Campervan security tips and ideas
In the UK, vehicle-related-theft (which is “theft of a vehicle” or “theft from vehicles”) currently accounts for 1 in 7 of all reported crimes, and in the 2018/19 financial year 152,541 vehicles were stolen according to the Association of British Insurers, which is one vehicle every 3 and a half minutes! Whilst only 43.3% of vehicles without a tracker are ever recovered by the police, vehicles that have a tracker installed as part of their campervan security have recovery rates as high as 98%!
After you’ve poured so much time and money into your build, it’s a really good idea to consider a few campervan security measures, both visual and non-visual, to stop thieves considering breaking into your van in the first place, and to be able to recover it if the worst happens. We’ve shared some ideas below on a range of different campervan security products you can use to keep your campervan safe. We have also included a review of the Smartrack Trident which we recently had installed in our campervan.
Using visual deterrents is a good type of campervan security to discourage opportunists from trying to break into or steal your van. Ultimately most thieves will try and find the vehicle that looks the easiest to break into, so if you can present a lot of obvious deterrents you may save yourself a lot of hassle.
Order some stickers that show anyone looking that you have a GPS tracker and/or an alarm installed. These can be ordered from eBay or may come with your tracker/alarm.
Some alarms and trackers will have a flashing LED on the unit so it’s visible from outside your van that there’s some sort of device installed within the van. For a more low tech solution, you can buy a battery powered LED from eBay and install it near a window to deter any thieves.
Physical deterrents should be a last ditch effort to keep someone from stealing your valuables. By making it physically difficult for someone to either remove your valuables or drive away your van itself.
Safe / security box
If you’re leaving valuables inside your van such as laptops, passports or jewellery you might want to invest in a physical safe. This means that if someone does break into your van, they won’t have an easy time quickly taking your valuables. They work much the same as a safe in a hotel room would, where you can use a key or a combination code to access your valuables inside. Generally it’s recommended to bolt a safe to the chassis or at the very least to the cladding/walls of your van so that it isn’t easily removable by a thief.
A good choice for a campervan is the Yale Premium Laptop Safe, which has enough room for your laptops, passports and any other valuables you may have.
Physical and visual deterrents
There are a few campervan security features which fit into both categories, both physically protecting your van whilst also showing a potential burglar that your van is protected against them.
Steering wheel / pedal / wheel lock
Physical locks stop a thief from driving your van away. A steering wheel lock works by attaching a long metal rod, or sometimes even a round disc that completely covers the steering wheel, via a key, preventing a thief from being able to use the steering wheel. Wheel and pedal locks work in a similar way, stopping the pedals from being used or the wheels from turning. To remove them, an angle grinder would need to be used which is not the most discrete tool when trying to steal a vehicle!
They are a good way of showing you have thought about the safety of your campervan to any potential thieves. We’d recommend going for a steering wheel lock as they are very visible and also very easy to take on and off, whereas pedals locks are less obvious, and wheel locks can be a bit of faff to take on and off.
We have the DiskLok which are generally known as the hardest to remove steering wheel locks. They fit over the entire steering wheel, making it impossible to drive whilst they’re fitted.
Deadlocks / slamlocks
Adding a second lock to your van can be a good visual deterrent as well as making it physically harder for thieves to get into your van. Instead of being able to simply unlock the van by pressing a button, they require you to also insert a key to open the door. Dead locks require manually locking like a deadbolt on the front door of a house would, whereas slamlocks simply require you to slam the door of your van to lock. The only danger with a slamlock is that you run the risk of accidentally locking your keys inside your van (trust us…we’re talking from experience!).
Alarms and cameras
Depending on the level of sophistication, alarms can simply put a thief off spending time looking for your valuables by emitting a loud noise, or more expensive security cameras and alarms can send you a notification when they’re activated.
Motion sensor alarms
These work much like a burglar alarm in a house by having a motion sensing unit that is installed somewhere in your van. When you leave the van you activate the unit, and if any motion is detected a loud alarm will activate. There are various types of motion sensor alarm available, from those that simply make a loud noise to those that can send you a notification if they are set off.
We have the Tiiwee motion sensor alarm which emits a very loud siren noise when activated.
Security cameras / CCTV
For added piece of mind if you’re away from your van, or useful if you have a pet which you may need to leave in your van every so often, a security camera will allow you to see the inside of your van via your phone, and many will also alert you of any movements.
The Reolink Argus 2 is a popular choice among van lifers. It has a rechargeable battery and a micro SD slot to store video. It also has WiFi so you can access the camera remotely to check in on your vehicle.
Trackers and immobilisers
No one ever wants to think about their beloved van being stolen, but it’s worth installing a tracker and immobiliser to give you the best chance of getting your van back if the unthinkable happens. Trackers are the next level of campervan security, and there are a number of different options you can choose, from very cheap trackers you can install yourself, up to professionally installed Thatcham approved trackers that have a yearly subscription cost, 24/7 monitoring and even their own private repatriation service!
