It’s every van driver’s worst nightmare to return to your vehicle to find the windows smashed, doors forced open and all your valuables gone. For someone who uses their vehicle for work, it can mean contracts and deadlines are missed, leading to a loss of income and further worries. Even for someone who simply uses their van for commuting, waiting for the insurance company to pay for repairs can pose short-term transport issues.
So, what can you do to help protect against this kind of crime, and stop thieves from targeting your vehicle? We’ve put together 10 top tips based on advice from both the police and ex-criminals to help keep your van safe and sound, no matter where you are.
1: Don’t leave valuables in plain sight
Ideally, you shouldn’t be leaving any valuable items in your van at all – small things like phones and wallets should be kept on your person – but we appreciate that carrying your work tools wherever you go isn’t particularly practical. Instead, make sure they’re out of sight. If the back of your van is windowless, this is ideal – if not, cover them with tarps, blankets or other, less expensive equipment to deter thieves. If you have to leave things like keys, money or electronic devices, put them in the glove compartment.
If at all possible, do all of this before you reach your destination too. You never know if someone is watching your every move, and if you simply lock your van and walk away then it’s easy for them to target your vehicle and find the items they’re after. But if you hide things before you park up, no one will know what’s in there – and thieves don’t often take risks with no guarantee of reward.
2: Don’t splash the cash
It seems obvious, but thieves will target higher-end vehicles. Their logic is that if you can afford the fancy wheels, you can probably afford some other nice stuff – stuff they can sell on for a tidy wedge of cash. Newer vans also come with built-in technology which, to an experienced thief, is both easy to find and to remove. As we said above, ‘no risk without reward’ is the thieves’ motto, and newer vans are almost guaranteed to offer greater rewards than a beaten up model from 10 years ago.
If you’re looking at buying a van and aren’t sure which model to go for, it’s worth reading Honest John’s report on the Top 10 Most Stolen Vans. The report itself is from 2013, but the stats haven’t changed much, with updated models replacing their ageing counterparts, and it still gives a fair idea of what are considered the most high-risk vehicles for criminal activity.
3: Don’t hide in the shadows
Anyone wanting to break into your van will also want to avoid detection. That means they’ll look for opportunities in dark, empty locations. Always try to park in busy, well-frequented areas that are well lit. All these will act as deterrents for potential thieves, as they’re much more likely to be seen and caught.
4: Check your locks
It’s far too easy, with remote central locking, to get out, press a button and walk away. But do you know for sure your car is secured? Before leaving, always test a door (or two) to make sure the central locking has worked. All it needs is for one door to not be shut properly, and that button press will have zero effect – and you’d be none the wiser.
What’s more, if you try to claim on the insurance and it transpires that you left the van unlocked, you can wave goodbye to that insurance policy and subsequent pay out – it’s just been voided.
5: Use anti-theft equipment
The sight of any kind of anti-theft measures is usually enough to stop a thief in their tracks. They want the easy life, and there are sure to be plenty of other vans around who’ll pose a lot less hassle than yours. Even little things like stickers saying ‘This vehicle is fitted with a tracking device’ can be enough – after all, what thief is likely to want to wait around to find out if you’re telling the truth?
Digital Trends have reviewed the best anti-theft devices on offer, to help you decide which ones will work for you.
6: Make your vehicle stand out
Vans are targeted either for what’s inside them – which is covered by tip #1 – or because of their usefulness to the criminals. White vans are so ubiquitous as to be almost impossible to identify without a number plate, whilst darker coloured vans blend into the night, making them harder to spot. A van with giant paw prints on it, or a large, colourful slogan, however, is unlikely to go unnoticed – and so is less likely to be targeted.
7: Practise your reverse parking
Parking on a driveway instantly offers more protection, as thieves have to come onto your land in order to access your vehicle. But if you do keep things in the back of the van that you’d rather other people didn’t take, then back up as close as you can to a wall or hedge, to make it all but impossible for thieves to access the doors.
8: Stop filling up on fuel
There has been a rise recently in the number of fuel thefts from vans – with thieves siphoning off diesel from a van’s tank into their own vehicles or containers. To avoid this, either keep the amount of fuel in your tank to the functional minimum, or invest in a lockable fuel cap.
9: Be vigilant
Be aware of who is around you, and what they’re doing. If you see anyone acting suspiciously, then double check you’ve followed all the tips above – or better yet, park somewhere else. And if you see any wrongdoing, be sure to report it to the police immediately – calling 999 if the crime is in progress, or 101 to report something that’s already happened.
10: Get the right insurance
If the worst happens, and despite all your best efforts thieves still target your van, then having the right insurance policy is your best defence. Make sure it covers not just your vehicle but any tools or expensive items that might be inside it – otherwise, if someone runs off with the tools of your trade, you’ll be the one liable for their replacement.
To find good deals on comprehensive van and contents cover, use a comparison site such as Compare Van Insurance which, like other comparison sites can help you find the best deals.
Hopefully, with the help of this handy guide, you’ll be better prepared to guard against the risk of theft – both of your vehicle and its contents – and will be able to go about your day without worrying what you might come back to.