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Three tool theft updates for tradespeople

3-minute read

Sam Bromley

Sam Bromley

12 October 2021

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Despite lockdown and other restrictions, tool thieves have still been operating.

Here are three updates on tool theft for tradespeople, covering data from 2020 and 2021 – as well as more on a sophisticated device that makes it easier for thieves to get into keyless vehicles.

  • January is the worst month for tool theft in London

1. Over a quarter of van drivers have had tools stolen in the last 12 months

A study by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles (VWCV) has revealed that 27 per cent of van drivers have had tools stolen in the last year.

More than half (57 per cent) said that they regularly leave tools in their van overnight. And despite this, 31 per cent said that they don’t protect their vans and tools with extra alarms, secondary locks, or vehicle trackers.

The research further revealed that London is the country’s tool theft hotspot (we have more on crime in the capital below), followed by the West Midlands:


(%) reporting tool theft in the last 12 months



West Midlands


North East


North West


East Anglia


VWCV said that the estimated cost of replacement tools and equipment for UK tradespeople is around £15 million a year, with the downtime for tradespeople costing up to £550 per day per van.

David Hanna, head of sales operations at VWCV, said: “We’re urging people who own expensive equipment to take extra precautions to deter would-be thieves, whether that’s removing items overnight, adding extra security measures, or avoiding parking in unlit, secluded areas.”

2. London vans are six times more likely to be targeted than saloon cars

According to Herts Tools, there were 20,256 reports of tool theft from vans in London between January 2019 and April 2021. There were 3,108 reports of tool theft from saloon cars, and 1,087 from hatchbacks.

The data from Herts Tools also revealed that there was nearly £17.5 million worth of tools stolen in the capital in 2020. This is a decrease from £20.7 million in 2019 (perhaps due to lockdown), but it’s still a huge number.

And powered hand tools are by far thieves’ favoured target, with 32,067 thefts between January 2019 and April 2021. This is more than 10 times the number of non-powered hand tools, at 2,993 thefts.

Herts Tools said that it might be possible to recover tools by searching for them online (including on eBay and Facebook Marketplace) and in local pawn shops. You can join communities online to help you find your tools, and if you do see them being sold, ask the current owner to hold them for you while you get in touch with the police.

3. The ‘Game Boy’ that broke into keyless vehicles

We’ve previously reported on keyless theft, but a recent BBC story has highlighted how a high-tech gadget can fool keyless vehicles into opening.

The BBC reports that the device, worth £20,000, bypasses a vehicle’s security system and fools it into opening. A Yorkshire-based gang hid the device in a case designed like a Nintendo Game Boy and stole five Mitsubishi Outlanders worth £180,000.

West Yorkshire police arrested the three men “after a Mitsubishi Outlander was stolen from a driveway in Scholes on 20 July.”

Our tips for preventing tool theft (and recovering stolen tools)

Our own claims data shows that over the last two years, our customers have claimed for more than £2 million worth of lost tools, with the average loss per claim sitting at £1,835.

These are the five worst-hit regions, by the number of claims:

  • East Anglia (average loss per claim: £2,055)
  • The Midlands (average loss per claim: £1,576)
  • North East England (average loss per claim: £1,806)
  • North West England (average loss per claim: £2,016)
  • South East England (average loss per claim: £1,994)

Data collated on 12 October 2021 for the previous two years.

As always, preventing tool theft in the first place should be your main aim. You can do this by:

  • removing tools from your van overnight – even if thieves get into your van, there'll be no tools to steal
  • parking against a wall – make it difficult for thieves to open your doors and get into your vehicle
  • marking your tools – if your tools are marked, they might not be targeted as it’s then difficult for them to be sold on (it’s also easier to recover marked tools if they're stolen)
  • recording serial numbers – keeping a record of the serial numbers, makes, and models of your tools can help the police and your insurance claim if your tools are stolen
  • consider tool cover – having tools insurance can help you get back on your feet quickly if your tools are stolen, minimising downtime from work

Photograph 1: master1305/

Tell us your tool theft stories in the comments below.

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Sam Bromley

Written by

Sam Bromley

Sam has more than 10 years of experience in writing for financial services. He specialises in illuminating complicated topics, from IR35 to ISAs, and identifying emerging trends that audiences want to know about. Sam spent five years at Simply Business, where he was Senior Copywriter.

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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