How to Spot Stolen Caravans - The Camping and Caravanning Club
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A Guide to Stolen Caravans and the Importance of CRiS Checks

The rise of the internet has made it easier for the thieves: with many caravans ‘stolen to order’, police believe criminals are using Google Maps to spot where the best caravans are and plot routes in and out of the site. Some thieves are often quite brazen – some don’t even wait for nightfall before stealing a caravan!

How to spot a stolen caravan

Here are a few signs to look for when identifying a stolen caravan:

Tampering with the CRIS number

The CRiS number display is one of the most obvious signs of a stolen caravan. It is displayed on at least seven of the windows, as well as stamped into the chassis.

Thieves know that this identifies the caravan, so look out for any damage where this number should be.

It costs around £15 to check the CRiS number, but this will confirm whether the caravan has been stolen, written off, or has outstanding finance left on it. Just call 020 3282 1000 and provide the full 17 digit identification number of the caravan.

Damage to the towing hitch

Damage to the towing hitch and assembly is often relatively easy to spot; a burned brake overrun rubber is an indicator that heat has been applied in the area, possibly to remove a hitchlock. Damage to the head itself often results in rusty areas on the hitch, which is another sign of interference. 

If a relatively new caravan has a hitch without a built in stabiliser, this could suggest the hitch was damaged as a result of a criminal attack. A new stabiliser unit would cost around £270, while a pressed steel unit costs around £25.

Do all the wheels match?

This is a very obvious indicator - do they all match or is there an odd one? With many caravans now being fitted with alloy wheels, a steel wheel on a caravan (particularly a twin axle when there is only one steel wheel) suggests something is amiss.

Original documentation

When purchasing a new caravan, make sure you receive the original registration document, and ask the seller for a written receipt to confirm ownership has transferred to you.

The receipt should show:

  • The buyer’s full name and address
  • The seller’s full name and address
  • The make, model and 17 digit ID number of the caravan
  • The date, price paid, and should be signed by both parties

What to do if your caravan is stolen

Contact the police

You do not need to be the registered keeper of the caravan to report the theft but you will need to have your VIN number to hand; you can find this on your CRiS registration documents.

You’ll need to provide the police with the make and model of your caravan, when and where it was last seen, and any distinguishing features that could help you get it back.

If you have installed a tracking system contact them to let them know so they can trace where the caravan is.

Stolen caravans are listed on a number of systems including the PNC (Police National Computer), CRIS, and insurance databases, so historic checks can be made by officers. Usually, if your caravan has not been recovered within 21 days of the initial report, you will receive a letter from the police advising you that it has not been recovered.

Contact your insurer

Always tell your insurer immediately when your caravan is stolen.

How to prevent caravan theft

1. Window and door locks

Most insurers will decline claims for theft from the caravan unless it can be demonstrated that ‘forcible’ and ‘violent’ means were used to enter the caravan, so make sure all windows and the door to your caravan are maintained to a high standard. Check that they can be locked firmly and securely and if required, add or replace locks. You can also buy additional over-locks that cover the standard locks.

2. Hitch locks

A hitch lock is one of the most popular caravan security additions and mandatory for most insurance policies. As the name suggests, it covers and locks your hitching mechanism so that it becomes more difficult to hook up your caravan and tow it away.

3. Wheel locks

Wheel locks are attached to the wheel of your caravan to demobilise it. Fitting certain accredited devices can mean a substantial saving on your caravan insurance premium.

4. Tracking devices

These electronic boxes are hidden within the structure of the caravan and electronically report the whereabouts of the vehicle by sending a signal back to a central control room. Tracking devices have a proven track record in recovering stolen caravans, so insurers are prepared to give a substantial caravan insurance saving. 

5. Caravan alarms

An alarm, especially one that emits a startling noise when activated, can be a very useful tool in preventing caravan theft.

Our advice: fit ‘Sold Secure’

Once you have decided on which security devices are right for you, look out for the Sold Secure endorsement. Sold Secure is the premier testing and certification house for caravan security products, so you can be confident that you have a high quality product.

Caravan security checklist

1. Security post
2. Hitch lock
3. Number etched on windows
4. High-security caravan door lock
5. Brightly coloured wheel clamp
6. Lockdown corner steadies
7. Rooftop with postcode marking 
8. Items inside marked with postcode
9. Reliable alarm system
10. Record serial numbers and descriptions of interior fittings

Don’t forget…

• Don’t leave valuables on show inside your caravan. Items on display such as small change, keys and mobile phones can spark a break-in.
• When pulled into motorway service stations, ensure someone remains with your vehicle at all times.
• Ensure your VIN (vehicle identification number) is etched on each window
• Only stay on established campsites where security is prioritised. We have over 100 Club Sites across the UK, many of which also offer storage.
• Take photographs of your unit and keep a note of your CRIS number