Nothing deflates the excitement of a motorhome holiday like returning to your RV to find it’s been broken into — and your valuable items have been stolen. Even worse is seeing an empty parking space where your motorhome used to be.
Taking preventive measures to avoid such an experience is well worth the investment.
In this blog, we discuss the theft of motorhomes and campervans — and how you can best avoid becoming a statistic. We look at increasing your motorhome’s security with stronger door locks, alarms, GPS trackers and plenty of common sense.
Be aware of RV thefts from home
You might assume that thefts from motorhomes only occur when they’re left parked and unattended near remote scenic locations. However, an increasing number of motorhome and campervan thefts occur when the recreational vehicle is parked outside the owner’s home.
Leading up to the summer months, thieves are actively looking for motorhomes to steal for their own family holiday — before selling them on afterwards.
Caravans are more vulnerable to being stolen from home than motorhomes and campervans. They’re sometimes targeted after the thief has already re-registered them as their own.
Robyn Berghoffer started up a Facebook group named Stolen Caravans in NZ after her caravan was taken from her driveway. On the page, owners of stolen recreational vehicles can post pictures of their missing vehicles — which are then shared with several trucking groups to help recover them. Stolen motorhomes and campervans are also often featured on this group page.
Are caravans or motorhomes the easier target?
Caravans are an easier target for thieves because they can be towed away undetected using the same vehicle taken to the crime scene.
Enhance the security of your motorhome
Implementing effective security measures is essential for improving the overall safety of your motorhome and protecting your belongings.
But before you let go of your hard-earned cash for new security gadgets, follow some basic steps to keep your RV safe, such as:
- Always locking your motorhome — even when it’s parked on your property
- Checking the habitation door — which may need to be locked with your key as some motorhomes only have central locking on their cab doors
- Double checking your garage and service doors — it can be easy to forget to lock one of these
- Parking your motorhome in a secure place when not in use — if a secure storage facility isn’t an option, keep it in your garage or at least behind a locked gate.
Later model motorhomes and campervans often have items fitted to make them more difficult to tamper with or steal, like:
- Anti-tampering alarms — which go off if someone attempts to tamper with your RV, such as interfering with the locks, hotwiring the ignition or breaking a window
- Internal motion sensors — that trigger the alarm when they sense any movement inside your RV’s cabin
- Engine immobilisers — which prevent your engine from starting unless the correct key is used.
These electronic systems may be enough to deter theft of your vehicle but they may not stop opportunistic smash-and-grab raids on valuables left inside your motorhome.
Make your motorhome undriveable
If your motorhome doesn’t already come with an engine immobiliser, think about other ways of rendering the vehicle undriveable — such as with this Milenco Silver Steering Wheel Lock. It’s a visible deterrent that’s designed to obstruct the normal movement of your motorhome’s steering wheel. However, a highly motivated thief can still get past this obstacle.
If you own an older motorhome, consider installing a good-quality aftermarket vehicle alarm to increase security. Expect to pay a few hundred dollars for something that wakes up the entire neighbourhood — and significantly less than that for an alarm that’s not quite so audible.
Get stronger door locks
It’s not just the owners of older motorhomes that should consider fitting stronger door and window locks — and installing a safe to stow valuables. New motorhome owners should also look into enhancing their RV’s security.
The habitation door of your motorhome is likely to be the first targeted point of entry for any potential thief. This is partly because the door only has a single security lock to overcome.
Motorhome windows are usually secured at three points — and entering through them will require more effort than forcing open the side-entry door. So, consider whether your motorhome’s factory door lock:
- Is strong enough to resist the determined efforts of criminals equipped with crowbars and slide-hammers
- Requires reinforcing — such as upgrading the existing lock to a higher security one.
Installing a couple of extra locking bolts and padlocks on the outside of your side door is possibly an effective solution but it’s hardly an elegant one. Far better to fit one of the folding D-shape handles on locking hinges like this Fiamma Security Handle.
How a D-shape security handle works
A D-shape handle can be locked into position to help secure your motorhome before heading on a walk or going out for dinner. It folds inwards in order to overlap your side door. While the grab handle is locked in this position, there’s no way the door can be opened.
