Concerned about motorhome security? Looking for ways to protect your campervan from theft? You're not alone- it's one of the most common questions we receive- how to keep a motorhome both safe at home and while on the road?
One of the biggest questions for anyone who owns a motorhome or campervan (including us!) is how to keep themselves, their van and their possessions safe, both at home and whilst travelling.
Of course, following the advice in this guide does not mean you are immune to theft- but it will vastly improve your odds.
There are several types of motorhome security we're concerned with:
- How to keep your motorhome safe at night while you're sleeping inside
- Van security when you leave it for a few hours to explore while travelling
- Security of your van whilst NOT travelling- either at home or in storage
Let's break down each one below.
Motorhome safety while travelling
It's hard to say whether vans are more vulnerable at home or while out and about. Certainly, most vehicle thefts seem to happen at home, whilst most possession-based thefts happen while travelling.
To start, let's look at ways to improve safety while out on the road, for each of the 3 main areas of concern.
Security at night
Staying safe at night in a motorhome or campervan while you're travelling can feel like a challenge. If you're not used to it, it can feel isolating and vulnerable to spend the night in a plastic/ tin box instead of bricks and mortar. Also, everything seems scarier at night- noises and passing cars can make you jumpy.
But, let's look at this logically.
When you stay in a motorhome overnight, you're generally going to be on one of 3 places:
- Proper campsite (usually with a barrier)
- Aire/ approved motorhome parking spot
- Wild camping
We'll look at physical devices and tricks a little later, but let's assess the ‘odds' at each location. I should point out that we've been touring Europe in our motorhome for over 2 years and have never been the victim of theft. I know that might just be luck, but we do our best to assess the odds and act accordingly.
Motorhome security – prevent RV and camper theft while travelling
Most campsites we've stayed at have had some form of barrier preventing you from just driving in. This makes it very difficult (although not impossible) for people to walk onto a site and steal your van, as they normally need some form of code or key to exit.
Of course, there are exceptions, but very few vehicle thefts happen from proper campsites.
Tips for camper security overnight at aires
Whether you're using a French Aire or staying on a C & L site in the UK, the risks are the same. These locations are approved for motorhome stopovers, but have no barriers or cameras for nighttime security.
The biggest risk here is opportunists- and the problem is that an aire is a known place for motorhomes to stop at. So the local thieves can swing by whenever they want to see who's arrived.
In my opinion, some places are riskier than others. We avoid stopping at motorway aires for longer than an hour or two, even though you are allowed to stay in some overnight for free in Europe. There are too many stories of robberies in these locations, mainly by passing truckers or hitch-hikers.
We also try to avoid aires near big cities. Again, you're more likely to get opportunists or thieves in areas with more people- that's just simple maths. I'm not saying we don't go to cities, just that we'll use a campsite instead of an aire wherever possible.
Motorhome/ campervan safety when wild camping
I remember, when we first started wild camping in the UK, how terrifying it felt to sleep in a motorhome without any other protection (like a campsite) around us.
Partly, I was worried about being arrested, but mostly I was worried about being murdered in my sleep. Or robbed.
So, here's the thing.
When you are wild camping- NO ONE KNOWS WHERE YOU ARE.
As long as you haven't posted it on Facebook (seriously, please don't do that until you're leaving), then it's impossible for anyone to PLAN any form of robbery in advance.
So you're dealing solely with passing opportunists. Which means your task is to make your van look like a difficult target to steal.
But the BIGGEST thing we do when wild camping is to use our common sense and our gut. Obviously, we don't pick a wild camping spot thinking it's going to be dodgy, but when we arrive we generally get a ‘feeling'.
We have ignored those feelings twice- and both times we've regretted it. Nothing happened to our van, but we spent the night on edge and not sleeping well, alert to any problem which might occur. Not the best way to spend an evening, so listen to your gut!
Motorhome Security Devices for travelling – making your vehicle immobile
Best Wheel Clamps for motorhomes & caravans
Motorhome or campervan wheel clamps are exactly what they sound like- a clamp which goes around the outside of your wheel and stops the vehicle being moved.
We use one of these on the trailer every night and whenever we're not planning to move for a few hours. It's fairly easy to uncouple a trailer, attach it to another vehicle and drive off with it, so a clamp helps deter that.
