Van security tips to avoid theft
Find out how your van’s security affects the cost of your insurance and what you can do to improve it.
Whether you use your van for getting from A to B or for transporting tools and materials, it’s vital to keep it as secure as possible.
If you use your van for work and it gets stolen, there could be serious knock-on effects for your business.
And it’s not just your van that’s at risk – there’s also the goods, tools or equipment stored inside. A theft or break-in could leave you needing to replace thousands of pounds worth of gear if you’re not covered.
However, with van insurance you’ll have a financial safety net, so you and your business won’t take the hit. And having the right security measures in place can also help reduce your premiums too.
- Thieves usually target the weak spots on your van – security is one of the few vehicle modifications that might get you a discount on your insurance
- The amount you save on your van insurance may not be equivalent to the amount you spend on security, but there are other benefits
- Investing in security measures could save you from having to make an insurance claim, as well as lowering your premiums
How common is van theft?
The number of vans on the road is rising. In fact, according to WhatCar, they increased by 44% during July 2023 compared to the same period the previous year.
Unfortunately, this also means there are more vehicles for thieves to target.
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that vehicle theft and unauthorised taking of vehicles increased by 21% in March 2023 compared with the same month in 2022.
And according to data from the Metropolitan Police, in the London area alone more than £21 million worth of tools were stolen from vehicles between October 2021 and September 2022 - with power hand tools accounting for a hefty £14 million of this.
As vehicle technology advances, thieves are using increasingly sophisticated methods. So, it’s never been more important to have the right measures in place to protect your van and any equipment you keep in it.
How do thieves break into vans?
Thieves target the weak spots of your van – usually smashing the windows and picking the locks. But some thieves will target sliding doors, breaking into your van by pulling the sliding door down from the top.
Ruthless thieves will even cut through the thin metal sides of a van’s loading area to make off with cargo – a technique known as ‘peel and steal’.
The ONS found that the most common way (44%) thieves broke into a vehicle was actually through unlocked doors – so always double check your van is locked.
|Method of entry in incidents of all vehicle-related theft|
|Door was not locked||44%|
|Offender broke window / tried to||18%|
|Offender manipulated signal from remote locking device||14%|
|Offender forced lock / tried to||13%|
|Offender used a key/electric fob||9%|
|Window was left open||1%|
|Offender forced / broke / bent / prised door||1%|
How does my van’s security affect my insurance premium?
Generally, the more secure your van, the less van insurance is likely to cost. Although this isn’t always a guarantee.
Either way, having better security means you’re less likely to be a victim of theft. And it reduces the chance of needing to make a claim - which can push up your premiums when it comes to renewal time.
Some insurers will offer discounts if your van has insurer-approved security measures.
These include theft prevention measures like immobilisers and Thatcham-approved van alarms, as well as GPS tracking systems.
So, when you’re comparing quotes, check what discounts insurers offer based on the security devices being used.
Just be aware that some changes you make to your van - like tinted windows to prevent people from seeing inside, paint jobs or decals added to the van’s exterior - may count as modifications that can increase your premiums.
How can I make my van more secure?
The thought of discovering that your van or its contents are missing isn’t a pleasant one. But there are some steps you can take to minimise the chances of it happening:
1. Fit an immobiliser
As the name suggests, immobilisers stop your van from starting. But although most vans come with factory-fitted immobilisers, thieves can find ways of getting around them.
So, another option is to have an aftermarket device fitted to make your van harder to steal. For example, some will integrate with your van’s electrics - then it can only be driven once you press a certain combination of buttons on the steering wheel, door, or central console.
Look for Thatcham-approved systems and check if any are approved by your insurer, as this may help to reduce your premiums.
2. Park in a secure environment
The more secure your van’s parking environment, the less likely it is to be stolen.
Keeping your van in a well-lit area - ideally on your driveway, or, even better, in a locked garage - could deter thieves and reduce the cost of your insurance.
And if possible, when parking, always try to reverse your van up against a wall or have your side door next to a wall. This prevents the back doors from being forced open and reduces the chances of a peel and steal on side door panels.
3. Invest in a van alarm system
Having a van alarm fitted is a great deterrent to thieves. Just make sure the alarm you pick is recognised by your insurer to benefit from a potential discount.
Established by the UK’s motor insurance industry in 1969, Thatcham Research rigorously tests security devices and certifies those that meet its standards – so most insurers accept those with a Thatcham certification.
And if you keep your van in a garage when it’s not in use, consider investing in a garage door alarm for an extra layer of security.
4. Install a tracker
The downside is that a tracker is only useful if your van has been stolen. But with one installed, you’ll at least have a better chance of finding it again.
Certain systems even have the ability to immobilise your van remotely.
However, some tracking solutions are vulnerable to GPS-jamming techniques, so talk to a security expert to find the best option.
And to help with any potential insurance claim, always keep proof of installation for both trackers and alarm systems.
5. Add van signage
If you have a commercial van, printing your business name and details on it makes your vehicle unique.
A respray will take thieves time and cost them money, so it can be a good deterrent.
