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Campervan security: all you need to know


The growth in demand for campervans has been accompanied by a rise in prices, making them increasingly attractive to thieves

And it’s not just newer vehicles being stolen, either, as the limited availability and high cost associated with spares mean that some older campers are being stolen to be broken down, for things like catalytic converters and engine components.

So, with thefts on the increase, it’s important to know how to keep your campervan secure and prevent campervan theft.

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Words by Iain Duff


Campervan security basics

An open campervan

(Photo courtesy of Warners Group Publications)

How are campervans stolen?

If your campervan is under 25 years old, it will have some form of immobiliser and possibly an alarm. These factory-fitted immobilisers are tricky to bypass as they’re often integrated into the engine control unit. However, the basic security can be easy for thieves to find and bypass.

Professional thieves will either use a relay box – in the case of a keyless-entry vehicle – or may break into a house to steal the keys. Some modern vehicles guard against relay theft, some do not – it’s wise to keep keyless-entry fobs well away from doors and windows in a Faraday bag or box.

The most sophisticated criminal gangs have keymasters that can make up and code an original key. Key cloning is rife and vehicles can be pinpointed and stolen to order. A determined professional thief is tricky to guard against.

Using readily available electronic gadgetry, it’s possible to clone key fobs by intercepting the signal when you’re locking up. Of course, better campervan security systems use radio signals designed to make cloning difficult, but professional thieves are never far behind in outsmarting security.

Keyless entry and keyless start creates other problems, whereby thieves can relay the signal from a keyless fob located in a house from outside. For this situation it’s best to keep your keys in a tin box or a Faraday bag.

Parking in safe areas

If you are in a city or large town, park in well-lit, busy areas whenever possible. For day-to-day campervan security when out and about using public parking spaces, you are more likely to attract the opportunistic thief and a good alarm and visible mechanical device are useful.

Good campervan security locks on doors and windows can help, too; although, as with any vehicle, the best precaution is to keep any obvious valuables out of sight. This includes your wallet, passport, phone, cash, laptop, among other items.

Do not leave registration documents in the campervan, as they can help thieves sell it on.

Campervan trackers

Campervans parked by a lake

(Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

Trackers have developed rapidly over the last couple of years, with the most sophisticated not only allowing the vehicle to be continually tracked and monitored but also to prevent it being stolen.

Campervan trackers were already one of the most effective ways to ensure a stolen campervan is recovered. But now they also are able to prevent a theft in the first place, which makes them a must-have for all leisure vehicle owners.

And, should the worst still happen – for example the campervan is lifted onto a low-loader – the tracker will be activated by the vehicle’s movement and the control centre and owner alerted. Once this happens, owners can expect their vehicle will be found and recovered – the industry reports recovery rates for vehicles fitted with an insurance-approved tracker are as high as 95%.

Check out our useful guide on motorhome trackers for more info.

Hardwired tracker or battery-powered?

In general, there are two types of tracker: a hardwired system and portable battery-powered tracker. If your insurance company requires a tracker, it is likely that it will insist on a Thatcham-approved, hardwired tracker that is permanently linked to your vehicle’s electrics.

This means that there is no need to charge the tracker. Once installed, your vehicle will be monitored 24/7 with geofence, vehicle movement and battery disconnect alerts and nationwide support from UK police forces.

Thatcham is the insurance industry-funded body that tests the efficacy of security products. It rates trackers as the advanced S5 or S7 models. An S7 tracker must use GPS features and is deemed an asset location system by insurers.

An S5 system adds a driver ID tag (also known as ADR – automatic driver recognition) to the system and may also include an immobilisation system, often referred to as S5 Plus. Both S5 and S7 systems are proactive and can monitor a vehicle remotely via a control centre that’s manned 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Portable battery-operated trackers have advanced a lot and, as with their hardwired counterparts, are concealed in a vehicle. With a battery life that can last up to six months a time, these trackers will remain active whilst the vehicle is in storage or not in use.

One of the advantages of these portable systems is that they come ready to use straight out of the box – all you need to do is place it inside the vehicle where it can’t be found.

How do trackers work?

Sadly, some campervans with trackers do still get stolen, but, with the latest systems, it is becoming harder for thieves to even start the vehicle, let alone steal it.

Geofences can also be created using many advanced tracking system apps, which send a notification if your vehicle enters or exits the area. Aftermarket alarm systems can also be wired to the tracker to create an alert if the alarm should sound, meaning you can continue to monitor your vehicle, even from afar, including full European coverage.

Tracking devices work in a similar way to a sat-nav system, utilising satellites for location information along with a GPRS/GSM connection (via a mobile phone network) to be able to send data back through to a control centre.

