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Top Van Security Tips

Leasing a van from Nationwide Vehicle Contracts means that you are serious about your business. Often, a van is a large part of your livelihood, and any downtime would have a serious impact on your bottom line. As such, you need to be serious about van security. After all, in addition to the value of the van itself, and the tools or materials inside, there is also the value that the van gives to your business to consider too. 

To help keep your van as safe and secure as possible, Nationwide Vehicle Contracts has put together a comprehensive guide with our top tips to ensure your van - and cargo - remain as safe as possible and not vulnerable to thieves.

van theft breaking lock on van

What security features should I be looking for on my new van?

Now more than ever, vehicle security is vital as criminals have upped their game, developing modern techniques to bypass vehicle anti-theft devices. When looking for your new lease van, you should make security a top priority. Getting the security right from the very start means you will stay on the road a lot longer and will be able to provide your much-needed services to your customers.

Thankfully, most modern vans already come with a range of security features as standard, such as alarms, immobilisers, deadlocks and tracking systems. 

Security features to look out for on your new van should include:

  1. Thatcham Alarms

    Most modern vans such as the Citroen Relay, Ford Transit and Peugeot Partner come with factory fitted Thatcham approved alarms or similar. The loud noise that emanates from a van alarm not only helps to deter thieves by frightening them off but also reduces the length of time they have to steal from your van before they are disturbed. Be sure to check what category alarm is fitted (category 1 is best) as these alarms can operate with your existing central locking system. For vans without an alarm, aftermarket security can be added with permission from the finance provider.

  2. Immobilisers

    An immobiliser is an electronic device that stops a vehicle from starting unless the correct key or key fob is used. It is compulsory for all new vehicles in England and Wales to have one installed. An immobiliser works when you start your van, and the key or fob sends a code to the electronic code unit that allows the engine to start. If a thief attempted to steal the van by using an incorrect key, the immobiliser would activate and prevent the Engine Control Unit (ECU) from receiving the code and won't allow it to start. 

  3. Deadlocks

    A deadlock style lock is fitted to the van door and connecting body panel. They work by throwing a bolt into a receiving bracket fitted to the van's internal bodywork. Deadlocks are controlled by an external key, which creates an additional secure locking point to the vehicle door. A deadlock style lock is difficult to pick as there's no spring involved in the locking mechanism. One drawback with deadlocks for vans however is that you need to remember to lock the doors again every time you use them. 

  4. Tinted or blacked-out windows

    Tinted windows on vans are a great security feature, particularly for the rear windows, as they reduce visibility from looking inside the vehicle. It's vital to get tinted window film professionally installed, as there are legal limits on how dark your windows can be, particularly at the front of the vehicle where the driver's visibility might be affected.

    If you are thinking of having your van's windows tinted, you must check with your finance provider before installation. It is always worth checking before to make sure that you have the appropriate permissions in place. 

  5. Lockable fuel filler caps

    Locking fuel caps are an excellent way to prevent fuel theft and are a necessity for van owners. Criminals are now targeting vehicle’s fuel due to the increase in fuel costs. Most vans have standard fuel caps that do not offer any protection, and even some new vans do not have interior fuel door releases. It's vital that you invest in some lockable fuel caps and if your vehicle already has them as standard, make sure you lock them to prevent your fuel from being stolen.

  6. Lockable wheel nuts

    Locking wheel nuts are used by all van and car manufacturers to keep wheels secure to the vehicle and are designed to prevent car wheel theft. To remove a locking wheel nut, you need a locking wheel nut key. Locking wheel nuts work as each locking nut has a patterned indent and a key that matches each pattern. The nut can only be removed when the vehicle's key is inserted.

  7. GPS trackers

    Electronic GPS trackers are devices used to monitor something or someone's location remotely. Getting one fitted for your van allows the device to send data to GPS satellites, directing the info onward to the insurance provider or device owner's connected app or phone number. Some of the most advanced tracking systems use various methods to find a missing van and alert the police, which allows them to locate the vehicle's exact location. While fitting a tracking device won't necessarily prevent a vehicle from being stolen, it will help increase the vehicle's chances of being recovered and returned by the police. 