What impact this might have on your insurance premium will depend on your insurer. Some might consider signwriting on your van as a modification and raise your premiums - whereas others may lower the cost if you have a branded van.
6. Remove and secure tools, contents and valuables
Don’t leave tools and equipment in your van overnight, as your insurer is unlikely to cover unattended items.
To keep items safe while you’re on the road, consider a vault box for anything particularly valuable, and roof-mounted locks for exterior items like ladders.
Make a list of all the tools and equipment you carry in your van, so you’ll know exactly what’s there if your van's broken into while you’re out on a job. It’s also worth marking your stuff with a UV pen or permanent marker so it’s easier to identify and harder to sell on.
7. Improve your van’s locks
There are several different types of locks that can be fitted to your van to make it more secure. Many of these options are visible, so they’re an instant deterrent for thieves:
These are usually fitted to your van’s back doors and locked using a separate key. Turning the key sends a bolt into the deadlock receiver on the opposite door to fasten them both together.
With slamlocks, your van is locked as soon as the doors are closed. This makes them a good option if you’re out and about delivering goods or often have your hands full of heavy or bulky items.
These work in the same way as deadlocks, but instead of a regular bolt it uses one that hooks into the receiving bracket - making it much harder for the van to be forced open.
Lock protection plates
Acting like a shield, these plates cover your van’s locks, so they can’t be drilled out or tampered with.
Often made from stainless steel and stronger than the factory-supplied handles, slamplate handles are much harder for thieves to force open. They lock automatically when the door is shut and need a key to open them.
This type of lock can prevent thieves lock picking and breaking into your van. Anti-pick cylinder locks are designed to be almost impossible to pick.
These guards protect easily accessible wiring, so they can come in handy for older van models, as they protect door cables from being cut.
8. Secure your catalytic converter
Catalytic converters are fitted to exhausts to reduce the dangerous gases emitted. They’re full of precious metals, like platinum, palladium, and rhodium. And according to Metropolitan Police, an experienced thief can remove one in less than a minute.
Unfortunately, a van's height means they’re much easier to access than cars, making them an attractive target for thieves.
You can get cat locks or cat guards that make your catalytic converter more difficult to steal. And it’s worth investing in security markings to make it harder to sell on - a sign in your window to say it’s been marked can also deter thieves.
9. Consider using physical locks
There are also removable locking devices you can use to make your van extra secure. These include steering-wheel locks, pedal locks, gearlever and handbrake locks.
Not only do they create another barrier for thieves to get through, they can also act as a visual deterrent.
If you’re thinking about buying one of these devices, just make sure you invest in one that’s Thatcham-approved.
10. Look after your keys and check the doors are locked
Make sure you always know where your van key is and keep it somewhere safe and out of sight.
Once you’ve pressed your key fob button, always check your van doors are locked before you walk away.
Unfortunately, keyless car and van theft is becoming more common. Thieves use devices to intercept key fob signals, making it possible for them to unlock your vehicle and even start the engine without a key.
But keeping your van key in a Faraday sleeve or pouch can block the signal transmission, making this impossible. Available to buy from around £5, it’s a worthwhile investment.
Frequently asked questions
If your van was manufactured after 1998 it’ll have an immobiliser. Lots of newer vans also have an alarm fitted as standard. And most come with remote central locking Upgraded locks, alarms, immobilisers, and trackers might have been offered as optional extras when you bought the van.
If your van’s not as secure as you’d like, you can add aftermarket security features. These can include trackers, deadlocks, storage boxes and window grilles to enhance the factory-standard safety of your van.
This depends on whether you keep the van key protected. Keyless theft, also known as relay theft, happens when thieves use a device to intercept and divert the signal from your key - so they can take the van quietly and without causing any damage.
To prevent this from happening you should keep your key in a metal container or Faraday pouch to block a relay attack. However, it’s also worth investing in other security measures, like deadlocks and immobilisers, that will make van theft more difficult.
Having your van personalised with your logo and contact numbers can be a great way to advertise your business. It can also help to make your van more distinctive which might make it less appealing to thieves, compared to a vehicle without signage.
However, your van’s signage might indicate that you keep tools or equipment inside which can be tempting to thieves. So, if this is the case, it’s worth investing in some extra security measures that’ll make your van’s contents harder to access.
If you're using your van for work or commuting, you’ll need business van insurance. Legally, as a minimum, you’ll need third party only (TPO) van insurance. This will cover any damage to other vehicles, people or property that you might cause.
But TPO won’t cover your van if it’s involved in an accident or if it’s stolen or broken into. To be covered for this, you’ll need third party, fire and theft (TPFT) or fully comprehensive cover. You can also tailor your policy with extras, like tools in transit cover and breakdown cover.
Yes, keeping records of all your tools and any kit you carry in your van, including the make, model and serial number, can help with your claim. But you should also keep receipts as this can help prove the value and proof of ownership of any items you’re missing.
If anything is stolen from your van, always report it to the police - you’ll need to get a crime reference number to make your insurance claim.