Ever had tools stolen from your van? It’s a crime wave you never knew existed

If you’re a tradesperson and you’ve had your van broken into, you’ll have an idea of the problem the UK has with tool theft. This unassuming issue has swept the trade community and there is no question that almost every tradesperson knows another who has had tools stolen from their work van.

Between the years 2016 and 2018, there was a marked rise in tool theft with a 54% increase in tool theft claims made in the UK. The fact that the average claim value stands at £1,684 speaks to the seriousness of the problem and the monetary damages incurred by tradespeople and their businesses. It’s clear that the community needs to protect itself, which is why we have written this here guide to preventing tool theft.

We will shed a little light on the issue itself, and provide tips to protect yourself and your tools from theft. If you would like to take actionable steps to prevent the theft of your tools, keep reading.

Tool theft in the UK – how the numbers stack up

Tool theft has the potential to threaten livelihoods, and the community receives very little protection or guidance from the government. In fact, the Van and Tool Theft Awareness Group was set up by similarly targeted tradespeople as a way to share information and spread awareness of the issue. Tradesmen Against Thieves is another platform set up by victims. With thousands and thousands of members, it’s hard to grasp exactly why the issue receives such little coverage.

The numbers speak for themselves. Let’s take a look.

Here are the total UK tool thefts from 2016 to 2018 (Simply Business)


201620172018Total% Increase
South West England15597915381
North West England36699820363
South Central England468211724561
South East England5110510626252
East Anglia6712713833251
The Midlands7913113834843
North East England7411911530836

You can see clear increases in pretty much every part of the UK. That doesn’t even take into account 2019, which according to the Insurance Times was similarly rife with expensive claims for tool thefts. Analysis by ECIC, a dedicated insurer for the building services sector, revealed that claims costs for the theft of tools from vans increased by more than half (55%) in 2019.

If that wasn’t enough, the analysis also found that the average tool theft claim reached £2,685 – a highly significant cost for any tradesperson to cover at short notice.

Which trades are most affected by tool theft?

Looking again at the Simply Business research, we can reveal the five most affected trades when it comes to tool theft. They’re worked out by looking at the number of claims made.

  1. Builders (675 claims made)
  2. Carpenters (357 claims made)
  3. Electricians (258 claims made)
  4. Plumbing, heating, and ventilation (223 claims made)
  5. Joiners (214 claims made)

How do you protect yourself against tool theft?

Now that you have a little background on the problem, it’s important that you know how to protect your tools, your van, and your livelihood. No matter how big or small your firm might be, you’re not exempt from being targeted.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to protect your tools. Take note!

Engrave your most expensive tools with personal information

This is a pretty big deterrent, and it may even lower the resale value of your tools. Engraving personal information onto your tools (like an address or phone number to contact) may even increase the likelihood of them being found and the thief arrested.

Add a GPS tracker to your toolbox

Adding a tracker somewhere discreet on your toolbox won’t help you prevent theft, per se, but it’s the best thing you can do in the event that it is stolen. Plenty of companies sell trackers for toolboxes and you simply drill them into place. With a GPS tracker, you stand a far greater chance of relocating any stolen or lost equipment.

Take note of serial numbers

As each tool will have an individual serial number, you should note down the serial numbers of your tools. If your tools are stolen, giving this kind of information to the police will be a great help when it comes to locating them. It will also help your insurance provider!

Think about bringing your tools indoors

Lots of tool thefts happen overnight when a tradesperson’s tools are in the van. When you’re fast asleep, your van is a relatively easy target and the thief would be away before you even know. It’s a good idea to place your most valuable tools in your toolbox and leave them by the front door. That way you can grab them and go when you leave for work.

Keep an eye out for other stolen goods

As we mentioned before, the tradesperson community is a real close knit thing. You can help out a fellow tradesperson by keeping an eye out for dodgy tool deals either online or if you’re ever offered strangely cheap tools. Think about it – they’re probably stolen goods! Do your bit for your community and alert the authorities.

Check your van has a decent alarm system

Despite the electronic fittings of modern vans, not all will necessarily have alarms that you’ll want to protect your tools with. There are numerous benefits to adding your own security system, like personalised password protection and even security that pairs with your smartphone. There are so many options available that you should at least consider fitting your own alarm system.

Take out van tool insurance

If you don’t currently have an insurance policy to cover you in the event that your tools are stolen, it’s in your best interest to do so as soon as possible. Don’t go for the cheapest cover, and choose a reputable provider. It may be another overhead for you to take on, but it’s worth it if the worst case scenario happens.

Install CCTV in front of your home

Like we said earlier, many tool thefts happen on your own street. Installing CCTV will help identify any thieves and might even deter them from stealing in the first place. Alongside the general security benefits for protecting your home, CCTV can go a long way in protecting your van and the tools inside.

Invest in a solid steal-proof tool case

Not only can you receive first-class security and protection with our tool case inserts, the tool storage solutions we provide have specialised locking systems which are guaranteed to protect your tools and ensure that you’re the only one with access.

The cases are also built to withstand all manner of knocks and bumps, so you can rest assured that your tools are protected no matter what happens.

Add an extra layer of protection with DIY custom foam

Keeping your tools safe from theft is important, but keeping them safe from damage is just as important for their longevity! That’s where DIY custom foam inserts come in handy, which you can order from us using our DIY custom foam calculator page. Keep your belongings safe at all times, even you’re on the move between jobs! We also have Easy Peel foam available, which allows you to craft protective foam inserts to fit around the shape of your tools.

Guides for DIY enthusiasts and tradespeople alike

If you enjoyed reading this guide, you may also find the following articles useful:

Our friendly and knowledgeable team are available to talk through your tool protection options. Simply call 0800 8400 166 or, alternatively, get in touch with us here.

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