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Home Tradesman Insights Knowing where to park your van could save your business

Knowing where to park your van could save your business

With a van broken into every 23 minutes, the second hand tool market has never been bigger. Read on to find out if you’re living or working in a high risk area

Tim, a skilled trader, runs his own business. He lives in Surrey with his wife and two kids. Last month, Tim was contacted by a client who offered him a job in Central London. Tim was reluctant at first. The job was in an area he didn’t normally cover, but the money was good, and there was promise of more work if things went well. He accepted the contract.

The next day, Tim loaded his tools and machinery into his van, and headed for London.

The first morning went well. Tim was ahead of schedule and the client was impressed. For lunch, Tim drove to a local cafe, but struggled to find a place to park. He ended up parking his van down a side street, a ten minute walk from the cafe.

At lunch, he called his wife and told her there was a good chance he would be offered more work. His wife was happy and suggested they book a holiday for later in the year.

After lunch, Tim walked back to his van and sensed something was off. He checked the rear doors to find they had been forced open. Most of his tools and machinery were gone. They had been stolen.

Tim drove back to the worksite and explained what happened to his client. The client was sympathetic, but was on a tight schedule and had to let Tim go. No tools. No job.

Unfortunately, Tim’s story is common.

Thousands of traders across the UK fall victim to tool and machinery theft each year. If you’re a trader storing equipment in the back of a van, you’re a target, and your livelihood is at risk.

The theft itself is only part of the story. There’s the knock-on effect, too. Loss of work. Delayed projects. Missed deadlines. Reduced income and bills left unpaid. Not to mention the reputation you spent years building, vanishing overnight.

When it comes to van security, location should be considered a high priority.

Parking down a side street

Choosing a safe place to live is a huge priority for most families, however it’s not as easy to choose where you work. If you’re an independent trader you can’t be picky about the contracts you take on. This means you may be travelling from low risk areas, like towns and villages, to high risk areas, like cities.

The area you live and work can pose a different risk

It’s in areas where crime is higher that you’ll need to be more cautious. A quick coffee, or burger, is more than enough time for thieves to clean out your van. And once your tools have been ripped off, it’s near impossible to track them down.

AreaNumber of thefts
Greater London (Metropolitan)13,253
West Midlands3,184
Avon & Somerset1,220

Number of van break-ins in different areas of the UK
Source: Responses to Logistics UK Freedom of Information request by 27 Police Forces, August/September 2020.*

As you can see the number of thefts in Greater London is far higher than the number of thefts in Surrey. However, this doesn’t mean van drivers can lower their guard when they get home from work.

Over a third of break-ins occur when parked on the street outside the van driver’s home. And almost a quarter of tools are stolen when the van is parked in the owner’s driveway.

Even when you’re at home, it’s important to take precautions to deter thieves.

Off-street parking26.5%
Driver’s home driveway23.5%
Driver’s on-street parking38.2%

Where most break-ins occur
Source: Logistics UK Van Security Survey, August-September 2020.*

What are thieves looking for?

It’s also worth noting the type of items that attract unwanted attention.

High-end items, certain brands, and popular model numbers are hot property as they’re easier to resell. Tools that are used across different trades are also more difficult to track down once they’ve been stolen.

Personal items, which are often unique to the victim and hold sentimental value, are also on thieves’ radar.

Targeted ItemsPercentage
Driver’s personal items41.7%
Electronic Devices25%
Van equipment parts13.9%

List of sought after items
Source: Logistics UK Van Security Survey, August-September 2020.*

Protection for your van

Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can protect your van against break-ins and theft.

Additional locks

It’s worth investing in extra locks to keep your tools and machinery secure. Thieves are familiar with standard security features that are installed by van manufacturers. Failing to change or update locks on a recent van purchase makes your van an easy target.

The two most common type of locks are slamlocks and deadlocks. These locks operate in slightly different ways, and it’s recommended they are installed by a professional.

Dash & Doorbell Cams

Dash cams do exactly what you expect, but display a reduced view of the van itself. If, however, you have a van parked in front of you, the dash cam footage can be used to aid other victims.

Doorbell cams are a popular choice. These cameras can be mounted on your front door and have a motion sensor built in. Anyone who approaches your vehicle will be automatically recorded, and footage can be fed directly to your phone though an app.

Doorbell cams also cover a wide area. If you’re parked in a driveway, you can angle the camera to get a full view of the van.


New to the market, Toolwatch is an app that lets users register tools and machinery. Toolwatch was developed by trader Alan Brett, who lost £8,000 worth of tools after his van was broken into. The app records proof of ownership and reports any theft to the police. This makes recovery and insurance claims easier to deal with.

These suggestions add an extra layer of security to your van, but are not foolproof. Even with precautions, vans are broken into on a regular basis.

This is why it’s critical to get insurance cover.

With the right tool and equipment insurance policy, the items you keep in your van are covered. If the worst happens and you fall victim to theft, the insurance will help you replace stolen items.


* Respondents asked to choose as many as applicable, so total exceeds 100%.

Mark McPherson

Mark McPherson has an MA in Creative Writing and has been crafting content for over a decade. He writes for a range of niches, including the construction industry and insurance sector. Mark has worked internationally as a content writer and teacher.

All articles by Mark McPherson

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