or etching kit so they can be traced back to you if they’re stolen – another potential deterrent.
3. Get wise with parking
When you’re out and about try to park your van in a place where it’s clearly visible and that’s well-lit if it’s dark. Also look out for areas with CCTV, which can put criminals off, and make use of secure car parks when they’re an option. Parking with your sliding door or the back doors close to a wall will make it harder for thieves to remove items if they do break into your van.
Take a look at our guide to parking regulations for commercial vehicles for more information on van-parking rules.
Parking somewhere that makes it hard for someone to get underneath your van to steal your catalytic converter, which is valuable because of the precious metals inside, is also a good idea. Avoid parking with one side of your van up on the kerb, for example. There are also measures you can put in place to make it harder to steal, such as a special lock or getting the bolts that hold it on welded shut.
If you normally park your van outside your house or on your driveway when you’re not working, position an indoor or outdoor smart security camera to monitor it so you can be alerted on your phone if someone tries to steal it. The footage could also help catch the culprits if your van is stolen or broken into. If you’re planning to install a security camera or CCTV on your property read the advice on the Information Commissioner’s Office website first.
4. Consider other security measures
If your van doesn’t come with an alarm and immobiliser, it’s worth installing an approved system. Thatcham Research, which was set up by the motor insurance industry, tests and certifies alarms, immobilisers and other vehicle security products. You can find certified products to install on the Thatcham website.
The Police Preferred Specification is an accreditation scheme for all types of security products as part of the police’s Secured by Design (SBD) initiative so you can also search for vehicle security products that have met certain standards on the Secured by Design website.
A steering or gear lever lock, or a security box that fits over the pedals, will make your van harder to steal and you can install a tracker so if your van is stolen it can be tracked via GPS to increase the chances of it being recovered. Signage on your van with your business’s name could also make it less attractive to thieves.
Another way criminals steal vehicles is by relaying the signal from keyless fobs to open the doors. Car manufacturers are introducing measures to make keyless fobs less vulnerable but if yours don’t have these security features make sure you store them away from your front door or put them in pouches or boxes that block the signal.
Unfortunately if the worst does happen and you need to make an insurance claim take a look at our consumer rights guides to insurance claims for a wealth of advice.