One of the greatest joys of caravan ownership is being able to hitch up and take off whenever you like, but it’s also vital to take some basic security precautions so that thieves don’t do the same with your pride and joy.
According to Caravan Club figures, some 1400 caravans are reported stolen each year and many are never seen again. Most are stolen from driveways or storage, although you’re also vulnerable in transit and even on caravan sites.
The good news is that it’s simple to deter most thieves, who generally look for soft targets and low risk opportunities. What’s more, if you buy the right equipment you might even get a discount on your insurance premium.
So we here are: our ten top tips on caravan security to improve your caravanning experience:
Don’t let your guard down
It’s tempting to think about security a bit less while your on holiday, but remembering the basics can save you a lot of heartache and regret should theft occur. Lock your windows and doors just as you would at home, and be sure to keep your valuables out of sight. If you spend a little extra and invest in caravan security products, like a sturdy safe, you will get a whole lot more piece of mind.
Even if you’re only making a quick stop at a service station, don’t leave things to chance. Take a couple of minutes to immobilize your van properly to beat a potential thief (more on this below).
Caravan security products: horses for courses
Security products aren’t all made equal and neither are the situations you might find yourself in. For example, the more secluded or isolated the location of your van, the more attractive the opportunity becomes for thieves when you’re away. Weigh up the potential risk when posed by leaving your caravan unattended, and plan your security measures around it accordingly.
When purchasing security products, look particularly at product performance ratings given by independent organisations such as Thatcham or Sold Secure, and always buy from reputable sources.
Caravan hitch locks: Another link in the chain
Hard on the heels of the wheel clamp deterrent comes the hitch lock. Again these aren’t infallible, but they fit a model made of good high grade steel and with a sturdy lock will give any would-be thief pause for thought.
Fit the lock anytime you leave the van unattended, however short your stop, but remove it when you’re driving as the locks can create problems if you’re in an accident.
The wheel clamp: A simple, visible deterrent
If a potential thief is driving by, this is one of the first things they’ll look for. Removing a caravan wheel clamp takes time, risk and effort, so while even the best clamps aren’t impenetrable, they do provide a reason for a thief to look elsewhere.
There are plenty of clamps around. All things being equal, the largest and heaviest will be the most secure and more practical for use at home or in storage – but there are many decent wheel clamps available that balance durability and portability for the road.
Caravan window and door locks
The good news is that built-in caravan security has come on leaps and bounds in recent years. For example, Bailey caravans and motorhomes feature advanced alarm features.
If your caravan’s a little older it is worth checking the condition of your locks. Has a mechanism become worn and likely to lock you out or let a thief in? Are the lock surrounds reinforced? Do they meet your insurer’s latest minimum specifications?
Replacements are relatively cheap to install, and there are excellent aftermarket products available, such as additional window locks and limiters.
Vehicle alarms don’t always get good press and if you’ve ever been camped next to an alarm that continually cries wolf, you’ll know why!
Do your homework before buying. Check the alarm is suitable for a caravan, that it has a good independent approval rating, and is configurable to your needs. For example, if you’re travelling with a pet or want to protect an additional covered area.
Incidentally, simple tent alarms and basic window alarms are excellent if you just want a basic door beep for when you’re in your caravan. Or if you prefer you can go all the way and buy a remotely monitored system that will notify a control centre if an alarm is triggered.
Bear in mind that some remote caravan alarms will link to your home security system, so check with your provider first before installing. It could be a cost effective way forward.
Security posts for storing your caravan
Many of the caravans stolen each year disappear from driveways, so a sturdy security post is a must. You should set the post in concrete and use it anytime you park your caravan at home.
The best products have an internal lock. Avoid the padlock variants as these are far easier to defeat. Chains are an additional weak link, so choose a post with a built-in tow ball on top. You can then add a hitch lock as a second line of defence.
And on the subject of caravan storage…
Winter’s coming so here are some brief dos and don’ts of storage:-
DO EMPLOY ALL THE SECURITY MEASURES listed above to immobilise your caravan, wherever it’s stored. Every layer of protection deters a thief;
DON’T USE WINTER AXLE STANDS as thieves can simply fit their own wheels and if your unit is stolen your insurer may refuse your claim;
DO MAKE IT CLEAR YOU’VE REMOVED ALL VALUABLES: For example, by leaving cupboard doors open;
DO NOTIFY YOUR NEIGHBOURS if you’re going away , and emphasise you haven’t authorised any ‘mechanics’, ‘storage companies’ etc. to take your van away!
DON’T MAKE IT EASY FOR THIEVES: Lock doors and windows, close and lock driveway gates if you have them, fit a security light if possible, and activate your alarm system.
Many companies offer secure caravan storage facilities, sometimes combined with valeting and servicing. Standards vary a great deal so check with the major caravan clubs or the Caravan Storage Site Owners Association (CaSSOA) for recommendations.
Tracking down a stolen caravan
This is a whole subject on its own, so we’ll return to it separately, but just briefly, here are some things you can do to help the authorities identify your caravan:-
- Register your ownership with the Central Registration & Identification Scheme (CRIS). Most modern caravans have a unique 17 character CRIS identification code (it may be etched in a window or with your documentation). You’ll need to quote this;
- Consult the CRIS website for other security services, including VIN Chip;
- Mark your caravan: Use invisible UV pens in concealed spaces to mark down your postcode or other details you’ll remember. This will help police identify your caravan, even if thieves have scratched out the chassis numbers;
- Consider a reputable Tracker system: These concealed devices allow operators to track your vehicle and guide the police to the scene;
- Note down your appliance serial numbers: This is a straightforward means of settling an ownership dispute and is something thieves may well overlook.
Do your homework before you buy.
Everybody’s requirements and budgets are different, so do your research and take advice when planning your caravan security. Reputable security companies, popular caravan clubs, and local crime prevention officers are all good sources of advice.
If you are interested in a vintage caravan, make sure you check out these tips before you buy.