What are the best lock types for my van? 

If you're serious about your van's security, it's a good idea to invest in a good lock as they are one of the first lines of defence when preventing thieves looking to break in. Below is a list of different lock options to stop thieves from getting inside your van:

Slam lock

This lock style is designed to prevent human error and safeguard against a driver forgetting to lock doors whilst away from the vehicle. They do precisely what the name suggests, as the door is locked the moment you slam the door. 

Slam locks can be unlocked with a digital remote or a key; however, it's thought to be safer using the key as it's reasonably easy for lawbreakers to acquire a copy of a digital remote.

Deadlock

A deadlock style lock is fitted to the van door and connecting body panel. They work by throwing a bolt into a receiving bracket fitted to the van's internal bodywork. The Deadlock lock style is difficult to pick as there's no spring involved in the locking mechanism.

Deadlocks are controlled by an external key, which creates an additional secure locking point to the vehicle door. One drawback with deadlocks for vans is that you need to remember to lock the doors again every time you use them.

Catalytic converter lock

A catalytic lock style is installed around a vehicle catalytic converter or diesel particulate filter to prevent theft or tampering. The catalytic lock is made up of a marine-grade stainless steel cage that surrounds the converter. Two stainless steel security ropes are securely attached to the cage and connected to the vehicle's underbody. 

Unfortunately, thieves are prone to stealing the van's catalytic convertor due to the particulate filters containing precious metals that can sell for more than £500 on the black market.

Many companies offer catalytic converter locks, so it's worth shopping around for one that does the job and is the best value for money.

Any locks you install or other security measures you take should be Thatcham-approved where possible. Thatcham is considered the gold standard by most insurers, so this is an excellent place to find out about vehicle security.

How can I make my van more secure?

While manufacturer-fitted security systems will certainly help to prevent theft, it's also crucial that you take sensible measures of your own to make your van less desirable to thieves. These include: 

  • Keep your key fob safe
  • Think about where you park
  • Don't leave any valuables or belongings inside your van
  • Keep the vehicle locked at all times
  • Invest in the latest security technology
  • Keep a record of what's in your van
  • Make sure fellow employees follow the rules 

Let’s take a closer look at each of these tips. 

Keep your key fob safe

Just like you do with your house keys, it's essential to keep your van key fobs safe and out of sight. Thieves nowadays use jammers to capture the fob and the van’s signal, leaving the vehicle unlocked and vulnerable to theft. Most modern vans now have an audible or visual signal to notify the driver, which indicates the van is locked, while others will use 'pins' inside the windows, which will lower when the doors have been locked. However, it is still vital you take steps to prevent your key from being stolen. 

The most commonplace for hiding a key is near the front door or under a doormat. Many people choose to place them there for convenience; however, most thieves know this, and it is the first place they look. When at home or in the workplace, be sure to keep your vehicle keys out of sight and away from easy finger-swiping reach. Once you find a place to keep your keys safe, it might be a good idea to invest in some signal-blocking pouches.

Putting your keys in a signal-blocking pouch will help stop any thieves from amplifying the signal when you're not using your keys. However, they sometimes leave the signal jammers at the side of a car park or even in bushes, so it's always best to be on your guard and double-check your van is locked.

Think about where you park

Choosing the right place to park your van can reduce your vehicle's chances of getting broken into. You mustn't just park in the first space you see. Try and park somewhere well-lit and busy, where people passing can see the van regularly, even if you are leaving it for just a few minutes. 

If you need to use a car park, try to find security patrolled, covered by CCTV, or approved for Park Mark’s safer parking. Likewise, if you park your van at home or work, try and keep it in a well-lit position. If that's not possible, then consider security gates, lockable bollards or motion-sensor lights. Thieves are less likely to target your vehicle if they believe they might be disturbed.