The tracker is a permanently powered transmitter with a SIM card hidden inside the vehicle. This sends the location and movement data to the control centre, which then tracks the vehicle. This data is also sent to the user, normally via an app on their smartphone so they can have a real-time view of their campervan’s location.

Depending on the system, you can get either a passive tracking device – ie, the control centre sends you a message via text, email or phone – or an actively monitored system.

All these latter systems will alert you via phone, email or text (depending on how you’ve set it up) that a potential theft has occurred and, once you’ve alerted the police and have a crime number, will act on your behalf to track the vehicle.

Insurers usually insist on a 24-hour actively monitored system and this can be a great benefit if you’re sleeping, remote from your phone, in a signal black spot, or have simply forgotten to charge your phone.

Most trackers work on the 2G mobile phone network and some on the 4G network. The 2G and 3G networks will be phased out by 2033 at the latest, with 3G being switched off first, but there has been no timescale agreed yet for the switch off of the 2G network.

The key benefit to all trackers, though, is their speed of response – thieves will usually move the vehicle first before dealing with the tracker and it’s this speed of response that can make all the difference to recovering a stolen campervan. It takes time and skill to detect a tracking system, so speed is everything.

Do you need to pay for a subscription?

All trackers rely on the mobile phone network and so will require a subscription to work. Most also have a manned 24-hour operations centre, which is also funded via the annual or monthly subscription.

Indeed, many pre-installed trackers will come with a subscription package already included. After that it is down to the owner to continue to pay an annual data-only subscription for the SIM inside the tracker to remain active, which can cost between £100 and £200 a year depending on the level of service.

Some tracker systems also offer lifetime subscriptions – typically costing several hundred pounds – but these are not always transferable, so, if you sell your camper, you’ll have to renew the package or even buy another unit.

If you plan to keep your campervan a long time – as most of us do – then these lifetime subscriptions can work out cheaper. Many also offer discounts for buying two to five-year subscriptions.

Can a campervan tracker save on insurance costs?

Professionally installed trackers can save on insurance costs even if they are not demanded by your insurance provider. Many tracker makers suggest that you’ll get between 10 and 25% discount on your campervan insurance premium with the fitment of an approved tracker.

Non-insurance-approved trackers are only as good as their installation and many may not be backed up with a large control centre. The decision on which campervan tracker to use is increasingly being taken out of the owner’s hands as a system may already be pre-installed.

If a tracker has not been installed, then, as mentioned, the insurance provider will often insist only an approved tracker is used.

Campervan physical security

An Atlas wheelclamp

(Photo courtesy of Stronghold)

With the increasing level of electronic sophistication adopted by criminals, it’s recommended also using mechanical devices to protect your campervan – they won’t stop a professional, but they will slow thieves down and will deter opportunists.

Campervan steering wheel locks are a common device, but unless they cover the whole steering wheel, they’re of limited use – the bar type can actually help thieves if they need to break the steering lock as they give extra leverage! As the steering wheel is made of mild steel, thieves will often just cut the rim to remove the lock – so fit a complete steering wheel cover.

Fit an extra security lock on the habitation door – that’s where most thieves gain entry. Pedal locks that cover the clutch, brake and throttle pedals are another useful visual deterrent and tricky to get around. Wheel clamps and security posts are both obvious visual deterrents and can be very useful, especially against opportunist thieves.

But, as with all devices, given the time, opportunity and the likelihood of not being disturbed, even these can be overcome by a determined gang. With all mechanical devices, you have to balance the inconvenience of using and storing them with the benefit they bring.

Using a campervan storage site

Secure storage sites also need some thought, as criminals can see these locations as a target for premium products.

Industry experts say keeping a campervan at home, under its owner’s watchful eye, is more favourable, although it can highlight when people are away and some new housing estates have covenants that don’t allow this.

If you store your campervan at home, improve driveway security with bollards, lights and security cameras.

Tips to keep your campervan secure

  • If you have an alarm or tracking system, pay for the subscription and use it
  • Fit visible physical devices that deter thieves
  • Add extra security to all doors, especially locker doors if they lead to the campervan interior
  • Consider roof markings to help identify the vehicle
  • Think about an aftermarket VIN chip system if one is not already fitted to your campervan
  • Apply window stickers to warn potential thieves that there are hidden security devices in use

Final thoughts

In a world where campervan theft is on the rise, safeguarding your cherished vehicle is paramount. As prices soar and thieves become more cunning, implementing robust security measures is essential. Whether it's investing in advanced trackers or bolstering physical defences, proactive steps can thwart even the most determined criminals.

With the latest technology enabling real-time monitoring and swift response, owners can rest assured knowing their campervans are protected. From smart trackers to strategic parking, vigilance remains the key to preserving your campervan and enjoying worry-free adventures.

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