Securely fastened - how to keep your caravan safe from theft
It’s happened to all of us on holiday at some point. The tea-leaf strikes. Whether you lose the book you left by the pool while you nip to the loo (twice), a laptop or phone while staying in a hostel (thankfully never), your specially engraved silver hip flask your mates bought for your graduation (oh, the lingering bitterness) or your shoes from outside your room in Asia (er, what?), light-fingered gits are everywhere. You soon get used to bringing your passport, money and all valuables with you to the shower (apart from, once, the silver hip flask), locking your room door even if you’re just going down the hall, and sitting with your bag wrapped so tightly around your legs that after a cocktail you forget it’s there and fall over it when you stand up. Grr.
But imagine having something like your caravan nicked. A whopping investment, an expensive piece of kit, and very probably filled with all your equipment and lots of memories. Grr again. The AA estimates that up to 4000 caravans are nicked in the UK every year, often to order by professional caravan thieves – actor Ricky Tomlinson had his £13,000 Hobby 635 stolen last week.
You might think that caravans are difficult to steal, especially one like Ricky Tomlinson’s which wasn’t even on wheels at the time. But nope – caravan thieves are professionals, and even leaving your caravan unsecured for a couple of minutes while you go and get a cup of tea can see it towed away once your back’s turned. We say grr yet again. Sadly the law dictates that thieves can’t be tracked down and justice meted out Charles Bronson style, so the only thing to do is make sure they can’t get their mitts on your caravan in the first place. Here’s how.
First up, obviously always make sure the caravan is secured between trips, wherever you store it. If you’re using a site that offers tourer storage facilities, make sure you talk to site owners about their security arrangements before you pick that site, and consider ringing the local police as well to get a general overview of the area. Also check that storing your caravan away from home won’t affect an insurance claim. Then secure the caravan by clamping the wheels, using a hitch lock and attaching a security post. Don’t overlook doors and windows either – someone might be put off from trying to steal a caravan if it’s attached to a post, but they can still climb in through the window and steal from or vandalise the inside.
Wheel clamps, hitch locks and security posts are also recommended for caravans parked outside your house or in your drive, and add an alarm (or two) so you and the street will know if someone’s trying to tamper with it. Sadly none of this will help if someone’s really determined as they can detach the post and lift the caravan, clamps and all, onto a lorry, but it’ll deter the less well-equipped thieves and make your insurance claim easier if the worst happens.
You could also look into installing CCTV overlooking your driveway – but make sure it’s well above normal height so thieves can’t disable or cover it. And think speed and noise when securing your caravan, as thieves will be more likely to be deterred the longer they have to take to get through security measures and whether the equipment needed to do this will be overly noisy.
On the road, especially at service stations, most of these tips still apply. Service stations are easy targets for caravan thieves as they’re close to motorways and the thief can be miles away with your caravan before the police even arrive. Even a tracking device won’t be much good here if the police in the area say they’re too busy to try and track the caravan for a few hours – by which time it could be on a ferry and out of the country.
If you’re only going into the station to pay for petrol or quickly buy something, leaving someone in the car is probably the easiest way to keep a touring caravan safe as long as the car doors are locked. (Personally I’d also get the petrol-buyer to clamp a wheel of the caravan anyway, as I don’t think small vague me sitting dreamily on guard in the car and looking out of the window would do much good if someone really wanted to unhitch the caravan from the car.) Otherwise, even if you’re only going to be away for a few minutes, clamp a wheel, double check that the alarm is set, secure all the windows and doors, and don’t leave bags, documents and other valuables behind.
- At home, keep your caravan and security keys well hidden – if you’re burgled, you don’t want to lose your caravan as well.
- Don’t leave your purchase papers and insurance details inside the caravan, as a couple in Norfolk did last week – thieves selling your caravan will look legit if they have all the paperwork.
- Take your valuables with you when you leave your caravan. If this isn’t practical, lock them away and pull the curtains so thieves can’t see equipment to steal.
- Ask about built-in security when buying a new caravan.
- Add the cost of wheel clamps, chains and other security measures to the cost of buying your caravan. There's no point spending thousands of pounds on the ideal caravan and not factoring in a couple of hundred quid to keep it safe in your driveway.
- Take photos of your caravan so it can be easily identified, especially of any distinguishing features. A perfect excuse to spray paint it in bright colours and add a ‘Make love not war’ slogan, we think.
Anything we’ve missed out? Let us know. We’d rather be paranoid than caravanless.