Don't leave any valuables or belongings inside your van

It sounds obvious, but it is often ignored or forgotten, so be sure to take your belongings with you when you park to help avoid opportunistic thieves or van vandalism. This includes all tools, sat navs, tablets and mobile phones. Even having a bag or coat on display or leaving loose change on the dashboard is enough to tempt somebody to break into your van and leave you with a hefty repair bill for a broken window. For items that can’t be removed, make sure it is well out of sight of prying eyes. If you can see through the rear door windows (if you have them), make sure that anything in the back is also out of sight. Removing temptation from sight is good prevention.

It is almost a given now that a working van will contain some sort of technology usually associated with the job, from sat navs and tablets to Bluetooth and infotainment systems. If possible, try and remove all equipment and technology from the van without leaving anything valuable in the cabin or boot overnight. Make it clear to those passing the vehicle that the vehicle is empty by installing a “Tools are not left in this van” sticker. 

Keep the vehicle locked at all times

All the world’s security systems can't prevent a van's theft if you leave it unlocked - even for a minute. As obvious as it sounds, make sure that you secure and lock the van even if you are just popping in to pay for petrol or just a quick delivery. That includes all windows and all doors, including rear doors and any sliding ones.

Invest in the latest security technology

Most modern vans already come with an alarm and immobiliser as standard, but it may be worth upgrading to a more advanced system like a tracking device to improve your van's security. Electronic GPS trackers are devices used to monitor something or someone's location remotely. Getting one fitted for your van allows the device to send data to GPS satellites, directing the info onward to the insurance provider or device owner's connected app or phone number. Some of the most advanced tracking systems use various methods to find a missing van and alert the police, which allows them to locate the vehicle’s exact location.

While fitting a tracking device won't necessarily prevent a vehicle from being stolen, it will help increase the vehicle’s chances of being recovered and returned by the police. A tracker also has the potential to lower your insurance premiums when you get one fitted. Insurance companies love GPS tracking devices because it helps with remote asset recovery. It could take weeks for police to hunt down a stolen vehicle, whereas having a tracking device can ping your vehicle's exact location. This is why insurance premiums are lower if you have an anti-theft device fitted, as it reduces the likelihood of insurance providers having to pay out a large claim. A tracking device can also keep your running costs down by allowing you to monitor your mileage so you can change your driving style to cut down on fuel consumption.

Keep a record of what's in your van

Try and keep a record of any inventory, either on a notebook or spreadsheet, by listing the make, model and serial number of all your business's portable equipment. AXA suggests making a habit of holding onto the receipt for everything you buy. These help you determine the value of an item for insurance purposes if the unthinkable does happen and your van gets broken into. Direct Line reported that the average value of stolen tools is £385, with an estimated 217,000 tools stolen between 2017 and 2019. As trades businesses will know, you tend to build your collections of tools over many years and gather an impressive display, so ensuring they are kept as safe and secure as possible is vital.

You can register your equipment and tools with a system such as Immobilise. This is a database of property ownership that can be accessed by the police to track stolen goods. It may also be worth marking valuable equipment using a watermark-style system that registers valuables on a central database. This means that if your tools are recovered, it's more likely to be returned to you as it's harder to sell on an item marked.

Make sure fellow employees follow the rules 

If you are not the only person that uses the van, make sure that anyone else (such as partners and employees) who use it keep to your standards. It is no use locking the doors every time you leave it if someone else ignores this advice.

van theft looking through van window

How can security affect my van insurance?

Van insurance typically is more expensive than car insurance because vans usually have more significant engines and a larger storage capacity, meaning there's a greater chance they will be carrying valuable cargo. As a result, claims are likely to cost more, so premiums are higher to reflect this. 

Depending on what type of van security measures you opt for, you could end up paying a lot more in insurance premiums. Making your van more secure by following the simple actions above could help see your van insurance costs go down, although it’s unlikely that any potential insurance discounts will balance out the money you'll pay for added security measures. However, making your van more secure means it's less likely to be broken into, meaning less chance that you require to make a claim in the future.

