Unfortunately, the decrease in caravan theft is not mirrored by the level of contents theft from leisure vehicles which has seen an increase in recent years. Thieves are often drawn to leisure vehicles by the likelihood that they will find electrical goods such as laptops, tablets, cameras and smartphones all of which have become a part of the modern holiday makers inventory. These gadgets are normally quite hard to trace and make for a good return on investment for crooks.
In this article we explore the security devices you can buy to help keep your caravan and its contents out of the hands of the thieves.
AL-KO, Milenco, Stronghold
Easy to fit, Portable
Can be heavy to take away with you
Drive away thefts do not always happen on caravan sites. Some get stolen from storage sites and some are even from the owners homes. Hitch locks are a popular method of deterring thieves as they prevent the caravan from being towed away by blocking off the hitch mechanism.
There are a multitude of hitch locks on the market all with differing designs. All however, will feature a ball section with fits in to the hitch and a locking mechanism which prevents the lever on top of the hitch from being lifted in order to remove the ball from the hitch. They take no more than a minute to fit which makes them very handy for quick stops as well as longer term stays or storage.
If you can afford to go for a more expensive lock then this is certainly money well spent. Look out for the Sold Secure gold and diamond standards to ensure you're getting the best quality lock for your money. Also check if the lock comes with a guarantee. Whilst a lock is money well spent, replacing a faulty one is a cost you could do without.
Some hitch locks have a compact design which makes them easy to take away with you. Some however may be larger and heavier and less suitable for taking away on a trip where you already have lots to take with you. These larger locks may offer more of a deterrent to thieves though so think carefully before you purchase.
Can help recover your caravan, cheap to do and may deter thieves as they will be unable to sell on
Does not always prevent theft
CRiS registration is part of the same company which offers the HPI checking system for cars. As such it works in a very similar way. When you register your caravan with CRiS, your caravan is able to be identified as stolen by police or by caravan dealers if thieves attempt to sell stolen goods via this route.
The CRiS registration number is affixed to your caravan and is either hidden or in a place which is very hard to remove (such as etched into the windows). You will also be issued with stickers which you can choose to put on your caravan and warn thieves that it is CRiS registered. This may help as a deterrent.
CRiS will be updating their service very shortly and will be improving access to information for their registered users. Watch this space for more news on the updated service.
Chassis secure wheel lock
Compact and portable, Very difficult to remove
Difficult to attach, Not suitable for short stops
These locks work by fitting between the spokes of the alloy wheels on your caravan therefore stopping the wheels from turning. They do provide very effective security for most modern caravans and are best suited for long stays where the caravan will not need to be moved.
The reason for this is that they are more difficult to fit than hitch locks (see above) and therefore cannot be "popped on and off" at a moment's notice. Fitting a wheel lock involves jacking up the caravan so that the wheel can be correctly aligned. This can be done by moving the whole caravan however, this can be frustrating if you have to compromise the perfect position on your pitch with the adequate alignment of your wheel lock. In any case, if you're not very mobile or able bodied, fitting a wheel lock could be a step too far.
On the plus side, being hard to put on means they're also hard to take off. If a thief is struggling to take off a security device it's more likely that they will attract the suspicions of others on the site who will raise the alarm. This is a huge benefit as most caravans are stolen by thieves in un assuming vehicles and with enough ease for other residents to assume that everything is above board.
Bulldog, Maypole, Autolok
Good for home security for caravans on driveways
Although caravanning has now become an all-year-round activity, the time can come when your caravan will spend some time parked in your drive. Security posts have a base that is concreted into the ground into which a post is secured and onto which your caravan ball head hitches and can be locked in place by a hitch lock. (see above).
Hitch posts are an excellent investment if your caravan spends a lot of time on your driveway over the winter months. If you do not have a secure storage site near by or you feel that a storage site is too expensive, a hitch post set up on your drive way may be a viable alternative.
Milenco, Nemesis, Bulldog
Easy to fit
Not ideal for short stops
Wheel clamps work in a similar way to wheel locks however, the caravan does not need to be raised off the ground to fit the device. These devices are similar to those used by certain parking enforcers. In this case however, you'll have the keys!
Wheel clamps will often consist of a central plate and steel arms which fit around the wheel and are locked in place by a barrel lock. Look out for wheel clamps with drill resistant locks for added security. It's best to check the clearance around the wheel of your caravan as some wheel claps can be quite bulky.
Although these are easier to apply than the wheel locks mentioned above, they still require a little time and effort for application. At a service station it's sometimes easier to have someone stay with the caravan rather than attach security devices but if you do need to leave the caravan unattended,we strongly recommend fitting your wheel clamp to keep your caravan secure. Just remember to remove it again before you tow away!
Pro active tracking devices
Phantom, AutoWatch, CobraTrak
Increases the chance of recovering a stolen caravan
Can be expensive and payments are ongoing to sustain service
Unfortunately, sometimes the criminals do manage to make off with your property. You can however, still hope to recover your caravan thanks to a range of tracking devices on the market which can aid you and the police in finding your stolen property.
Tracking systems are not necessarily the cheapest security option to install and there are those who would suggest that knowing the location of a stolen caravan sometimes hours after it has been stolen is not good enough. The more sophisticated trackers however are able to alert the owners via text message or warning phone call sometimes even as soon as the caravan has been broken into. This means that the owner is alerted as soon as possible and can be on the front foot by alerting the police and enabling real-time tracking from the first sign of trouble.
It's understandable that many caravanners would rather spend their cash on more "creature comfort" style additions than on security devices. You may be interested to know that you can now have both. Alde heating have teamed up with Phantom security products to create an integrated central heating and security system. This will allow you to remotely control your heating system as well as alert you to intruders and thefts.
There's also potential for future products to include maintenance alerts which can be sent directly to the manufacturer who would send out an engineer to repair the damaged parts. All very clever!
In some ways, having your caravan broken into is more distressing than having the caravan stolen all together. The invasion of privacy combined with the theft of your personal property is one of the most unpleasant situations to come back to. Security tagging the contents of your caravan will not necessarily prevent theft but it can help the police identify stolen goods and return them to their rightful owners. There are numerous ways of tagging including micro-dots. This type of tagging often includes a registration service which is not normally free. Monthly payments will be required to keep your items registered on the database. If you cease payment, you and the police may be denied access to the data on your missing goods. UV markers on the other hand, cost very little and can be used to mark your goods with your post code to distinguish them as yours. Whichever method you choose, security tagging your contents could help battle against thieves who're after your gadgets and holiday essentials rather than the caravan itself.
If you require more information on security devices, Thatcham and Sold Secure provide impartial ratings on products as well as helpful advice to help you have a safe and secure trip away in your caravan.
For more information on touring caravan insurance visit our dedicated page