‘Thievesy pickings’ – millions of tools left in vans overnight

  • Nearly three-fifths (59 per cent) of tools stolen from tradespeople were taken from vehicles
  • Tradespeople leave their tools in their vehicle on average ten nights a month
  • Over a quarter (28 per cent) of tradespeople have installed additional security measures to help prevent tool theft

New data1 from Direct Line business insurance reveals that tradespeople leave their tools in their vehicle on average ten nights a month. One in seven (15 per cent) leave their tools in their vehicle every night.

The findings come as nearly one-in-five (22 per cent)2 tradespeople report having tools stolen from their van in the last 12 months. Two-thirds (62 per cent) of tradespeople say they have been a victim of tool theft in their careers, with a third (34 per cent) having tools taken on multiple occasions.

Vehicles are the most frequent location where tools are stolen accounting for over half of thefts (59 per cent). Thieves are incredibly brazen, breaking into vans parked directly outside the homes of tradespeople. Vehicles are targeted while parked in the street (26 per cent), parked on the tradesperson’s own drive (22 per cent), parked on site (21 per cent), parked in their garage (19 per cent) and parked in a carpark (4 per cent).

Tool theft can have a significant financial impact on tradespeople, often causing a loss of earnings of hundreds of pounds a week. The most common tools stolen from tradespeople include: hand tools (29 per cent), compressors (27 per cent), power washers (26 per cent), rotary multi tools (22 per cent), hedge trimmers (20 per cent), electric drills (17 per cent), electric saws (16 per cent), angle grinders (16 per cent), nail guns (16 per cent), and electric wood working power tools (16 per cent).

Tradespeople are taking measures to help secure their tools and deal with consequences of tool theft, with many installing additional security (28 per cent). Other steps include becoming a member of social media groups where other tradespeople post about stolen goods (27 per cent), keeping insurance up-to-date (21 per cent) bringing tools indoors to a securely locked building (20 per cent), keeping up-to-date information such as photos, serial numbers and identifying marks (18 per cent), engraving or using invisible ink to mark tools (16 percent) and using tracking devices (15 per cent).

Alison Traboulsi, Product Manager at Direct Line business insurance, remarked:

"The frequency of tool theft is a growing concern, with recent research showing that tools were stolen every 15 minutes3 across England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2022. Our latest data reveals vehicles remain the primary target, with nearly two-thirds of all tools stolen from this location. Because of this, it's important to consider tool security when getting insurance.

“At Direct Line, we understand the consequences of tool theft, and we remain committed to providing tradespeople with the protection they require. Through our flexible insurance options, we empower tradespeople to tailor policies that cater to specific needs, including coverage for tools locked in vehicles overnight or during working hours."

For more information about Direct Line’s tools cover, please visit our website:           


For tips on how to keep your van and tools safe please see: https://www.directlineforbusiness.co.uk/van-insurance/knowledge-centre/your-van-and-your-business/what-van-security-improvements-can-i-make




(1)   Opinium survey of 2000 UK adults, including 188 tradespeople, conducted 21st March – 24th March 2023.

(2)   Direct Line business insurance: Nearly a quarter of tradespeople have had tools stolen from their van in the last 12 months

(3)   Direct Line business insurance:  Tool theft on the rise: Tools stolen every 15 minutes


Direct Line Group 

Unni Henry 

PR Manager

Email: [email protected] 

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 https://www.directlineforbusiness.co.uk