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Improving your van’s security: a guide

Adding safety features to your van could be a smart way to get a better deal from your insurance provider and give you peace of mind. Let’s take a look.

Adding safety features to your van could be a smart way to get a better deal from your insurance provider and give you peace of mind. Let’s take a look.

Written by
Julie Daniels
Motor insurance expert
Last Updated
16 FEBRUARY 2022
6 min read
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How to boost your van’s security

Drivers who rely on their vans for work often worry about the impact of lost revenue if their van or the equipment stored inside is stolen. But there are things you can do to improve your vehicle’s security. 

Some of these will cost you nothing, while others may require a little investment. But taking time and spending some money to upgrade your van’s security now could end up saving you time, money and stress in the long run. And making your van more secure is also a good way to save on your van insurance.

Park your van in a secure place

Choosing safe parking is one of the simplest things you can do to protect your van from thieves. A locked garage or secured parking area is probably safest, but if that’s not a possibility, choose a well-lit spot, ideally somewhere busy. Only the most audacious thieves will try to steal a van in full view of someone, even if it’s just a passer-by.

If you can park in a private driveway, consider getting a motion-detecting security light and maybe even a home security camera. The latest systems can connect to your home Wi-Fi and stream images to your mobile or laptop if the motion sensor is activated.

If you’re parking on the street, try to park in a bright, busy area covered by CCTV. Even if your van itself is not in direct view of the camera, CCTV acts as a deterrent and it will pick up the comings and goings around it, so the police will have more leads to go on if the worst should happen.

Insurance providers will also consider where you park overnight when they calculate your insurance premium.

Protect your valuables 

If you use your van for work, it’s not always feasible to remove all your tools at the end of every day. To protect any expensive tools and equipment you want to leave in your van overnight, you could install a lockable tool box or tool vault to add an extra layer of security.

You can also fit extra alarms to the rear doors that will go off if someone manages to open them and get inside. A loud alarm should be enough to scare off all but the most persistent thief, especially once they realise they also have to break into a second secure box to get anything of value.

If you are going to store your equipment in your van overnight, you may need to add extra cover to your van insurance policy to make sure your tools are covered. You should also keep a detailed, up-to-date list of all the equipment you store in your van. And consider marking the high-value items with a UV pen so that they’re easily identifiable as yours if recovered by the police.

Keep track of your keys 

It may sound obvious, but you can reduce the chances of your van being stolen just by keeping your key in a secure place. And whatever you do, don’t leave your key out in a public place as a temptation for opportunistic thieves. 

If your van has a keyless entry or keyless start feature, you should also consider how to protect yourself from relay theft. That’s when a thief uses an electronic device to extend the signal from your key and transmit it to a partner in crime standing by the door of your van, holding a receiver. That means they can open your van and start the engine with the key still securely in your hand or pocket.

To avoid relay theft, you should always store your key away from doors and windows when you’re at home and consider buying a signal blocking pouch to store your key in. Also called Faraday bags, these pouches are lined with metallic material that prevents the signal from being transmitted. They’re an easy and inexpensive way of protecting yourself from relay theft.

Prevent smash and grab van theft 

One of the easiest ways to improve your van’s security is to avoid advertising the contents of your vehicle to potential thieves. Keep your mobile phone or other valuables with you when your vehicle’s parked and don’t leave tools or equipment in view.

One of the most vulnerable parts of your van are the windows. An inexpensive way to prevent someone getting access to your van through a window is installing window protection film on the inside and outside that will keep the glass in place even if it’s smashed. 

If you’re in the market for a new van, it makes sense to look for a make and model that doesn’t have rear windows.

Upgrade your locks 

It may seem like overkill but standard manufactured locks are vulnerable because they’re common and lockpicking tools are easily available. Plus, when it comes to keeping criminals out of your van and away from your expensive tools and equipment, it makes sense to be cautious. 

Adding an extra locking mechanism to your van adds a second layer of security. A van deadlock is fitted between the van door and the connecting panel of the van’s body. They’re hard to pick because they have no spring mechanism, and they can only be opened using a key. They’re also useful if you’re worried about someone getting in by relaying the code of your wireless key fob.

