How to easily prevent your tools being stolen from your van

James Barwell - Insurance Director at Bionic
By James Barwell, Insurance Director

As a tradesperson, your tools and van are your livelihood, and when these expensive essentials are stolen, it can really throw a spanner in the works.  

In fact, tradespeople are ten times more likely to have their tools stolen from a vehicle than when they’re at work or on a building site. Sadly, tool theft is an issue that is still at an all-time high, with 62% of tradespeople saying they have been a victim of tool theft within their careers.  

But how can you prevent your tools from being stolen? We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about keeping your most important tools from falling into the wrong hands.

Male picking up tool from toolbox

Why should you be vigilant against tool theft? 

The rise in tool theft up and down the country is alarming, to say the least. According to data from Direct Line, tools are stolen every 15 minutes across England, Wales and Northern Ireland — a nearly 13% increase from the previous year. 

Not only are tools costly to replace, but it can have a serious knock-on effect on a tradesperson's earnings by causing days or even weeks off work while you wait for your tools to be replaced.  

Which vans are most at risk? 

A study by Vanarama found that the number of van thefts increased in 2023 compared to 2022, a jump of 18% for a total of 12,950.  

The results from a Freedom of Information request to the DVLA revealed that the top 10 most stolen vans in the UK are: 

Position Van Make Thefts 
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 313 cdi 938 
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 314cdi 660 
Ford Transit 350 601 
Ford Transit Custom 290 Eco-Tech 344 
Ford Transit 125 T350 RWD 264 
Ford Transit Custom 270 Eco-Tech 251 
Ford Transit 100 T280 FWD 230 
Ford Transit 115 T350l RWD 200 
Ford Transit 100 T260 FWD 177 
10 Ford Transit 85 T280s FWD 170 

It's not great news if you’re driving a Ford model!

How do thieves gain access to vans? 

There are endless possibilities for thieves to gain access to your van — from breaking into more tech-savvy options, thieves are finding more and more opportunities. 

  1. Keyless theft — Keyless entry systems were seen as a step forward in vehicle security, but thieves have now found a way to get around these systems. Also known as ‘relay theft’, a device is used to fool the vehicle into thinking the car or van's remote fob is close by, unlocking the vehicle and allowing the ignition to fire up — if it’s a ‘Push to Start’ button. 
  2. Door peeling — Another common method for thieves to gain entry is 'door peeling'. This is when thieves physically peel back the side doors of vans by applying force to the door or window to bend and break it open.  Surprisingly, it can be quite a quiet method compared to other thieves' attempts.  
  3. Forced entry — In some cases, thieves will simply force the locks open using drills, pliers and other tools. This can be quite a noisy and time-consuming process, meaning thieves are less likely to use this method but will do it if they have to.  

How can you make your van less attractive to thieves? 

Unfortunately, if a thief wants to get into your van, they’ll usually stop at nothing to gain entry. But, you can try a few simple tips and tricks to make your van look less appealing. 

Remove tools overnight 

Thieves can be tempted by anything — even items you believe might not be of worth. It might sound obvious, but remove all your tools from your van overnight.  

While it can seem like a chore to cart your tools from the house to your van every day, it can save you costly fees in the long run. It’s also a good idea to have a ‘No tools left in the van overnight’ sticker to add as an extra deterrent. 

If thieves break into your van and don’t take anything, you’ll still be left with a damaged vehicle and the costs of repairing it. It’s better to be safe than sorry! 

Mark your tools 

Lots of tradespeople mark their tools to keep them from ending up in the wrong toolbox when they’re on the job — but, this can actually be a great deterrent for thieves.  

By marking your tools with bright colours, company details, or your initials, you can reduce the possibility of resale, making your tools less sought after by thieves.  

If the worst happens and your tools are stolen, they’ll have easier identifiable marks that can make them quicker to find on the resale market.  

Park strategically 

If you’re leaving your tools in your van for a prolonged period of time during the day — or you can’t bring them in overnight — consider where and how you park your van. 

Parking with your rear and sliding doors against a wall can prevent thieves from being able to enter your vehicle. 

