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Van security ideas: top tips to stay safe

Over 48,000 vans were stolen in 2021 according to research from AutoExpress, up 3% from 2020. And with criminals becoming savvier in how they break in, it's more important than ever to make your van theft-proof. The bigger the theft risk for your van, the higher your van insurance costs are likely to be. But where to start? 

From a van lock box or a van security system, we share our top van security ideas.

person locking a van

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Top tips to improve your van's security

Whether you’re about to buy a van or already own one, there are plenty of steps you can take to protect it.

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Choose your van based on its security

If you haven’t already bought your van, it’s worth doing some research into the best vans for security. Some of the more popular models for van security include:

  • Ford Transit
  • VW Caddy
  • Nissan Primastar
  • Mercedes Sprinter

You can research the safety and security of any van with the My Vehicle Search tool on the Thatcham website. Thatcham is the official body on vehicle security.


Invest in the latest security technology

Every van made after 1998 has an engine immobiliser fitted as standard. This stops the engine starting if you don't have the key, so it can't be 'hotwired'.

If you don't have an immobiliser, you can get one fitted by a professional, and look for immobilisers that are approved by Thatcham.

If you don't have one, it's worth considering a tracker too. These use GPS to locate your van if it's stolen.

Van trackers often have locking systems that you can operate remotely. This means you can get the van locked down and protect its contents as soon as you’re aware of the theft.

Trackers can’t stop your van being broken into, but they could make it much easier for police to recover it and limit the potential damage.


Protect your vehicle

Visit Tracker to improve your vehicle's security. Buy a tracking device


Improve your van security locks

There are 2 main types of van security locks: a slamlock and a deadlock.


Slamlocks lock the van as soon as you slam the doors shut. This makes them easy to secure but does involve the risk that you could accidentally lock your keys in the van.

Slamlocks might be a good option for couriers who make short, frequent stops, as they could stop opportunist thieves.


Deadlocks are a separate lock to your van's internal locks.

You lock them manually, but they're difficult to force open - even if thieves get past the regular lock.

Deadlocks could be good for tradespeople who leave their van unattended for longer periods of time.

You can also add steel plates around the locks to stop thieves drilling around the lock to break in.

The average price for fitting a van security lock is around £130.


Secure your catalytic converter

Another big van security issue is catalytic converter theft.

Catalytic converters contain precious metals that thieves like to target and, thanks to a higher ground clearance, vans are at greater risk than cars.

You can get a catalytic converter lock to stop opportunist thieves in their tracks. At around the £250 mark they aren’t cheap, but they’re certainly cheaper than a new catalytic converter.

Alternatively, if your catalytic converter is bolted on, you could ask your garage to weld them shut.

For more information, take a look at our guide on catalytic converter theft.


Boost your safety with van alarm systems

Most vans have an alarm fitted as standard. So, it's worth checking if yours has a van alarm system before you carry on.

If you don't have an alarm, you can get one fitted by a professional.

As with immobilisers, it's worth looking at a Thatcham-approved van alarm system. There are 2 main types to choose from:

  • Category 1 - a combined alarm/immobiliser. These are usually for vans that were made before 2006.
  • Category 2/1 - an alarm upgrade to your existing van security. These tend to be for vans made after 2006.

Signage could improve your van security

Having proper van signwriting announces who the van belongs to and how to contact you.

If your van is stolen, it's going to stand out a little. This might make it harder for a thief to make a clean getaway.

So, having your business name on the side of your van could be a really effective way of improving your van security.


Secure your tools

Wherever you can, take any tools and valuables out of the van when not in use.

If you have to keep tools in your van, you could invest in a secure storage box to make sure they're extra safe. You can get a van lock box that bolts to the floor for added van security.

You could also look into tool insurance for extra peace of mind.


Don't leave valuables inside your van

You can also boost your van security by ensuring you don't leave any valuables in your van.

Always take personal possessions like your phone and wallet with you. The glove box is clearly a safer option than the passenger seat, but if your van is broken into, it's one of the first places thieves look.

If you have to leave tools or valuables in your van, a 'no tools kept in the van overnight' sticker is better than nothing. It might be a bit overdone, but it could deter the more casual thief.


Where you park could impact your van security

Thieves operate day and night, so be careful where you park your van at any time of day.

Look for open, well-lit public places with CCTV cameras to act as a deterrent. Better yet, if you have the option of a secure car park, use it.

Considering the threat of catalytic converter theft, it also makes sense to think about how easy it would be for thieves to get under your van when you park.

If your van is parked at home overnight, you might also wish to consider your own CCTV.


Mark your van and tools with a UV pen

Use an ultraviolet (UV) pen to write your postcode on your tools and somewhere in your van.

It might make the inside of your van feel like an escape room. But if anything is stolen, the police are more likely to return it to you if they recover it.


Add extra, old-school van security

Thatcham says that engine immobilisers and alarms are in the top van security categories.

Less sophisticated van security features like steering wheel locks are ranked lower.

But adding these to complement your van's security could still give you an extra level of defence.

So, even if a thief manages to hotwire your van, they can't steer it anywhere.

And, if the van looks like it might be difficult to steal, it could put off most thieves.


How do these van security ideas affect my van insurance costs?

Making your van more secure could help you get cheaper van insurance.

Our van insurance expert Dan McCulloch says:

“Improving your van's security might cost a bit. But it could mean lower insurance costs, as well as less of a headache in having to replace stolen tools.

“Be warned that some security features could be considered a modification by some insurers. This could increase your costs.

“So, check with your insurance company before you make any big changes to your van.”


What do I do if my van is broken into?

If your van is broken into, follow these 4 steps:

  • Assess the damage, make a note of anything that has been stolen and take photos.
  • Avoid touching or moving anything that may be used as evidence.
  • Report the incident to the police. Even if you think there's no chance of catching the criminals responsible, you need a crime number to claim on your van insurance.
  • Call your van insurance company to find out if you can claim and how to proceed.