Considering your caravan is more than likely to be your pride and joy, more like part of the family than just a means of transport, we’re sure you put a lot of care and attention into keeping it safe. Buying and maintaining a caravan involves a significant level of financial investment, not to mention time and effort. With this in mind, there’s no doubt you want to protect your caravan from damage, general wear and tear and, of course, thieves. Don’t let a criminal benefit from your hard work; make sure your caravan is truly safe and secure. You may be surprised by some of the weak spots and thief magnets…
Caravan theft hotspots
Did you know that recent government research found that almost half of all stolen caravans were taken from private driveways? Another 45% were stolen from service stations and holiday parks. You may have thought that parking your caravan up for the off-season was when it was most at risk, but these figures make it glaringly obvious that this is not the case. No matter where your caravan is or how often you are using it, you need to be vigilant against thieves. As this involves knowing what attracts them to a particular caravan, what they are most likely to steal and what tends to deter them, we have put together this article to maximise your chances of keeping your caravan all to yourself (and your family).
Easy targets for thieves
Unlike your home, which has been constructed using tough bricks and mortar, your caravan has been designed to be as light and portable as possible. While this has its benefits and makes it a great option for summer holidays, short breaks and impromptu weekends away, it also means caravans are much easier targets for criminals after a quick buck. Your average thief isn’t going to care how much it costs you to repair the damage caused by their break-in; they are only concerned by the money they could make from selling your gadgets, appliances or any other belongings they can get their hands on. Don’t give them a helping hand!
Thieves on the lookout for a caravan to break into will generally focus on the following areas, which have been proven to be the most vulnerable parts:
- Gas locker – Now that re-fillable gas bottles are becoming ever more popular, they are a common target for opportunistic thieves. The front lockers and auto-changeover devices fitted to many modern caravans make gas bottles and easy target and easy money for thieves.
- Jockey wheel – Always leave the jockey wheel locked into the down position. While this doesn’t guarantee your caravan won’t be stolen, it does make it more difficult for thieves to employ their favourite trick of using chains to remove it.
- Hitch – This can quite easily be removed using chains or by lowering the entire unit into a box
- Mover – While this makes it easier for you to move your caravan as required, it could potentially also make it easier for thieves to move it. As far as we are aware, caravan movers have not been involved in any major thefts as yet, but it’s always much better to be safe than sorry. Be sensible about storing your mover control unit to make sure it doesn’t become too tempting!
- Doors – Perhaps the most obvious means of gaining entry to a caravan, a door without deadlocks can easily be used as a way to exit the caravan after the robbery, even if it is not used to get in. Deadlocks make it much harder for the thieves to escape through the door and mean the entire operation requires significantly more effort. As thieves normally don’t want to be caught, more effort makes a caravan a less attractive target.
- Windows – Prising the window open even a fraction makes it easy for thieves to break off or open the catches and gain entry to the caravan
- Rear lights – On older caravans, smashing the rear lights to short the electrics and blow the alarm’s fuses is a favourite trick employed by thieves. Newer models tend to have a back-up battery, meaning this won’t work.
What are thieves most likely to steal?
Obviously enough, each thief will have their own ideas on what they want to steal from a particular caravan (and the contents of each van will vary too), but these are some of the most sought-after gadgets and appliances.
- Laptops and tablet computers
- Ovens and grills
- Fridge freezers
- Gas heaters
- TVs and DVD players
- Alloy wheels
- Gas cylinders and fittings
Don’t assume that an older van is automatically safe – thieves will strip them and sell the parts and even cables containing copper wire are attractive to those desperate for some quick cash.
As a reminder, you should never leave valuables in your caravan. If thieves are willing to steal the wiring, they will be all too happy to get their hands on your smartphone, tablet or games console!
Former thieves have stated that closed curtains make them think there is something worth hiding inside the caravan, so don’t be fooled into thinking this is a valid security measure.
How to keep your caravan safe
As well as having vulnerable spots, your caravan also has parts which can be used to make it more secure. If you don’t already follow the guidelines below, you should definitely start.
- Roof – Skytagging your caravan, which involves adding a code to the roof of your caravan, makes it much easier for stolen caravans to be identified from the air and recovered. Skytag involves a one-off payment of £30 and the vinyl letters which are provided are incredibly difficult to remove.
- CRiS number – All UK caravans carry unique 17-digit code, which is entered into the CRiS database. While thieves may attempt to remove the number or burn it off, it is normally a good way of identifying and recovering a stolen vehicle. It also allows buyers to check that they are not purchasing a stolen caravan. More information about the scheme can be found in our earlier article.
- Wheel locks/winter wheels – These go a long way towards deterring and foiling would-be thieves but, whatever you do, don’t store your road wheels in or near your caravan
- Corner steadies – Lock these in the down position to make prospective thieves’ lives that bit more difficult
- Tracker systems – Have a look at our earlier article about Outsmart the Thief to find out more about the benefits of tracker systems. While they are not infallible, they do greatly increase the chance of a stolen caravan being recovered.
Security devices you should consider
- Wheel clamps – As well as looking for wheel clamps with great reviews, remember to consider their weight. The Home Office-approved, super-secure ones are far too heavy for touring. You will easily find wheel clamps which will put off all but the most determined thief, while remaining light enough to load into your caravan while travelling. Our handy guide to wheel clamps can be found here.
- Security posts and ground anchors – Thieves have been known to simply rip out the security posts attaching a caravan they’ve set their mind on, but using both of these devices at once is generally effective.