Wish you could lock your van with a slam of the door? Slam locks are useful for van drivers making deliveries. They work in a similar way to dead locks, but you don’t need to use the key to lock them, you simply slam the door shut. You do need a key to open them though, so make sure you have your keys on you before you shut the door!

Another option is to fit steel plates to the original locking mechanism on the door to prevent potential thieves from drilling the lock. However you choose to upgrade your locks, we recommend getting professional help for fitting and installation to make sure everything works as it should.

Use traditional security devices 

They may not look very sleek or modern, but old-school security devices are still an effective deterrent to would-be van thieves. 

Consider investing in one or more of the following: 

  • A steering wheel lock
  • Van pedal locks
  • Gearstick and handbrake locks
  • Wheel clamp locks 

When you’re shopping for security devices, look for locks from trusted brands and check that they’re approved by Thatcham, the motor insurance industry body. And get in the habit of putting them on every time you park your van so you’re never caught off guard.

Upgrade your van’s alarms and immobilisers 

It’s likely that you’ll have an alarm and an immobiliser fitted as part of your van’s factory settings, but you may want to consider upgrading to a more sophisticated system. It’s not just about having a loud and scary alarm siren - some modern alarm systems can also work with your mobile to alert you, wherever you are. 

Meanwhile, a decent immobiliser can prevent a thief from getting the van to start if they do manage to get inside. Some modern immobilisers work with your van electronics and will only start when the correct series of buttons are pressed. 

There are plenty of options out there for different budgets and needs, so you’ll have to do a bit of browsing to find the best option for your van. But remember to look out for ones that are Thatcham-approved.

Install a tracking system 

It won’t prevent your van from being stolen but installing a GPS-based tracking system inside should help the police recover your van more quickly if it does go missing. It could also help to reduce your van insurance premium. They’re not as expensive as you may think - a GPS tracker for a van can cost as little as £40 to £50, plus any installation costs.

Some modern vans come with built-in GPS and an app you can use to track your van. All you’ll need to do is get it set up.

Protect your catalytic converter 

It’s not just the inside of your van that’s vulnerable to thieves. Catalytic converters contain precious metals that make them a high-value target for criminals. And to get them, they don’t need to get inside - they just need to jack up your van and slice through the exhaust to remove it. 

The simplest way to protect your van’s catalytic converter is to make sure the van is parked in a secure location. If that’s not an option, there are ‘cat locks’ available for some Toyota models and some mechanics have started fitting ‘cat cages’ to other models. You can also fit alarms that sound if your vehicle is being jacked up.

Compare van insurance

There’s no way to guarantee your van will be safe at all times. But if you take sensible precautions and have the right van insurance in place, you may find added peace of mind – as well as a few extra pounds in your pocket.

Frequently asked questions

How can I avoid peel and steal van theft?

Peel and steal, or peeling, is a name for a type of van theft where criminals use a bit of leverage and a lot of brute force to peel down the top of the sliding van door, without damaging the door switches or setting off the alarm. 

To try to prevent peel and steal van theft, you can look into installing hook locks and reinforcing the top of your van door. You should also take care about where you park at night.

Can I install locks and security devices myself?

Some devices, like steering wheel and pedal locks, can be installed easily without the help of a professional. But if you want to upgrade the locks and install modern security devices, you’ll need an expert to help with installation.

What is a Thatcham Category alarm?

Thatcham Research is an independent organisation at the forefront of vehicle safety and security standards. It assesses security devices and assigns them a category based on their features and functions. Devices that have been certified by Thatcham are often referred to as Thatcham-approved. 

Thatcham categories include: 

  • Category 1: a combined alarm and immobiliser
  • Category 2: electronic immobiliser
  •  Category 3: mechanical immobiliser
  • Category 4: wheel locking devices
  • Category S5: post-theft tracking and recovery systems (to track and immobilise a vehicle if it is stolen)
  • Category S7: stolen vehicle location (devices that allow you to track a stolen vehicle, but not immobilise it)

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