Tool Theft and How to Stop It

Tool theft isn't a new problem, but it is a common one. In the last two years, we've seen over £100 million of tools have been stolen throughout the UK.

If you're a tradesperson, you will rely on these tools for your living. So, keeping them safe should always be a top priority.

Red toolbox

Whether you're a builder, plumber, electrician or gardener, your tools are an integral part of your business. And any loss will cost you both time and money.

Thankfully, tool theft prevention needn't be difficult, so in the following guide, we'll take you through the sensible steps you should be taking and discuss whether insurance is the best way to provide the safety net you need.

We'll also cover helpful topics such as van security, tool identification and what to look for in an insurance policy.

Let's get started below...

How to Prevent Tool Theft

Although there is no guaranteed solution to completely prevent tool theft, there are some very practical ways to reduce the chance it will happen to you.

Improving your van and worksite security are some of the basic steps you should be taking. So, let's look a little more closely at how to prevent tool theft.

Improve Van Security

With over a quarter (27%) of van owners having had tools stolen from their vans, it's important to improve van security.

There are plenty of ways to stop thieves from taking tools from your work van.

The most obvious solution is to store your tools somewhere else, such as a secure lock-up or inside your home. Nearly 60% of van owners admitted they leave their tools in their van - so storing them elsewhere is definitely a good idea.

But how do you make it clear that your van is empty?

Fixing a sign on your van's back and side doors is an easy way to do this. 'No tools left in this vehicle overnight' signs are easily available to buy.

Van door lock

In an ideal world, you'd remove tools from your work van at night. But this isn't always possible. So, securing your van properly is the next best option. Don't assume that just because the van is locked, it is safe.

Investing in better locks and alarms is the first step to making it secure. But you can do more. Lockable compartments inside your van will create an extra hurdle for thieves to get over. The more time it takes a thief to access your tools, the higher the chance they'll get interrupted or give up.

Where you park can also affect van security and might be something you haven't thought of. Carefully consider where you leave your van, both at night and during daytime breaks. Quiet country lanes, car parks and side streets are places thieves often target with the hope of going unnoticed.

So, think about parking where CCTV cameras are in operation or where your own security cameras cover, such as your driveway. When at home, try to park in sight of your windows rather than behind a fence or on an unlit street. Thieves prefer to target vans where they can't be observed.

Perhaps install a security bollard to prevent thieves from driving off with your van. You could also park with your side or back door against a wall, so thieves can't access it.

Secure Your Worksite

The more secure your worksite is, the less chance you have of losing your tools to thieves. Site security fences and controlled access points can minimise intruders.

Although, it's still a good idea to remove tools from the site at night. Using CCTV and erecting signs to notify the public that the site is secure are other measures you can take to reduce tool theft.

For smaller building sites, consider taking staggered breaks with colleagues or other trades. That way, someone is always around to keep an eye on things. And again, you should pack up and take tools away with you at the end of the day.

Security camera

For lone workers, it's a little trickier, and you may need to stay onsite during daytime breaks. And if you're working on an open building site, don't leave your work van unlocked or unattended.

Keep Your Tools Safe

But what about the tools themselves?

Well, there are ways to make your equipment less attractive to thieves and make them more traceable if they're stolen.

Etching your details onto tools or marking them with permanent paint is a good idea. It not only makes recovering tools easier, but it may also deter thieves as they'll find it harder to sell the tools on. Taking a note of serial numbers and any distinguishing marks will also help you recover your tools should the worst happen.

It's also sensible to remove the batteries from your power tools when they're not in use and store them in different places. Again, this will make them less attractive to thieves.

Safely storing your tools indoors is the best way to prevent tool theft. Keeping them in a secure home or workplace is best. Sheds and garages, even locked ones, are easy targets for thieves. Plus, a locked storage cabinet inside your home or workspace will add an extra layer of protection for your tools.

Other Ways to Deter Thieves

With more and more smart devices and security systems available, there are plenty of other tool theft deterrents you can implement:

  • Trackers
  • Smart tags
  • Modern alarm
  • Monitoring systems

Many companies offer security services along with these gadgets too. However, this option can be costly.

Should Tradespeople Invest in Tool Insurance?

Tradesperson tool insurance is something that many workers consider for that extra peace of mind. But is it worth investing in a specific tool cover?

You might have existing insurance policies that cover your tools, and therefore specific tool theft insurance may not be necessary. However, it can be a tricky decision to make. So, let's look at what to consider.

Tool insurance

Does Tool Insurance Cover All Your Equipment?

Tools are expensive to replace and insurance can help cover the costs. However, every policy has a limit to the amount it covers. So, if you have a lot of tools, they could be worth more than your policy allows.

To ensure you make the right decision, you should know the correct value of your tools. And remember, for every new tool you buy, you'll raise the value of your equipment. So, you'll need to make sure you can update your policy when necessary.

If you're hiring tools instead of buying them for some jobs, you should check that tool insurance covers any hired tools or equipment that you use.

Plus, some insurance policies have a list of accepted tools, and that could mean hand tools or unusual tools for specific tasks aren't covered at all.

Make sure the most expensive and hard-to-replace tools you use will be insured before taking out any policies.

Some equipment you use might not be considered tradesperson tools by you or your insurance company, but it could be stored in your van and be too valuable to lose.

It's a good idea to consider a policy that covers both tools and equipment such as electronic devices. It could be a more general business insurance policy that works for you.

Does it cover you and your employees?

If you employ other people – even if you have just one employee – you should make sure they're included on any policy you take out. If you can't find tool cover for multiple employees, it won't be worth the investment.

Reasons You Might Not Need Tool Insurance

So, with all of these factors to consider, is it actually worth the hassle of taking out tool cover? Again, that's difficult to answer, as every business or tradesperson's situation is different.

So, let's look at the reasons why you might not take out tradesperson tool insurance.

Tool and torch

Your existing insurance policies covers you. You may already have a combination of home, business or van insurance that covers your tools when you're working or storing them.

So, the extra cost of a specific tool insurance policy, which usually starts from £5 per month, may not be worth paying for.

Of course, the tools you use may belong to your employer. In this case, your employer should have them insured.

(However, it's worth checking with your employer what your responsibilities are towards keeping the tools safe and secure.)

Not every tradesperson uses a vast array of power tools for their work. For example, some niches or traditional crafts may only use specialist hand tools. So, general tool cover may not suit your needs or cover your type of tools.

You may have a specialist workshop you use that's already covered by building and contents insurance. And if you don't travel around for work, this could be all you need.

You may ask, do you actually need insurance for your tools? Couldn't you simply take the risk and save on annual renewal costs? Of course, this isn't something that anyone would recommend, and any loss of tools will be hard to pay to replace.

If you can't buy new tools, you can't work. Plus, your cash flow may be good now, but what if you go through a lean period and don't have the finances to replace your stolen tools?


There's no magic wand to stop tool theft from happening to you, but there are plenty of steps you can take to minimise the chances. Firstly, knowing that you've done all you can to prevent van tool theft and tool theft, in general, will give you peace of mind and satisfy your insurance providers.

Following the advice and tips we've shared with you will certainly help you protect your tools and select the right insurance policy.


Last updated by MyJobQuote on 19th April 2024.
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