You can get one to use on your motorhome- it won't stop people breaking in, but it will stop the van being stolen.
Steering locks for motorhomes
Another great safety device to stop the vehicle being moved. These are (apparently!) harder to remove than wheel clamps, and have been proven to deter car thieves, so it stands to reason they should work against motorhome theft.
Get the biggest, meanest one you can- or the one with the highest security ratings, like this one. We particularly like that it doesn't take up too much space when not in use- essential in a motorhome or campervan.
Make your camper van undrivable
On our new motorhome, both of our front seats swivel. When we are leaving the motorhome, we turn both seats around and lock them together with a chain. This will stop anyone looking to drive the motorhome- they can barely reach the wheel, let alone the pedals! Again, it doesn't stop the initial break-in, but one step at a time!
Motorhome Alarms, Trackers and Immobiliers
A motorhome alarm system is an excellent idea, as is fitting a tracker or immobiliser. If you are buying one in order to reduce your insurance premium, check with your insurer first as they may insist on a specific model or Thatcham level before they'll approve a discount.
Also, a word about immobilisers. Many thieves now carry technology which over-rides factory-fitted immobilisers and allows them to steal a vehicle without having the keys. Which makes it even more important to have extra security measures fitted.
RV security- No-one can steal it if they can't get INTO it
Your first job is to stop people getting access into your vehicle. The three main points of access are the cab doors, habitation door and van windows.
You can fit additional locks to all three.
Motorhome security door locks
This is the BEST additional habitation door lock– as you can lock it from the inside as well as the outside. It's pointless having one which only works from the outside when you want it while you're sleeping- and it's dangerous to have one you can't unlock from inside!
Motorhome Cab Door security
You can also get additional cab door locks, although please do measure your doors carefully as they don't fit all types. Additionally, you can carry a locking cab bar, which effectively locks the two cab doors together so they can't be opened.
Motorhome window security
Motorhome window security is a challenge. By far the BEST type of window to have on your van is a sliding one- but, honestly, most of us don't have those. You can get lots of window sensors, but very few practical devices to stop a window being opened outwards.
One of the best options, although it's not suitable for every van or motorhome, is to get a child window restrictor, like these, so the window only opens so far.
Motorhome security- tips to protect possessions while travelling
Ok, let's look at how to protect your CONTENTS (and yourself!) from theft while travelling. Again, your location and place you choose to stop will affect which strategy will work best for you.
Tips against theft at campsites
The entrance barrier at campsites is also good against theft of possessions- anyone looking to rob anything has to carry it back to their van at the entrance. Where there are normally cameras.
However, the sad fact is that most thefts on a campsite occur from other people already sharing the site with you. These are people looking for chance opportunities, such as clothes or kit left out overnight. The easiest way to prevent against this is not to leave anything out overnight- including kayaks, wetsuits, towels etc.
We try and combat this by putting our wet kayak & paddleboard on the motorhome roof overnight- which is great as long as it's not windy!!
Tips against theft of contents at aires
This is a tough one- as most people know that you will be leaving your vehicle to visit the local town or attraction at some point- after all, that's why you're there. And, sadly, they do keep watch.
There is no easy solution to prevent against this. We actually use a range of methods to try and stop our possessions being stolen or the van being vandalised whilst we're not with it- we'll get to those shortly. All you can do is ensure your vehicle looks at difficult to get into as possible.
Those extra locks mentioned above and some well-placed stickers like these are more than most people have, which makes your van look not worth the effort. We've met people with ‘German Shepherd on board' stickers- when they don't have a dog at all, let alone a German Shepherd!
We have stickers warning people that the motorhome is under camera surveillance at all time (it is!)
Motorhome security while wild camping
We very VERY rarely leave our van unattended for longer than about half an hour while wild camping- and never at night. We might go for a short walk, but if we want to ride our motorbikes or visit a local attraction we will take the motorhome to an aire or approved parking place where it will be a little more safe- mainly because other people are around.
The only exception to this was in while we were touring Norway in our motorhome. That country is the safest country we have EVER visited, and we merrily left our van at the side of a road and went off on the motorbikes for a day without concern. I wish everywhere was like that!
