A guide to improving your van’s security

Van parked on road with man walking along side

March 1, 2022

Knowing the best way to keep your van super secure can help protect you or your business from a shedload (or, rather, vanload!) of stress, inconvenience and financial loss. 

Research by Comparethemarket.com found that van theft increased by 81% between 2015 and 2019 and is expected to further increase by 62% within the next 8 years.

A more recent study by Logistics UK revealed that at least one third of businesses in the UK had a van stolen in just one year in 2020.

And despite most vans having ‘no tools left in this van overnight’ stickers, tool-related van break-ins are equally on the rise with an average of 70 reports of stolen tools being made to the UK police every week in 2018.

With these alarming statistics in mind, don’t panic and think you need to start frantically searching for a used armoured security van on eBay!

Instead you should kick back, relax and read our comprehensive guide on how to keep your van secure and safe in 2022. 

Choose a van with the best van security system

Thatcham Research tests and categorises van alarm systems and other vehicle safety equipment according to its effectiveness and all Thatcham tested and accredited alarms are typically approved by mainstream van insurers.

The best van alarm system in the UK is a Thatcham Category 1 van alarm, which is a ‘bells and whistles’ combined alarm and immobiliser security system.

Van makes and models with a Category 1 van alarm system fitted, as standard, are:

  • Mercedes Vito
  • Nissan Interstar
  • Nissan Primastar SE
  • Nissan Primastar Access
  • Renault New Trafic (all models)
  • Renault Master (all models)
  • Volkswagen VW Crafter

If your van has a Category 2 immobiliser, you can pay to upgrade this to a Category 1 (combined alarm and immobiliser) status.

You can search for suppliers of certified Thatcham Category 1 security alarms by using Thatcham’s certified supplier search tool and selecting ‘LCV’ and then ‘Category 1: Alarm and Immobiliser’ from the dropdown options. You can also use Thatcham’s search tool to find suppliers of their certified:

  • Category 2-1 alarm upgrades
  • Category 2 electronic immobilisers
  • Category S5 vehicle tracking systems
  • Category S7 asset location system (including battery powered)
  • Etching
  • Secure database
  • Security labels
  • Whole vehicle marking system

You might like: Is My van insured? How to check if your van has the right insurance

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Opt for the most secure van with robust locks

Having the hardest van to break into can be a great van theft deterrent so it’s worthwhile checking if your van has the best van locks installed and if it doesn’t, you should seriously consider upgrading your van lock security.

So what are the best van security locks? Well, what’s ‘best’ will depend on what you use your van for, the type of van you drive and whether or not you store tools in it.

In addition to van locks, there are a few secure locking tool storage solutions such as site boxes and internal cages that can help protect you and your business from tool theft, and you can even get a lock to protect your catalytic converter from being nicked.

The main types of van security locking devices that will make your van more secure include:

  • Van deadlocks (Thatcham rated deadlocks are the best type of van lock for overall security as they are difficult to force open or pick as they need to be opened with a special security key.)
  • Van slam locks (Thatcham rated slam locks can be a good option for busy couriers as they automatically lock when your van door slams shuts.) 
  • Van door lock protectors (another popular anti-theft device is a ‘stop lock’ to protect a van from having its locking mechanisms accessed and broken by thieves. Similar devices or lock covers include an ‘anti drill plate’ and a ‘Proplate’ - a Pro plate is a less invasive type of stop lock that doesn’t require bolting onto a van.)
  • Van lockbox (also known as ‘site boxes’ or ‘tool chests’, these big metal containers are bolted to the floor of your van and can help protect your tools from being stolen. Branded ‘Van Vault’ boxes have a great reputation for quality and security but can be a little pricey.)
  • Van internal door cages (installing internal cage doors to your van may make a potential thief give up and are a great security feature for travelling workers who have to store and leave expensive tools in their vans.)
  • Van catalytic converter locks (thieves can easily and quickly steal cat converters - thefts rose by 104% during 2019/20 - so protect yours and avoid increased insurance premiums by having a catalytic converter lock installed).
  • Internal van locks (another added layer of protection for when you leave your vehicle unattended can be internal locks such as a mechanical steering wheel lock, a gear lever lock or a handbrake lock.)

Read: The best van security locks and products

Consider installing a van surveillance camera

If you park your vehicle in a badly lit, high crime rate area overnight or simply want belt and braces security for your van, another great van theft prevention tool is to have CCTV installed.

Or, if you can’t afford CCTV, consider installing and using an always-on dashcam.

You might like: The best reversing cameras

Protect your van’s electronic control unit (ECU)

Criminals are fully embracing van technology by accessing a van’s ECU and overriding immobilisers and alarms. An ECU is also known as an ‘on-board diagnostics’ (OBD) system.

However, you can protect your ECU or OBD from being so easily accessed by installing a van OBD port protector.

As always, we recommend purchasing a Thatcham approved OBD electronic port protector.

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Subscribe to a vehicle tracking and asset location system

Using a Thatcham approved vehicle tracking device and related software can help lower your insurance premiums by up to 20% according to Rewire Security.

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This cutting edge technology can immediately alert the tracking company you are subscribed to if there’s an attempted break-in and, if necessary, they will automatically alert the police.

Van trackers are connected to a live GPS mobile app that can send notifications to your phone to:

  • alert you to your van’s movement when it’s supposed to be stationary (parked)
  • alert you that your van is being towed without the ignition being used
  • alert you that a potential thief tampering with your tracker

Other van security ideas and tips

In addition to keeping your van secure with fancy technology, protective equipment and devices, there are also many simple van safety measures you can employ to avoid your van being broken into and/or stolen such as:

  • removing tools, valuables, ladders and external storage from your van overnight
  • not leaving valuable possessions or tools on display or your van unlocked
  • parking your van in a well-lit area or driveway and, where possible, in full view of any nearby CCTV cameras
  • writing your name (or your firm’s name) in UV pen on valuable tools and items
  • making a list of valuable items or tools you keep in your van, just in case you need to make a claim
  • always making sure your van is locked and remove the keys from the ignition
  • looking after your keys and thinking twice before handing them over to strangers at a car wash or airport parking as such staff can be infiltrated by organised crime

Van security frequently asked questions:

Are Ford Transits easy to steal?

Whilst Transit van security hasn’t had the best reputation historically (it’s the third most stolen van in the UK), a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 313 CDI and a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 314 CD are the top two most stolen vans UK. However, how easy a van is to steal will of course depend on its individual security features.

What is the most secure van in the UK?

While we can find no conclusive data to specifically name the most secure van in the UK, what we can tell you is that it makes complete sense to buy a van secured with a factory-fitted Thatcham Category 1 alarm that has robust locks, as a minimum.

Will an alarm lower my van insurance?

As long as it’s a Thatcham approved immobiliser and/or alarm it will be approved by your insurer and could help to reduce your van insurance premiums but this will vary between insurers so shop around.

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What does ‘peel and steal’ van theft mean?

This type of theft is where criminals use brute force to peel open the top of a van door like peeling a banana to access and steal from the load area.

Van insurance

Get a great deal on van insurance with a quote from Bobatoo

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