As an extra level of protection, make sure to park in well-lit, busy streets, in view of CCTV if possible. If someone does break into your van, you’ll hopefully have witnesses or find the culprit on camera. 

It might sound obvious, but always test your door handle before you walk away from your van to ensure it’s locked!  

Invest in additional security 

If a criminal manages to get into your van, having an additional locked storage system presents another obstacle for them to get through — which could lead to them giving up.

There are loads of options available for adding a lockable storage system to your van, and this could be the difference between replacing your whole tool kit or simply paying for repairs to your van. 

What to do if your tools are stolen 

In the unfortunate event that your tools are stolen, you’ll want to make sure that you have trade insurance sorted. This includes cover for your tools and equipment. But there are some exclusions to this, many insurers won’t cover your tools if you decide to leave them in your van overnight. If you can, it’s best to lock them away securely in your premises. 

In the event they are stolen, there are a number of things you should do first: 

Report the theft to the police 

First, you’ll have to get in contact with or physically head to a police station to file a report.  

The police will then issue you with a crime reference number, which you’ll need to provide to your insurer to show that the police are looking into the matter. It’s important that you have this reference number before you make a claim.  

Notify your insurance company 

No one ever wants to have to make a claim, but if you do, you want it to be sorted as quickly and efficiently as possible.  

Once you’ve reported the crime to the police, you’ll need to provide your insurer with your reference number. Make sure that you have a list of every tool you own, along with a list of what has been stolen. You’ll need these as part of your supporting documentation.  

Secure your vehicle 

If your vehicle has been broken into, it’s important to make sure that it’s fully secure and in a safe area. 

If any windows or doors are broken, make sure that they’re covered or boarded up properly to ensure that no other criminals can be opportunists and attempt to steal anything else. On that note, any other valuable items should be removed from your vehicle and ensure that it’s properly locked. Your insurance will most likely need to see images of your vehicle as well.  

Monitor online marketplaces or local shops 

If you’re scouring online marketplaces and see someone selling tools for a suspiciously low price, the chances are they might be stolen. 

You may also be able to tell if the tools are stolen if there are limited images of the tools — this could be in an effort to hide any markings or engravings that give away that this tool belonged to someone else.

What are the consequences of your tools being stolen? 

The effect of tool theft is rife across the industry, with a report from On The Tools estimating £2.8 billion worth of tools have been stolen from UK tradespeople.  

But, apart from the staggering costs across the country, what knock-on effect can this have on you?  

  • Financial impact on van owners — The average value of tradespeople’s tools taken from their vehicles was £3,425. The cost of replacing this equipment can be extremely expensive.  
  • Risk your brand image — If your tools are constantly being stolen and you’re having to use replacements that don’t do the job, you could risk your brand image. People may be more hesitant to hire you if your tools aren’t up to scratch and this isn’t a reputation you want attached to your company.  
  • Cost of insurance premiums — Tool theft can have a significant impact on costs, especially insurance. Tool insurance is designed to cover the cost of replacing stolen or damaged tools, but some insurers might not cover tools that are left in a van overnight. Plus, if you find that your tools are being stolen quite frequently, and you’re therefore making more claims on your insurance, your insurer may class you as high risk and bump up the price of your policy.

How do you choose the right insurance policy for your tools and van? 

The right trade insurance policy can be hard to find, especially if you’re not entirely sure what you do and don’t need cover for.

As a general rule of thumb, your insurance policy will depend on several factors, such as:  

  • The number of tools you need to insure 
  • The type of work you do 
  • The type of tools that you use  
  • Where your tools are kept overnight 
  • The amount of coverage you need 
  • Your vehicle or van category 

Find out more about trade insurance with our guide.

Get your business set with Bionic 

As a tradie, it’s so important that you have the right amount of coverage in place for your tools and your van. If the worst should happen, you’ll be covered and can get back to your next job. 

In the meantime, for all things business, get in touch with our team here at Bionic, who can help with sorting other business insurance needs. Or check out our broadband, phone and VoIP services to get your business on the right track.  

Looking for some more inspiration? Head over to our Business Insurance guides page.