Caravan & Motorhome security devices to protect possessions
Motorhome Security Camera- 12v security
This is our favourite option for peace of mind. Although the security camera won't stop anyone from breaking in (although we do have signs in the window saying the van is under 24hr surveillance, so maybe it does!), it WILL allow us to see who the thief was.
We have tried a couple of different motorhome security cameras and are utterly sold on this one. We use it EVERY SINGLE TIME we leave the van. It allows us to visually see everything is as it should be. It's also a great way to monitor our dog if we've left him for a couple of hours- we like to make sure he's ok.
(We also use these cameras on the boat for security when we're leaving it for long periods and we've never had a problem. All you need is power, the base station and a phone signal- they are so simple to set up and perfect for protecting your home while you're away.
Wireless motorhome alarm system (or caravan alarm system)
This is common practice for a reason- it works! Find the loudest, meanest, noisiest wireless alarm system you can and fit it in your motorhome. You want the entire neighbourhood to know something isn't right and scare the bejeezus out of would-be thieves.
Don't put it on a delay- any potential thief is in and out in a couple of minutes tops. You want that thing to be singing
within seconds of being activated.
Sadly, to a determined thief, nothing is foolproof- but you're lowering your odds considerably if you make it hard for them to find the items quickly.
You can actually buy a dedicated safe like this and install it in a locker somewhere- but please bear in mind the weight of these things- you need to take that into account on your payload.
Another option is to buy ‘decoy' tins like these or books where you can hide valuables. There are lots of options on the market and it's a great way to hide jewellery or passports if you REALLY can't take them with you.
Don't leave a decoy
We know several people who travel with a ‘decoy item'- an old laptop or iPad which has no value to them.
They leave this out on display, or somewhere easy to find, and hope that the thief will take that and leave, feeling like they've ‘won'.
Personally, we never leave ANYTHING out on show- the aim is not to get broken into at all, not trick someone to break in to steal a
Other tips to secure your motorhome while travelling
Don't ever hand over your keys!
No campsite should ever ask for your keys (although some may ask for your passport!)
Close doors, windows & vents before you leave
The obvious exception to this is if you are leaving a dog behind in the motorhome- you MUST leave them some air. If you are travelling in a hot country, please remember how quickly a vehicle can heat up in the sunshine. But otherwise, shut everything up tight.
How to Secure your motorhome or caravan at home
Ok, now onto how to protect your motorhome or camper whilst you're NOT travelling in it.
Sadly, this is probably the time of biggest risk.
The statistics for stolen vehicles are rising- and motorhome are an easy target as they are often newer, lower mileage and
therefore their parts sell for more.
Still, there ARE some things you can do to help protect yourself. We always recommend removing any valuables from the van and storing them in your home.
Remember, at home you mainly want to protect the VEHICLE from being stolen by professional thieves- not opportunistic
Use Secure Motorhome Parking
We have always preferred to keep our motorhome in a specialist motorhome and caravan storage yard. It's much safer for it to be away from anyone looking for an easy target.
You want to store it somewhere with 24hr CCTV, locked gates and restricted access (using a keyfob or code) We highly
recommend somewhere with 24hr access so you can leave whenever you want!
Expect to pay around £60-80/ month for storage- but for us it is worth the peace of mind. (Also, it might mean you can buy a bigger motorhome than you thought as it doesn't need to fit on a driveway!)
Securing your motorhome at home
If you don't want to or can't use storage, you need to find ways to make your motorhome look as protected as possible on your drive or on the road.
Some options for this include:
- CCTV stickers
- steering wheel-locks
- wheel clamps
- Extra door locks, especially on the habitation door
- Window locks
- Gear level locks
Basically, the more the merrier!
Another good option is to buy a sticker with your registration number on the roof, like this, so that it can be easily spotted by ANPR cameras when you report it stolen.
Lastly, if you have a motorhome or caravan which sits on your driveway, you might want to consider a driveway post like this, which is bolted into your drive, preventing an easy getaway. Fitting secure gates to your drive is also a good option.
I know no-one likes to think about the possibility of motorhome or camper theft, but a little forethought and planning could stop a lot of potential heartache.
I hope you've found these tips useful. If you have, please share this article with your friends on social media so they can benefit too.