- Hitch locks – Simple yet effective, hitch locks are particularly secure when used in conjunction with a jockey wheel lock. Never forget to remove it before you drive off!
- Deadlocks – As we briefly mentioned earlier, deadlocks won’t stop thieves getting into your caravan but they will make it an awful lot more difficult to get out again.
- Security box – It is strongly recommended not to leave valuables in your caravan but, if you really must take some along with you, you should make sure you have a suitable security box to store them in. Ex-army ammunition boxes are popular, but remember it must be properly fitted to your caravan, as otherwise the thief can simply carry the whole lot away. The Safe shop is a good place to start your search.
- Skytag – This is another option we mentioned earlier and one which is definitely worth investing in. For just £30, you receive a unique code of numbers and letters, which can be displayed on the roof of your caravan. Should your caravan fall into the wrong hands, police helicopters will easily be able to identify it.
- Tracking devices – While opinion is still divided with regards to whether or not you should publicise the presence of a tracking device, they are certainly an effective means of recovering a stolen caravan. Many new models will come with a device fitted as standard.
- Caravan cover – As well as protecting your caravan from damage and the elements while it is stored for the off-season, caravan covers act as a thief deterrent. No thief wants to risk getting caught in a caravan where there is only one way to escape.
- CCTV – If you have a slightly bigger security budget, consider installing a CCTV system on your property. It may not stop thieves from taking the caravan, but it can prove invaluable for recovery.
- Electronic gates – This one does require a particularly large budget, but is worth looking into if you have the funds.
Top security tips
- Never leave keys within sight of the front door of your house. A number of caravan thefts have occurred after keys were found during house break-ins.
- Don’t be tempted to use your parked caravan as extra storage. There may be nothing valuable in amongst the clutter you dump in it over the winter, but a prospective thief will still have their curiosity piqued – perhaps enough to steal it in order to get a good look through.
- Don’t store your caravan identification documents inside the vehicle. This will make it much easier for thieves to pass the caravan off as their own if stopped by the police. It will also lead them straight to your empty home if the caravan is stolen from a holiday park.
- While storing at home, always park your caravan as close to the house as possible. Point the hitch away from the driveway and gate. Be careful though – if you store your caravan at home, its absence will be a surefire sign that your house is empty. Storing your caravan at a CaSSOA-approved facility is highly recommended. If you must store your caravan elsewhere, make sure to take appropriate security measures and never be tempted to go for the cheaper option of storing your caravan at a local farm. While this may seem like an affordable and safe option, your insurance will normally not cover it. It is also worth bearing in mind that Lifesure offer a discount for caravans stored at CaSSOA-approved locations.
- Use more than one security device. The more you use, the more difficult it is for a thief to get what they want and the more likely it is they will walk on by and look for something else to steal. It is advisable to only ever use devices which are Sold Secure approved.
- Always fit deadlocks to a new or new-to-you caravan.
- Winter wheels are a huge deterrent to would-be thieves. For this to be effective, you must always remember to store your road wheels securely. Never leave them in the caravan or in a nearby shed or garage.
- Use UV pens or similar to add identifying marks to your belongings and removable fittings.
- Never, ever leave your caravan unattended while using motorway services. The M6, M42 and M1 are particularly dangerous, and are known as the Caravan Bermuda Triangle due to the handy network of motorways for making a stolen vehicle vanish.
- Check your caravan locks in advance of a holiday and have them repaired or replaced if necessary. Always lock the doors when you leave your caravan, even for a short while.
- Fitting an alarm and window locks is highly recommended. Of course, you need to remember to actually use them too!
- While parked on a site, it can be a good idea to use timers to switch the lights on if you are going to be out late. Make sure to draw the curtains before going out, or the lights will make it more obvious that the caravan is empty.
- Never store expensive items in your awning. It is also wise to chain larger items, such as barbecues and bicycles, to your caravan when not in use. If you need to leave large valuables in the awning, look into investing in a small portable alarm, which can be set to sound if anyone enters.
- Always take care when choosing the site for your next break – make sure to select one which takes security seriously.
- When parking up overnight, make sure to take the appropriate action to stay safe. More information can be found in our article Gas Attacks on Caravans and Motorhomes – Fact or Fiction?
What to do if your caravan is stolen
No matter how careful you are, you cannot ever completely guarantee that your caravan will not be the thieves’ next target. This checklist will help you to remember what you need to do should you fall victim to criminals.
- If you saw the theft taking place, call 999. If not, call 101.
- Report the theft to CRiS on 020 3282 1000
- Notify the provider of your caravan’s tracking device, if applicable
- Notify your insurer. Make sure you have your vehicle identification number, policy documents and crime reference number to hand.
- Make sure the theft is added to Caravan Theft Alerts
The details you will be asked for when phoning 999 or 101 will normally include:
- The make, model and a description of your caravan
- Any distinctive features which can be used to easily identify your caravan
- The approximate time at which the caravan was stolen
- Any other local thefts you may be aware of
- The security of the location where it was parked
Obviously our intention is not to scare you into thinking that a thief is around every corner, because obviously they are not, but to make you aware or remind you of the precautions that can be taken. Your caravan is likely to have been an expensive purchase and will hold happy memories for you and your family – we want to make sure that it stays that way.
Many insurance companies will insist on a wheel clamp and hitch lock as a bare minimum as part of their policies and we give discounts for having a tracker fitted or storing your caravan at a CaSSOA approved site. For more information about the four specialist caravan insurance policies that we have call our team on 01480 402460.