What van security improvements can I make?
If you’ve ever wondered what van security improvements to make, consider van modifications, steering wheel locks & alarm systems to protect your vehicle.
Loss or damage to a van can do much more than inconvenience or immobilise the driver until an insurance claim is processed. From losing valuable tools to missing out on business due to missed appointments, the effects can be costly as well as immensely frustrating.
Fortunately, through a combination of careful purchasing decisions, common sense measures and technological innovations it is possible to reduce your risk of falling victim to van crime.
Some of these measures can even offer immediate savings by cutting the cost of your insurance premium, while all of them will make your vehicle less attractive to thieves.
Watch our video below to see our top tips for securing your van.
Here are some of the more detailed steps you can take to improve your van's security:
- Prioritise van security when choosing your vehicle
- Consider making van modifications
- Behaviour: securing your van with simple safety measures
Prioritise van security when choosing your vehicle
Choosing the right van at the outset is an important first step when it comes to maximising van security.
While no van is 100% secure, standards in the industry are rising fast, helped by initiatives such as the Association of British Insurers’ (ABI) Group Rating system, administered by Thatcham, the industry’s research institute. These ratings have a direct effect on the insurance groups of every vehicle in the UK.
Thatcham make their ratings information freely available via their MyVehicle Search tool. To access them, all you need to do is create an account and search for your chosen model to find out what insurance group your prospective new van would fall under.
You can then consult your insurer to get a rough idea of how much a premium for your chosen van will cost, before you make a final purchase decision.
By making van security a priority at the outset, you’ll reduce the need to consider making any modifications later on.
Choosing a more secure van isn’t all about the latest technology. Simple aspects of the van, such as whether it has rear windows that advertise the van’s contents to thieves, should also be taken into account when making a purchasing decision.
Insurance on your new van
Before taking out insurance, ask your van insurance provider the following questions so that if the worst happens you know you have adequate cover to meet your needs.
- What’s included in the policy and what’s expected from you?
- Are goods in transit included in the policy?
- Is windscreen and window repair covered by the insurance?
- If personal belongings are damaged or stolen will this be covered by the policy?
- Will a replacement van be provided if yours is stolen or damaged?
- Will the van’s contents (other than personal belongings) be insured in the event of damage or theft?
Consider making van modifications
There are modifications that you can make to your current van to improve its security.
However, choose these carefully because some modifications - even if they are undertaken with van security in mind - could actually increase your premiums or even void your policy. So make sure that you discuss any proposed modifications with your insurer first.
We also advise installing only Thatcham-approved security modifications due to the rigour of their testing methods and their status within the British insurance industry.
Even if your modification does reduce your premiums, there is of course no guarantee that the saving will outweigh the cost of the work done on your van.
In any case, let’s consider some of the most effective modifications to achieve a more secure van.
Invest in a vehicle tracking GPS
An increasingly popular and high-tech way to boost van security is to invest in a vehicle GPS tracking system.
Trackers are available from as little as £20 - £40, but the benefits will be more certain if the tracker itself and the person who installs it have been approved by Thatcham.
The cost is likely to run into the hundreds of pounds for a dependable system such as those provided by market leaders like CobraTrak, Trafficmaster and Smartrack, but there are also subscription models available to reduce upfront costs.
Use van locks, steering wheel bars and anti-theft alarm systems
More traditional methods of improving van security include installing heavier duty van locks.
The most common modifications are deadlocks, which are used independently of the van’s existing locking mechanism and offer protection from brute force attacks.
Slamlocks work similarly except that they lock automatically when the door closes, whereas a deadlock needs to be locked and unlocked manually with a key.
Deadlocks do involve an extra step - i.e. locking the door a second time - which means as a system they’re only as dependable as the person responsible for operating it.
Other available security modifications include:
- catalytic converter protection systems
- steel plates to protect your door handles and mechanisms.
A steering wheel lock is a lower-cost addition that does not involve any modifications to the vehicle or a complex installation process.
These tools, which were more widely seen in the days before the sophisticated vehicle alarm systems around today, still have their uses: Thatcham continues to accredit steering wheel locks that you can buy for £50 to £100.
When it comes to third party alarm systems, the first step is to make sure that the system you’re considering is truly better than what came with the van.
Let’s have a look at how Thatcham categorises vehicle security and how this relates to alarm systems.
There are eight categories of van security according to system. Strictly speaking, these do not grade the effectiveness of the security measures, but rather categorise them by type. However, there is a lot of overlap between these two considerations.
Category 1 security systems in vans offer:
- perimeter detection
- ignition detection
- passenger compartment movement detection
- an audible warning (with battery backup power supply)
- a passively set immobiliser that isolates a minimum of two operating circuits/systems.
Category 2 systems do not need an alarm, but they do require an immobiliser that meets the above criteria.
If your van has been accredited with Category 2 status, it is not possible to have it upgraded to Category 1.
However, by having an approved engineer install a Thatcham-accredited alarm, you can achieve a category 2-1 – which is essentially the highest category available for a van without a pre-installed alarm that meets the above criteria.
Upgrading your vehicle’s category from 2 to 2-1 may have benefits in terms of your insurance premiums as well as achieving a higher degree of van security. Although, you should always check that this is the case before making any changes or modifications to your security system.
Behaviour: securing your van with simple safety measures
The best lock in the world becomes useless when the driver neglects to use it, just as the loudest alarm available will achieve little if it’s ringing out across an abandoned industrial park in the dead of night.
The key to maximising van security is to use all the tools available to you to secure your van, and to form the habit of following the most secure practice.
Never leave valuables in your van
Many vans have a sticker that informs would-be thieves that no valuables are left unattended in their vehicle overnight. As to how many drivers actually practise what they preach, unfortunately that may be a different matter.
It goes without saying that the best way to protect valuables overnight is to take them out of your van to store them in a secure location.
During the day, when you may be going in and out of your van with hands full of tools or materials, it may be hard to lock your door every time. Consider investing in a lockable tool safe to add an extra layer of deterrent, particularly against opportunist thieves.
Choose your parking spots carefully
Avoid poorly-lit carparks and empty streets with few eyes on them. If you tend to park when the sun is still shining, it’s easy to miss this simple step.
So look out for streetlights and anticipate where the darker corners of the car park will be before you choose your spot.
Even if you’re parking in your own driveway, you should still consider taking some straightforward security measures, like installing security lights or a lockable gate.
When it comes to insurance and parking, one of the most important steps to follow is to park your van where you told your insurer you will be parking it. That way, if you are unfortunate enough to fall victim to theft, you will not risk the invalidation of your policy.
Keep a record of what’s in your van
Keeping a detailed inventory of the contents of your van will help you immensely if you have to make a claim on your insurance.
It may also have a secondary benefit of reminding you of the value of all your tools and equipment – which may help you to remember to take sensible security precautions.
As tradespeople tend to build their collections of tools over many years, it’s very easy to underestimate their total value and to become blasé about protecting them.
For particularly expensive items, keep receipts in order to simplify the claims process if it comes to it - just make sure not to store them in your van!
Make your staff aware of van security
You may remember to lock your doors and unload your van at night, but are you as confident about those who work with or for you?
If other people have access to your van, make sure they are well informed about its security features and understand your expectations.
If you have an employee induction programme, make sure to include some security training so that it becomes part of the culture of your business.