How to spot a stolen caravan

It is a sad fact that in spite of increased security and greater awareness of caravan owners to the threat of theft, around 600 touring caravans are stolen each year, and, according to Club Care Insurance figures, only 3% of these are ever recovered. To help this figure The Caravan Theft Alerts scheme was launched to aid recovery by encouraging caravanners to be aware of anything suspicious and report their sightings to the police via the website.

Many of these stolen caravans end up for sale in classified adverts and online, so if you are considering buying a second-hand caravan you really need your wits about you and it is worth checking with the Caravan Theft Alerts system before parting with your hard-earned cash. While it is true that you can pick up a real bargain if you know what you are looking for, you could be saddled with a ‘dud’ if you don’t do your homework first.

2016caravanbannerSQUAREEqually, many caravans can be sold on and the unsuspecting owners have no idea that they have purchased a stolen caravan, so it is worth a few moments of your time when on a holiday park to check the caravan next to you and make sure it all looks genuine. Interestingly, quite a number of stolen touring caravans are recovered from sites where they have been pitched for a number of years, and it may be that the current occupant has no idea that the caravan is stolen. If the occupant hasn’t registered the caravan in their name, (this is a voluntary process), they probably would never know that the caravan was previously stolen. In this case it is advisable never to approach the current occupant with your concerns.

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. All caravans built since 1992 to the UK NCC specifications (and a number of imports that have more recently been built to such a specification) will have the CRiS number displayed on at least seven of the windows. This number should also be stamped in a variety of places into the chassis.

Thieves know that this identifies the caravan so they will attempt to alter the number, or in some case remove it altogether. Look out for any damage where this number should be.
If you can, always carry out a CRiS check before buying. To carry out a check call 020 3282 1000 and provide the full 17 digit identification number of the caravan. The check costs £14.95 but could save you thousands of pounds in the long run as it will confirm whether the caravan has been stolen, written off, or has outstanding finance left on it.

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 then this could suggest that the hitch was damaged as a result of a criminal attack. A new stabiliser unit would cost around £250, 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? Often a wheel is damaged during the theft process and 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, ensure the original registration document is given to you upon purchase 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.


And finally, just for those eagle-eyed Miss Marple’s and would-be Poirot’s out there, we dispel some popular urban myths that suggest a caravan has been stolen:

The caravanner will be on their own

Many people use their caravan as a base for work rather than incurring the upheaval of moving house for a job in a new location. Caravans these days are often single occupancy.

The value of the caravan doesn’t match that of the towing vehicle

Many towcars these days are extremely poor quality when compared to the smart and expensive caravan they are towing, often because they have purchased a new caravan on finance, so this does not indicate a stolen unit.

Vehicle registration plates don’t match

When out on the road it is often the case that vehicle plates do not match the towed trailer.

Finally, do ensure that you fit the appropriate security devices to your caravan to help reduce crime and also reduce your insurance costs. Club Care touring caravan insurance offers combined discounts of up to 45% on your premiums for fitting devices such as an alarm, AL-KO secure wheel lock and a proactive tracking device.

Get an online quote today to see what you could save for being security conscious, or call our quote team on 01277 243060.