If you are thinking of making changes to your van in order to boost its security, you must check with your finance and insurance provider before making any changes. While most finance and insurance providers allow some security measures to be fitted to the vehicle, others don't, as it is classed as a modification. As such, it is always worth checking before getting any new security features to make sure that you have the appropriate permissions in place.

Top 5 vans for security

  1. red nissan nv300 driving on road

    1 Nissan NV300

    The Nissan NV300, previously named the Primastar, won the Medium Van of the Year award at the Great British Fleet Awards 2020. Nissan has received numerous awards for its effort in minimising break-ins and theft of vans, including the Manufacturer Security Award at the British Insurance Vehicle Security Awards. The award credits the work Nissan has done across its van range to defend vehicles from being stolen or broken into, ultimately helping reduce insurance premiums. The Nissan NV300 has an alarm and immobiliser fitted as standard. The van’s locking system also allows single-door unlocking, and every van comes equipped with super locks. While these features won't entirely stop your van from being broken into, they will help certainly reduce the possibilities.

  2. silver mercedes-benz sprinter driving on road

    2 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

    The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter retained its title after being awarded the Van of the Year honour at the Great British Fleet Awards for the second year. The Sprinter van has an alarm and immobiliser systems fitted as standard, whilst also having a keyless entry. This means you never need to take the key out of your pocket, which reduces the chance of losing it. The Mercedes Pro Connect app means you can easily locate the vehicle, making it handy for big parking lots and recovery if the worst does happen and your van gets stolen. The same system also allows you to remotely lock the van's doors and see whether the doors and windows are all closed correctly. Mercedes offers an Anti-Theft Protection package that improves your vehicle's protection and any valuables in the interior. Consisting of more accurate audible and visual warning when it detects a break-in, attempted theft or unauthorised towing.

    FROM £379.20 Price per month Excl VAT
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  3. blue ford transit driving in the mountains

    3 Ford Transit MWB

    The Ford Transit range is the most popular and best-selling van in the UK, according to Admiral with 16,611 registrations by the end of March 2019. The best selling van was also the winner of the What Van? Medium Van of the Year Awards in 2019. The Ford Transit range comes with a Thatcham Category 1 alarm that automatically arms itself when you double-lock the vehicle and sounds a powerful warning if triggered by forced entry, if the vehicle is lifted, or the motion sensors pick up any movement inside. The FordPass Connect system can also send you a notification if the alarm is activated. Ford's impressive FordPass Pro technology offers a Guard Mode, which alerts you should someone try to open the vehicle without your permission, even if they're using a key. The FordPass Pro smartphone app allows you to see the van's location at any time as well. 

    FROM £278.25 Price per month Excl VAT
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  4. white volkswagen caddy cargo

    4 Volkswagen Caddy

    The Volkswagen Caddy is a smaller scale van, but Volkswagen has put more robust lock mechanisms on their vans to secure them. The Volkswagen Caddy has deadlocks installed which means once you open the side/rear door of the van, it automatically closes and locks behind you after you have finished. This security measure prevents thieves from rooting through the van's cargo whilst you're not present. Deadlocks are also great as you don't always have free hands to close and lock up after getting what you need from the back. All current versions of the Volkswagen Caddy get an immobiliser as standard.

    FROM £218.82 Price per month Excl VAT
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  5. grey vauxhall vivaro van

    5 Vauxhall Vivaro

    The Vauxhall Vivaro is another popular van of choice. This van has great added security features with Garrison SlamPlate Handles, which come as standard; however, you can also opt for the Garrison SlamPlate and deadlocks for the Vauxhall range. The Vauxhall Vivaro has insurance approved Thatcham immobiliser also as standard. All Vauxhall Vivaro models come with remote locking and unlocking, which allows you to function your van from a distance if your hands are occupied carrying cargo.

    FROM £226.37 Price per month Excl VAT
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