Updated: Apr 13
A life on the road can be a carefree existence… until something bad happens.
Perhaps you notice that the door is ajar or that the window is open. Perhaps there’s a distinct lack of van in the spot where you parked. Whatever the case, it’s often only now that you’ll think about what you could’ve done to prevent this tragedy. The answer? Quite a bit.
The prevention of damage or theft is so much easier than finding the cure. Before taking your life on the road, you should ensure your rolling home is every bit as secure as your non-rolling home would be. In fact, your campervan should be more secure – it’s far easier to steal than a three-bedroom townhouse, after all.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the 10 best ways to ensure you, your van and your valuables stay safe on the road.
A boring place to start, sure, but what else could we possibly do with the most important item on this list? The truth is that no matter how many security features your van has, there’s still a chance – albeit a small one – that your van will be broken into, damaged or stolen.
Before you roll even an inch down the road, secure a comprehensive policy that at the very least guards you against the most likely issues you could face, and will ideally cover you for everything, including all that is valuable in your van. As a handy bonus, insurance will also protect you against accidents of your own creation.
2. Door locks
As long as there have been thieves, there have been locks. While your van (should) come with at least basic locks, it might be wise to bulk up your defenses.
There are three main types of van door locks:
Dead locks: A keyed locked like the one you find on your home’s front door acts as an extra layer of protection against intruders.
Slam locks: These click into place as soon as you close the door, and ensure your van is always locked. There is an increased risk of locking your keys inside, however.
Van Locks: Bolt on locks that you commonly see on work vans, these are cheap and look intimidating, although they aren’t super effective, nor are they great for aesthetics.
An immobilizer is an electronic device that prevents your van’s engine from running if it doesn’t detect the right key. Immobilizers are common on new vans, and can be retrofitted to old vans.
4. Steering wheel locks
The classic anti-theft device, steering wheel locks provide a secondary – and very visual – level of security. Most thieves will be put off simply by the presence of a steering wheel lock, but even if they do choose to have a go, they’ll need an angle grinder to make any sort of headway.
Steering wheel locks come in the traditional bar style, or as a more subtle circular case that seals off the steering wheel.
5. Gear locks
A similar concept to the steering wheel lock, gear locks are designed to prevent potential thieves from being able to take your van out of neutral or ‘park’. Another visual deterrent, they generally attach to your gear stick and handbrake, and are a cheap but very effective anti-theft device.
6. Wheel clamps
More commonly associated with bad parking, wheel clamps are perhaps the most effective form of visual deterrent, as a potential thief can spot them from a mile away! Rather than using the heavy, solid steel versions that you see clamped on unlucky cars in the city, there are a number of light and easy-to-install options that are every bit as effective.
7. Window/door alarms
Sometimes all that you need to do is startle a potential thief. If you can draw attention to your van at the right time, you’ll more than likely stop them in their tracks. Alarms are designed to do just that.
There are a number of retrofit alarms on the market, each built for a specific purpose. You can install alarms on the windows, on the doors, or even models that arm the entire vehicle, going off when they sense that someone is attempting to gain entry by force.
These alarms are generally either magnetic or motion triggered. Given the amount of movement in and around a campervan, magnetic alarms are usually a better choice than motion.
8. Lockable storage
Despite all your locks and alarms, someone has still managed to gain entry into your van. But you’ve still got one layer of protection up your sleeve: you’ve locked all your valuables away.
Lockable storage is an absolute must for your campervan, ensuring that things like cash, cards, IDs and electronics stay safe whenever you’re otherwise engaged. If you’re fitting out your campervan from scratch, be sure to get locks incorporated into the cabinetry. Safes and lockers can also be retrofitted to prefab campervans, you should just ensure that they’re bolted in.
Like lockable storage, a tracking device should be seen as a last element of protection, this time against the theft of your van. These aren’t anti-theft devices as such (although putting a sticker on your van that says ‘this vehicle has a tracker’ will help), but rather a way to find your vehicle if it does indeed get stolen.
Trackers feature a GPS that can upload the location of the van to an app via an internal SIM card. Basic trackers will simply tell you the location of your van at regular intervals, while more advanced trackers will offer a real-time feed, and may even give you the option to remotely shut off your engine.
10. A dog
The last piece of the campervan security puzzle is the cutest of the lot. While it will represent an additional member of your van life crew, dogs offer van security with added bite!
Lastly, there are a few low cost/no cost ways to avoid the worst of van life, and keep enjoying the best.
Park in safe spots (well-lit in the city, established boondocking locations.)
Put security stickers on your back window (beware dog, van is alarmed, this van has a tracker.)
Hide your valuables and close your curtains/blinds.
By using any or all of the measures above, you’ll be ensuring that your van, and the exciting, adventurous and fun life that comes with it, will be able to be enjoyed for years to come.