When you’re converting a van into a campervan, security usually isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. You’re more likely to think about the fun aspects of a van conversion, like getting the perfect layout or the furnishings you want to make your van look amazing.
And the numbers would appear to back this up. In 2021, it was reported that only 6% of campervans have trackers installed, and 45% of vehicles don’t have alarms fitted, which compromises the van’s safety and leaves it vulnerable to thieves.
If you’re spending your hard-earned cash on a conversion, it would be devastating to see your pride and joy stolen. And it would be even worse if your insurance didn’t cover your claim because you don’t have the required security features.
That’s why we’ve created this guide, so you can learn how to keep your campervan safe. It’s much better to consider your security options before you commission a build; that way you can build the features as you go and get an idea of costs.
Keep your campervan safe at home
While it’s essential to keep your vehicle safe on the road, good security starts at home. With two-thirds to three-quarters of vehicle thefts happening at the victim’s home, it’s the best place to start. Some of these recommendations might seem obvious, but it’s often forgetting the basics that lead to thefts. Be vigilant and see security as the number one priority at home.
1. Keep your keys out of sight
Never leave your keys in your van – even if you’re de-icing it or warming the engine up. Insurers often won’t pay out if the key is left in the van.
If the van isn’t your primary vehicle, keep the van keys separate from your regular car or van keys, ideally in a safe or safe location.
Never leave your keys next to a window, and try to lock your front door when you’re in the house, as opportunistic thieves may take a chance.
2. Keyless fob pouches
If your van operates on a keyless fob, get a signal-blocking pouch or box to stop thieves using signal amplifiers to gain access to your van. If you have a standard key fob that you press to unlock your vehicle, you aren’t at risk.
3. Lock all doors and windows
Again, this is a simple mistake that leads to many vehicle thefts, with many owners not realising the impact. Get into the habit of checking your doors and windows as you exit the van, and don’t leave anything to chance.
4. Store or remove all valuables
Store all your valuables in a locked cupboard or safe, or remove them from the van. Even something like an expensive clothing item can be valuable to a thief.
5. Close all curtains and blinds
A thief will often scope out your van before they decide whether it’s worth breaking into. Following all the previous steps should ensure a thief doesn’t try to steal your van or anything in it, but making sure they can’t see into the vehicle in the first place is a good deterrent. You can even block out the windscreen and side windows.
6. Swivel your seat
If you have a swivel seat, turn it around so any potential van thief can’t sit in the driver’s position. For extra security, you can pick up a seat lock.
Use your environment to deter criminals
Doing the basics will reduce the chance of theft, but adding environmental deterrents will make a thief think twice before trying to steal your van. While it’s ideal to have a secure car park or storage facility for your van, sometimes it isn’t possible. Here are our recommendations:
1. Use a physical barrier
There are numerous ways you can create a physical barrier to ensure your van isn’t accessible to a thief. If your van is parked on the street, you could use cars to block your van in (but there could be times when it’s exposed). If you have a driveway, you can install barrier posts or a security gate. A thief is less likely to attempt to steal your van if there are obstacles.
2. Install security lights
If there’s one thing thieves hate, it’s visibility. Motion-sensitive lighting will surprise a thief if they step onto your property, which can cause them to panic and leave. Alternatively, dusk-to-dawn lighting provides a more obvious deterrent when paired with other security measures.
3. Security cameras
Security cameras are useful as they provide a potential threat to a thief, getting caught! It also gives you an idea of when someone tried to steal your van, how many people there were, what they were wearing and all sorts of evidence that could help the police solve a crime and prevent others.
4. Driveway design and use
We appreciate that most people do not get their driveways designed with potential camper van thefts in mind. But if you are redoing your drive, it’s something to consider.
For example, gravel driveways make a lot of noise when people move on them, which could inadvertently notify you or a neighbour of foul play. Also, you could use other vehicles or objects to block your van at night so a thief can’t get to it.
How to keep your campervan safe with anti-theft devices
There are some excellent pieces of technology on the market today, and van owners are spoiled for choice. That’s not a bad thing when it comes to security, and it means you can keep your van more secure.
You should check with your insurer before you buy any security equipment, as they may have specific requirements for the type or brand of security device you use.
1. Campervan alarms and immobilisers
As an absolute minimum, you should ensure your van has a Thatcham-accredited, industry-standard alarm system and immobiliser. If a thief does attempt to steal your vehicle, the alarm should either scare them off or notify someone that the vehicle is being tampered with.
An immobiliser stops the car from being hot-wired (starting the engine without having the key in the ignition) and is activated when the key is removed from the ignition.
