Nearly a quarter of tradespeople have had tools stolen from their van in the last 12 months

  • 87 per cent of tradespeople feel like a ‘moving target’ in their work vans
  • Each theft causes on average £750 worth of damage to the van
  • London a hotbed for tool theft with 50 per cent of tradespeople reporting attempted break ins and 37 per cent reporting actual thefts
  • Direct Line business insurance highlights criminals convicted of tool theft from a van receive on average half the sentence than those who convicted of theft from an office by turning a tradesman’s van into an office.


New research from Direct Line business insurance reveals 22 per cent1 of tradespeople report having tools stolen from their van in the last 12 months. It is unsurprising therefore that 87 per cent of tradespeople say they feel like a ‘moving target’ in their work vans. Theft from vans is crippling tradespeople, with more than a third (35 per cent) aware of attempts to break into their van over the same period.

The total cost of items carried within the average work van, amounts to more than £4,300. Many tradespeople (63 per cent) spend their own hard earned cash on tools and equipment making the theft of these items devastating. A van break in can also cause extensive damage to the doors and locking system, requiring on average £750 worth of repairs to the vehicle.

Criminals have a brazen approach to shifting stolen tools, with over a fifth (22 per cent) of tradespeople reporting being offered tools they believe to have been stolen. London is a criminal hotspot when it comes to theft from vans, with 50 per cent of tradespeople aware of attempts to break into their van and a further 37 per cent reporting having tools stolen from their vehicle. Attempted thefts are also an issue in Northern Ireland with 50 per cent aware of break ins and one in four (25 per cent) of attempts successful.

Table One: Regional breakdown of attempted van break ins to tradespeople’s vans


Percentage of tradespeople reporting attempted van break ins


50 per cent

Northern Ireland

50 per cent

North East

41 per cent

West Midlands

38 per cent

South West

34 per cent

East of England

34 per cent

South East

33 per cent

North West

31 per cent

The Humber

31 per cent


29 per cent

East Midlands

28 per cent

Stealing tools, equipment or materials from a van is classed as theft, whereas stealing equipment from an office is classed as non-domestic burglary, a crime that receives on average twice2 the custodial sentence as theft from a vehicle. The majority (87 per cent) of tradespeople say that they believe the penalties for tool thieves are not strong enough. The public are sympathetic with 91 per cent believing the consequences of this crime should be significant to stop the ruining of livelihoods3.

To draw attention to the issue, Direct Line transformed a tradesperson’s van into an office at an industrial park in Slough, to highlight the lower penalties for theft from a van than an office. 

Joe Shadbolt, a tradesman comments: “The impact of theft from my van has had a catastrophic effect on my day to day working life. If my tools are stolen, I can’t work. This means I’m not earning and if I’m not earning, I can’t pay bills or support my family properly. By turning my van into an office, Direct Line are shining a light on an issue that is having a fundamental impact on my livelihood.”                                                                                          

A spokesperson from Direct Line Business Insurance, comments: “Theft from vans is a major problem for tradespeople with 35 per cent reporting an attempted break in over the last 12 months. From our interviews with reformed thieves, this crime is seen as low risk with a high reward. Tradespeople carry high value items in their vans and the punishment if thieves get caught is less severe compared to, for example, theft from an office.

“When speaking with our customers, we know a van is a tradesperson’s place of work. It’s where they take their calls, it’s where they eat their lunch, it’s where they do their paperwork. We’re working hard to raise awareness of this issue, not just on behalf of our customers, but for every tradesperson across the UK that has and could fall victim to theft.”

To find out more about how tool theft is affecting tradespeople in the UK including tips on what you can do if you have been affected, visit



Notes to Editors

(1)    Research conducted by OnePoll among a nationally representative sample of 500 tradespeople who drive a van, between 31 March and 5 April 2023.

(2)    House of Commons equipment Theft prevention Bill

(3)    Research conducted by OnePoll among a nationally representative sample of 2000 people between 31 March and 5 April 2023.

About Direct Line business insurance

Launched in 2007 Direct Line business insurance now has over half a million customer policies, providing a flexible range of insurance products for the landlord, van and small business sectors.

Direct Line business insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line business insurance and U K Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line business insurance products or get a quote by calling 0345 301 4827 or visiting