Tool Theft - Direct Line Annual Report graphic meant to represent tools being stolen from a van

Tool Theft - Direct Line Annual Report

£66m worth of tools stolen from tradespeople's vehicles in 2022, our research found.

Did you know that in 2022 tools were stolen every 15 minutes? And that's up 13% on the previous year.

This is just one of the worrying findings from research we carried out in 2023 to understand the frequency and impact of tool theft across the UK. At Direct Line we take tool theft very seriously, which is why we're alerting tradespeople to the danger and offering advice on some measures they can take to help protect the tools and equipment which are vital to their livelihoods.

Tradespeople heavily affected by tool theft

Our research showed that a quarter of all tradespeople have had tools stolen directly from their vehicle, with each theft averaging £750 in vehicle damage alone.

Tool theft can have a significant financial impact on tradespeople, often causing a loss of earnings of hundreds of pounds a week. Our research shows that 62% of tradespeople have had tools stolen from their vans in their careers, with over a third (34%) having tools taken more than once. This contributed to £66m worth of tools being stolen in 2022, in what is seen by offenders as a 'low-risk crime'.

"From our interviews with reformed thieves, this crime is seen as low risk with a high reward. Tradespeople carry high-value items in their vans and the punishment if thieves get caught is less severe compared to theft from an office."

~ Senior marketer, Direct Line

Tool theft is on the rise

In 2022, a total of 35,098 tools thefts were reported to the police across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. This is up 13% on the previous year and amounts to a tool being taken every 15 minutes, up from 17 minutes in March 2021. Over half of those 35,098 cases were tool thefts from a vehicle, and that amounts to a tool theft from a van every 27 minutes. This is a 10% increase in incidents from 2021.

A 2023 poll of 500 tradespeople who use a van found that 87% feel like a 'moving target' for thieves because of the value of the tools and equipment they have on board.

Regional hotspots across the country

Tool thefts reported to London's Metropolitan Police represented 58% (20,219) of all cases, but police forces across the length and breadth of England feature in the top ten regions with the highest levels of tool theft (per population density). West Yorkshire is in second and South Yorkshire sixth, with City of London, Cleveland, and Northumbria third, fourth and fifth respectively. Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, and Derbyshire complete the top ten.

Rank Region
1. Metropolitan Police
2. West Yorkshire
3. City of London Police
4. Cleveland Police
5. Northumbria Police
6. South Yorkshire Police
7. Cambridgeshire Police
8. Hertfordshire
9. Bedfordshire Police
10. Derbyshire Constabulary

"The rising frequency of tool theft up and down the country is alarming. We would encourage tradespeople to take steps to help secure their tools, such as parking their vehicle in a safe, well-lit location, fitting additional locks, or installing an alarm system and forensically marking their tools."

~ Product Manager, Direct Line

With tool theft on the rise, tradespeople are taking measures to help secure their tools and deal with consequences of tool theft. Many are installing additional security, bringing tools indoors to a securely locked building, updating their insurance, and becoming members of local social media groups where people share information about stolen goods. Additional precautions include keeping up-to-date information on their tools such as photos, identifying markings, serial numbers, using tracking devices, and either engraving or using invisible ink to mark tools. These are all ways in which tradespeople are counteracting the rise in tool theft.

Protect yourself from tool theft

Fortunately, there are ways to help reduce the risk of tool theft and to protect yourself from the loss and damage that comes with it:

  • Remove expensive tools from your vehicle overnight
    Store your most costly and important tools in a safe and secure location until you need them.
  • Park your vehicle in busy, well-lit areas
    Avoid parking your van in dark, remote places which would attract thieves.
  • Lock your vehicle at all times
    Ensure your vehicle is securely locked whenever and however you leave it.
  • Fit an alarm and immobiliser and additional security
    Maximise your vehicle's protection by enhancing the security system.
  • Place theft warning stickers on your vehicle's doors and windows
    Warn potential thieves about the anti-theft security to deter them.
  • Upgrade your vehicle's locks
    Consider improving the locks on your van.

Don't let tool theft become a spanner in the works

At Direct Line, we know the impact of tool theft can be devastating, and we're committed to giving tradespeople the protection they need to enable them to do what they do best.

We offer flexible insurance cover options allowing tradespeople to build a policy which covers their specific insurance needs, whether that's cover for during the day at work or tools locked in a vehicle overnight.

Find out more about our range of cover options and our Tools Essentials service or read more information on our van insurance.

If the time comes to make a claim, you can do so online at any time, or over the phone.


Tool theft on the rise: Tools stolen every 15 minutes
(1) Data collected from a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the England, Wales and Northern Ireland Police forces, for tool thefts from January 2021 until December 2021, and also January 2022 until December 2022.
(2) Opinium survey of 2000 UK adults, including 188 tradespeople, conducted 21st March - 24th March 2023.

Nearly a quarter of tradespeople have had tools stolen from their van in the last 12 months
(1) Research conducted by OnePoll among a nationally representative sample of 500 tradespeople who drive a van, between 31 March and 5 April 2023.
(2) House of Commons equipment Theft prevention Bill
(3) Research conducted by OnePoll among a nationally representative sample of 2000 people between 31 March and 5 April 2023.

'Thievesy pickings' - millions of tools left in vans overnight
(1) Opinium survey of 2000 UK adults, including 188 tradespeople, conducted 21st March - 24th March 2023.

Public Liability Insurance

Added: 10 Apr 2024