If your van was made after 1988, it will have an alarm and immobiliser.
However, it’s worth checking the effectiveness and upgrading if necessary. Speak to your converter who will be able to advise you. If your van doesn’t have an alarm or immobiliser, we’d advise you to get one fitted.
2. Install a ghost immobiliser
As its name suggests, a ghost immobiliser is invisible to a thief. Ghost immobilisers require the driver to enter a ‘pin code’ using the steering wheel buttons. For example, it could be a sequence of your volume buttons. The thief won’t even notice the immobiliser most of the time and can’t drive away even if they have the key.
3. Get a vehicle tracker
If the worst-case scenario should happen and your van does get stolen, you’ll want to give yourself the best chance of getting it back. A tracker is the best way to do this. Trackers do come with various levels of security. Some trackers will send an alert if the vehicle is being moved without the engine running, and some can completely immobilise the engine. Do your research before you get a tracker installed.
4. Use a dashcam
A dashcam doesn’t have features that prevent someone from stealing a van, but it can act as a deterrent. Thieves don’t want to be on camera, which could put them off. You can also get dual-aspect dashcams, which can record inside and outside the vehicle.
Use an old-fashioned mechanical security device
While we strongly advocate technology, sometimes you can’t beat a big piece of bright yellow metal to scare a thief away. They’re big, inconvenient and require a lot of noise and time to get them off. Even as technology improves, there’s still room for the tried and tested methods.
1. Buy a steering wheel lock
A thief will notice a steering wheel lock very quickly, even in the dark. They dominate most of the steering wheel and are usually bright yellow. Steering wheel locks come in various designs and can often connect to other interior parts, so shop around and look for the option that suits you. Always store your steering wheel lock key separately from your car keys so the thief can’t get the lock off if they steal the keys.
2. Get a clutch clamp
Much like the steering wheel lock, the clutch or pedal lock is designed to stop the vehicle from moving even if the thief has the keys. Some modern vehicles require the brake pedal to depress to start the engine, which a pedal clamp will prevent.
The only downside to the pedal lock compared to the steering wheel lock is that it isn’t as visible, so a thief could break in before realising they can’t drive the van.
3. Use a gear stick lock
A gear stick lock connects to the handbrake, so the car can’t be driven or moved without the key. Gear stick locks are smaller and easier to store when you aren’t using them. Again, these locks require a lot of effort to remove, so they should put any potential thieves off.
4. Connect wheel clamps
Wheel clamps prevent your vehicle from being moved. It’s like being a parking warden, except you use it on your van, and you have the key. Wheel clamps are great for use on campsites and at home. The only minor downside is that they’re on the exterior, meaning a thief can tamper with them without getting inside the vehicle.
Other ways to keep your campervan safe
There are other practical and creative ways to deter thieves from your van. Here are our favourites:
1. Use your dog
If you have a guard dog, great. But even if you don’t, you can use signs to warn people you have a dog (and even if you don’t). A strategically placed dog bowl can give the impression there’s a canine lurking around somewhere, which is off-putting to a thief.
2. Secure your spare wheel
There are no boundaries to what a thief will take, so it makes sense to look after every part of your van. You can get special locks that keep your wheels safe (presuming they’re in an accessible position).
3. Get a safe
With most campervan thefts, the thief is looking for possessions more than anything. You might be playing with your kids on a campsite or doing some work around the front of the van. Preferably, you’d have a built-in safe, but that’s not always an option. Get a reputable safe, one that’s easy to hide or difficult to move. That way, a thief is less likely to bother.
4. Use a cab door security bar
A cab door security bar connects both windows and prevents the van doors from being opened. You would need to be in your van for this to work, and you wouldn’t be able to exit through the driver or passenger door. It’s a great safety tool if you plan on sleeping in your van and want some extra peace of mind.
5. Install window safety tools
The side windows on the panel area of a van can be vulnerable to break-ins, but there are several steps you can take to maximise security. Catch locks are particularly vulnerable, but there are various locks you can use to prevent them from being breached.
You can also get window restrictors to limit how far the window opens or security film to prevent glass shattering. And if you want to take it to the next level (which could be appealing if you live in your van), you can get window security alarms.
DVLA requirements van conversion: How to make your van road legal
Any questions? Ask your converter!
If you have any questions about van security, you should ask your converter. It should be as important to them as it is to you. So ensure they’re in the same mindset, and remember your safety is paramount.
Consider what you’ll be using the van for, where you’ll be storing it and what security features a van already has. And if you need any advice, give us a call or submit an enquiry, and we’ll give you our expert opinion.