Whilst only 43% of vehicles without a tracker are ever recovered by the police, vehicles that do have a tracker have recovery rates as high as 98%! Although more basic trackers will provide you with a base level of protection, Thatcham approved trackers are able to boast almost perfect recovery rates. It’s therefore shocking to hear that 73% of campervan owners have no tracker installed!
A very basic GPS tracker can be purchased for around £25. It will need to be connected to your 12V power and have its own SIM card. You can text the number on the SIM card a set of specific phrases and it will reply with GPS coordinates of its current location. It’s important to locate these close to a window if possible to ensure that they pick up good signal in order to be able to text you details of their location.
They also come with optional extras such as tapping into the fuel pump relay so you can disable connection to the fuel pump by texting a command, and a microphone which you can listen to remotely by phoning your tracker.
Although these are very cheap, we found that they rarely pick up good signal which means that they’re not very reliable. Since installing one of these and often struggling to get a response from it, we’ve opted to install a Thatcham approved high spec tracker (more on that below).
- Very cheap
- Relatively easy to install
- No monthly subscription fee
- Often don’t pick up signal
- Less sophisticated than more expensive models
- Rely on you texting to check location
- Not Thatcham approved
A mid range tracker such as the Carlock works by connecting to your vans OBD (on board diagnostics) port. They cost around £50 and have a £6 monthly fee which enables you to see your vans location in real time on an app, and can also send you alerts any time your vehicle starts, or even if it detects any unusual vibrations (e.g. power tools being used).
These are fairly cheap and easy to install yourself, while providing decent coverage and access via an app so can be a good middle ground for those not wishing to spend the money on a Thatcham approved tracker. However, it’s worth flagging that they are very easy to remove by a professional thief as they are not particularly well hidden and only need to be unplugged from the OBD port which is easy to access.
- Fairly cheap
- Very easy to install
- Easy to track via the app
- Alerts to notify you of any disturbances
- Monthly subscription fee
- Easy to find and remove by an experienced thief
- Not Thatcham approved
High range trackers such as the Smartrack Trident are Thatcham approved, which means they have been assessed for their features and functionality and awarded a certification. Many insurers may require you to fit a Thatcham approved tracker in order to provide you with insurance.
Thatcham approved trackers will need to be installed by a professional. You can pay anywhere between £150 to £650 for the tracker to be fully fitted, plus a yearly subscription cost upwards of £100. The benefits of these high range trackers are that many have their own 24/7 monitoring via an operating centre and nationwide support from police, as well as using their own private repatriation teams, giving you the best chance of getting your campervan back.
A high spec tracker will provide you with the most peace of mind, as they are installed in a way that is much harder for a thief to find and remove them, and they provide much more proactive tracking of your vehicle and support if it’s stolen.
- Monitored by a 24/7 operating centre
- Private repatriation companies employed to assist police in recovering vehicle
- Nationwide and European police support
- Thatcham approved
- Easy to track via the app
- Alerts to notify you of any disturbances
- More expensive than self-install trackers
- Monthly subscription fee
- Need to be installed by a professional fitter
SmarTrack Trident Tracker
We recently decided to have a tracker installed in our campervan as some additional campervan security. When you have spent so much time and money on building your own home on wheels, the idea of having it stolen is heartbreaking. We had the SmarTrack Trident installed as an additional security measure. The Trident is a Stolen Vehicle Tracking (SVT) device that is Thatcham CAT6/S7 approved. It protects your vehicle using Interpol ICPO (International Criminal Police Organization) assistance which is supported in over 100 countries. It is also monitored 24 hours a day within the UK, and in the event of a theft they have a private repatriation team that will work alongside the police to attempt to recover your van.
The tracker can be monitored via an app which can:
- Show you the vehicles current location as well as its journey history
- Alert you if your vehicle moves without the ignition being started
- Alert you if the vehicle battery is low or disconnected
- You can set up a specific areas within the app, and then the app will alert you if your vehicle leaves the area
The 24/7 monitoring centre will also contact you via phone, text and email to ensure you’ve seen alerts in relation to the vehicle moving or the battery being disconnected, in case you haven’t spotted the alert on your phone, to ensure they can take action as quickly as possible.
We have been really impressed by the app already – it’s super easy to use, and you can easily see the current location of the campervan, its battery voltage, and you can add a geofence location so that as soon as the vehicle moves from that area, you receive an alert. This is a really great feature to provide some extra peace of mind for anyone parking their campervan somewhere and spending a day exploring a city or going for a hike.
The tracker comes with a 3 year warranty, and the installation price includes a national mobile installation service, so that you can have the tracker fitted from wherever you are based.
The SmarTrack Trident is available for £399, but if you quote “CLIMBINGVAN20” when contacting Smartrack, you can get a discount on your installation.
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