Do windows need additional security?
Windows are relatively secure compared to the habitation door. The levers and tabs that lock the double-layered Perspex windows on many RVs are made of strong polypropylene plastic and are virtually unbreakable.
It’s tempting to secure a few windows in the slots that allow some airflow when leaving your motorhome parked up. However, this makes them vulnerable to thieves, who can use the gap created to slide in a hacksaw blade and cut the securing lever off.
Ventilate using your skylights
If you want to have some ventilation flowing through your motorhome while you’re away for a short time, the safest option is to open your skylights on the roof. Few opportunist thieves carry ladders — and they won’t be prepared to climb up and drop into the cabin through a skylight.
Look into high-tech security solutions
One of the best deterrents against motorhome theft involves fitting a GPS tracker. Display the accompanying warning sticker somewhere prominent like on your motorhome’s windscreen or side door — or in both locations.
You want potential thieves to think that stealing your motorhome greatly increases their chances of getting caught.
A decent GPS tracker can cost very little upfront — like this Black Knight Portable GPS Tracker. A device like this comes with an app to link it to your smartphone.
Most GPS trackers have a strong magnet that attaches to your motorhome — and are also easy to transfer when you sell. Some come attached to a monthly subscription fee for tracking the vehicle, while others come with no additional costs.
If your campervan or motorhome is moved, it’ll immediately send a warning to your phone so you can contact police as soon as the theft occurs.
Check out our blog on the safety features and technology of German motorhomes.
Stay secure on your motorhome adventures
The old adage that there’s safety in numbers applies when choosing potential places to park your motorhome up for the night. You’ll enjoy more peace of mind knowing that you have neighbours in remote locations rather than camping alone.
Travelling with friends who are driving other RVs is a smart way to increase collective safety and security. Plan to stay connected — and be ready to help each other if any issues arise.
Fitting a safe will enable you to confidently leave valuable items behind when you explore the surrounding areas. If your RV has a double floor and there are storage compartments located between the levels, it’s a smart idea to install the safe inside one of them.
Another great location is the bottom of a wardrobe in the main bedroom. Any thief entering a motorhome is looking for phones, wallets, credit cards, fuel cards and other easily transportable items. The bedroom wardrobe is likely to be the last place they look.
Bikes and other recreational assets like surfboards and folding boats attached to the exterior of motorhomes are also increasingly being stolen. Ensure your bike rack has proper locks — and that all items are securely attached to it.
If you’re new to motorhoming, check out our motorhome safety tips for beginners.
Tips and advice for keeping your motorhome safe
Considering the time and money you’ve invested into your RV, keeping it secure needs to be one of your top priorities. We’ve collated some tips and advice from current and past motorhome owners to help you take the necessary steps to enhance your vehicle’s safety.
- Consider buying a steering wheel lock — an old-school deterrent that can still work in combination with more high-tech solutions.
- Keep your motorhome’s VIN number secret — knowledge of it may help thieves re-register your vehicle illegally or even duplicate your ignition key.
- Take as many security-enhancing countermeasures as possible — because just like your home, a host of deterrents make it tougher to break into.
How to get a stolen RV and its contents back
Be proactive before your motorhome becomes a statistic. If you’re unlucky and it does get taken, these easy steps will increase the chances of getting your vehicle (and the important items in it) back.
- Get full insurance cover — for both your RV and the contents inside it.
- Invest in a GPS tracker that links to your mobile — and be sure to keep your phone on you when parking up to visit places.
- Take photos of the receipts of all your onboard items like your TV, bikes and laptop for insurance purposes — making sure you keep a digital copy of them somewhere in the cloud.
- Display your RV’s registration number on the cabin roof — so truck drivers can see it from their elevated driving positions and check it matches the registration plate.
Investing in motorhome security and adopting safe practices while touring will help free your travels from any initial anxiety — letting you explore in total confidence.
Read our owner stories to get some more first-hand advice on traveling by motorhome.
Motorhome security also involves how and where you store your RV when not on adventures. Take a look at our guide to storing a motorhome in New Zealand — to find out about storage preparation, options and costs.