How to Secure Your Van or RV Against Break-Ins

Deter vehicle theft and vandalism with these failsafe tips
Brianne Sandorf
Staff Writer, Home Security & Smart Home
Read More
June 27, 2022
5 min read

There are many easy ways to keep your home safe, but what if your home is a vehicle? How can a person who lives in an RV or van prevent break-ins, theft, or ransacking?

We’ve scoured the internet and drawn on our personal experience to bring you these van security tips!

Take a look
Info Box

We wrote this article for folks living in their vehicles (van life, y’all), but it applies to tons of scenarios. Feel free to use these tips on your van, recreational vehicle, camper, motor home, or travel trailer in any circumstance, even if you just like camping.

Locks

The easiest way to deter van theft is to lock. It. Up.

You’ve got several lock options for different parts of your vehicle. How many and what types of locks should you use? It depends on how much time you want to spend getting in and out of the car.  Some of these locks will take longer to open and close!

Slam lock

A slam lock will automatically lock your door any time you shut it. That means your door is always guaranteed locked—but it also means you’ll need to keep a spare key at hand, preferably in a locked box under your car. (We suggest trying this magnetic key box from Kidde.)

Steering wheel lock

If you’re worried about someone driving off with your van, try a steering wheel lock. With the lock on, the car can’t be steered and so can’t be driven. Clever!

Wheel lock

Take a note from a traffic cop and lock up your wheels! A wheel lock or clamp will keep your vehicle in one location no matter who tries to use it.

Word on the street is that a wheel clamp can also keep you from getting tickets because cops assume someone else has already given you a parking violation. We don’t recommend using a wheel lock that way—it could backfire—but it’s something to be aware of.

Clutch lock

If you want to dive deep, try a clutch lock. This one gets a little technical, but it’s apparently a way to deter hotwiring. Basically, with one of these babies, no one’s starting your vehicle unless they’ve got the key in hand.

Hitch lock

If you have a trailer or something attached to your hitch, or if you don’t want something attached, a hitch lock prevents hitch access. That’ll keep someone from driving off with your trailer or using your vehicle to drive off with someone else’s.

Cameras

Another good tip to scare off a potential thief: get a security camera. The camera itself will deter theft and you’ll see everything that happens when you’re out.

It’s surprisingly easy to set up security cameras in a van. You have two options: install Wi-Fi in your van or use an on-the-go camera that doesn’t require a Wi-Fi connection.

Either way, you’ll want to opt for a camera that uses batteries so you don’t need a plug.

Cameras that use Wi-Fi

Tons of battery-operated cameras use a Wi-Fi connection. We suggest looking at Arlo, Reolink, and Ring cameras to find the best fit for your van setup.

We usually recommend paid plans for these home security cameras. But a camera inside a van covers such a small area that you may not need to pay for extra features, like person detection and customized motion zones.

Cameras that don’t use Wi-Fi

If your van doesn’t have a reliable Wi-Fi connection, we suggest trying a camera designed for more rural use. Typically, that means it relies on LTE connectivity instead of Wi-Fi.

We recommend the Arlo Go or Reolink Go/Reolink Go PT. Both cameras work in remote areas without a Wi-Fi connection. However, they do need SIM cards with paid data plans.

These no-Wi-Fi cameras don’t usually have as many features, but again, the inside of a van is such a compact space that those extras aren’t necessary.

Security system

If locking and looking aren’t enough for you, try rigging up a car security system.

Not every piece of a security system makes sense in a van setting, but some motion sensors, door or window sensors, and glass break sensors would. You just need van Wi-Fi and DIY-style equipment.

To use some security equipment, you’ll need to set up a security system hub in your van. If that sounds like a big hassle, you can also buy home security pieces à la carte.

Motion sensor

A motion sensor will let you know if someone moves about inside your van when it’s supposed to be empty. And depending on how it’s set up, the sensor might even trigger a startling alarm to scare the intruder away.

Door or window sensor

Door and window sensors let you know if a door is open or closed. These may not work with some car doors and windows—especially roll-down windows—but they should work well with doors and windows that slide open.

Like the motion sensor, a door/window sensor will alert you to intruders and can also be linked to an alarm.

Glass break sensor

Glass break sensors are perfect for vehicle break-ins, which often involve smashed windows. The sensor listens for the sound of tinkling glass and then alerts you when it hears it.

Other precautions

There are a few other things you can try to secure your van even more.

Security film or tinted windows

When we leave our cars unattended, we often hide things under the seats or in the trunk. Why? Thieves are less likely to break in when they don’t know what’s inside. After all, who wants to risk committing a serious crime and end up only with a stick of gum and seven cents?

Make your van’s contents a mystery with self-applied security film or a nice window tint. There’s also a nice side benefit—adding an extra layer to your window makes it harder to break.

Lockbox

When your van is your home, your valuables are always on hand. Get a lockbox for your passports, Social Security cards, jewelry, antique coins, the key to your diary, or anything worth a pretty penny. Then conceal it and/or permanently attach it to your van’s chassis to prevent it from being stolen along with everything else.

Trackers

If someone gets through all your theft deterrents, a tracker is your last line of defense. A GPS shows you exactly where your vehicle is, which will help you help the police recover your vehicle.

Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning
Heads Up

While we’re chatting about safety, don’t forget to put a portable carbon monoxide detector in your house with wheels!

Recap

If you’re looking to soup up your van security, try these security tips:

  • Locks: Add extra locks to really put your vehicle under lock and key
  • Cameras: Install security cameras so you have eyes on your property at all times
  • Security system: Install a security system for even more protection against break-ins
  • Other: Try other steps to make your van even safer
Now that you’ve secured your van, try securing your home.

Make Your Smart Home Hackproof

Van security FAQ

As far as driving is concerned, Consumer Reports has found that generally, bigger cars do better in collisions than smaller ones.¹

But there aren’t a ton of statistics about the safety of living out of a van for an extended period.

Our gut tells us that it’s probably not as safe as living in a home because:

  1. There’s no fixed address for folks to check up on you. If you get into a fatal car accident or unintentionally drive into a lake, it might be a while before anyone knows you’re missing.
  2. Homes are larger, sturdier, and more permanent, making them better “fortresses” against intruders and mishaps.

Still, just because it isn’t as safe doesn’t mean it’s a no-go. There’s risk with anything, and social media shows us that many folks are safely living the van life. If they can do it, you might be able to, too.

Sources

Brianne Sandorf
Written by
Brianne Sandorf
Brianne has a degree in English and creative writing from Westminster College and has spent 6+ years writing professional, research-based content. Before joining Reviews.org, she wrote safety and security content for ASecureLife.com. Her pieces and quotes are published across the web, including on MSN.com, Social Catfish, and Parents.com. Hobbies include wearing a seatbelt, wearing a life jacket, and keeping her arms and legs inside the ride at all times. Contact her at brianne@reviews.org.

Related Articles

Row of houses protected by security systems
SimpliSafe vs. ADT Home Security
SimpliSafe and ADT are two well-known security brands, but which system will work better for...
A white, rectangular security camera sitting on a wooden tabletop
Best Cheap Security Cameras of 2022
Our round up of the best cheap security cameras for $100 or less. These 6...
An older farmer looks at his tablet while another farmer plows a field in the background
5 Best Rural Internet Providers 2022
Find your rural internet options, like satellite and DSL, here. Read on to compare providers...
A young couple sitting on the couch in living room watching TV
Comcast Xfinity TV Service Review
Comcast XFINITY's better-than-average features and On Demand selection can’t make up for a weak DVR...