“Hey! Someone just stole my house!”
Not a likely complaint for “normal” families, but for our family of 6 who live in our RV full-time, this is a real risk.
Bad news: Surging demand for RVs coupled with low dealer supply make RVs an ever-more lucrative target for thieves.
Good news: RV theft is still a relatively rare occurrence because RV owners take measures to make theft difficult. Plus, most people at campgrounds have got your back!
So here they are: The good, the bad, and the weird ways to protect your beloved RV.
Affiliate Disclaimer: Some of the product links are on this page are affiliate links. If you click through and purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks!
Do People Actually Steal RVs?
Hey, Ross here! Here are some notes of mine.
Not to be rude, but a lot of the online information about RV theft is junk. The sample data just isn’t much good. I found websites reporting only 2-3 thefts per year!
But RV theft is usually reported to local jurisdictions, like police departments. As far as I know, this data is not amassed and analyzed by any national entity. You’re not getting the full picture.
RVDA does compile some data of its own. You can view it here.
I checked this report on 5/28/2021, and 33 RVs were reported stolen in 2020.
I suspect this number is far, far lower than reality. I know three or four people, personally, with stolen RVs. I’ve watched on security cameras as freeloaders raided dealerships for unsecured towable trailers. I’ve never had my camper stolen, but I’ve had bikes cut off cargo racks. Trust me – you don’t want that to be you.
11 Ways to Stop Thieves from Stealing Your Camper
- Use visual cues to make sure passersby know you’re protected
- Install a camera security system
- Install a motion-activated light
- Use exterior locks such as coupler locks, wheel locks, hitch locks, boot locks, goldilocks (just making sure your still paying attention).
- Upgrade your entry door and cargo locks
- Anchor down your RV at your campsite
- Install anti-theft devices like a GPS tracker
- Make your RV stand out (flower child, anyone?)
- Keep it dirty
- Get a dog
- Insure your RV
“This RV Is Protected By”
You want potential thieves to know you aren’t messing around. If they are aware your RV is protected, your RV becomes a less attractive target to thieves. Use signage that puts your security measures on full display.
Signage Ideas include:
- “This Vehicle Monitored by Cameras”
- “Beware of Vicious Ankle-Biting Chihuahuas.”
You can also just post a security sign in a conspicuous location.
Or you can be creative, like these people:
There’s no shortage of similar ingenious ideas. Some of my personal favorites:
- Placing a Size 13 pair of dirty work boots next to the front door.
- Leaving some empty shotgun cartridges on the picnic table.
- Pasting a large dog silhouette in your window.
Types of RV Locks
Trailer Coupler Lock
These are imposing pieces of metal that lock onto your trailer coupler. By occupying the hitch coupler, these locks prevent thieves from backing up to your trailer, hooking up and taking off in the traditional manner.
Check out my favorite coupler lock style on Amazon.
These smaller locks engage the hitch pin lock. With the lock engaged, a thief cannot slide out the ball receiver.
Psst … Ross wrote about both trailer and hitch locks in our article about necessary towing equipment!
Here is the Rhino 5/8-inch hitch pin lock on Amazon.com. Much better than the cheap ones!
Boot Lock or Wheel Lock
Normally the domain of the parking police, these can be purchased for your unit, or you can DIY by running chains through the tires and securing them with a heavy-duty padlock. Get a thick one! Thin ones can be cut with bolt-cutters.
Here’s a popular heavy-duty chock lock at Amazon. It’ll fit most sizes of RV and camper wheels.
If you do go with one of these options, don’t forget to add it to your checklist. People stare enough when you’re backing up your RV, but just imagine the looks you’ll get if you drive away before taking these off.
Types of Security Systems for RVs
Constantly moving around is a unique challenge for powering, mounting, and maintaining a device for a stable internet connection.
Before You Begin – How to Power, Mount, and Connect Your Device
1. Powering Your RV Security Devices
Hardwired, battery or solar?
- Hardwiring your devices requires some technical expertise but provides stable power.
- Battery-powered devices need to be recharged but set up is easy.
- Solar-powered devices are more expensive but provide more consistent power.
2. Mounting Your RV Security Devices
You don’t want thieves, bears or water getting into your RV. Therefore, I try not to put new holes in my RV. Especially in my roof.
Rather than mechanical fasteners, many devices can be mounted using adhesive tape. COMAND strips are a popular interior adhesive; 3M VHB or Scotch Heavy-Duty Mounting tape are two popular exterior options.
3. Connecting Your RV Security Devices to the Internet
Decent WiFi and Cellular coverage is hard to find, especially in more remote campgrounds.
You’ll need to assess all three of these areas when choosing the best security options for your RV.
Lucky for you, we wrote an article about how to get internet while on the road!
Cameras are a great resource for theft prevention. They make any potential thieves aware that your camper is being monitored and should not be messed with.
“Geez, this guy’s got cameras. He could have bear traps set up as well!”
I like the idea of a solar-powered camera. Cameras will quickly drain an RV house battery; solar power is just the thing.
You can get 360-degree cameras with optical zoom, motion tracking, night-time infrared, facial recognition and Bluetooth. Or you can get a more plebian fixed-mount fixed-lens camera. Your rig: Your call.
Expect to pay $50 for a basic camera, and up to $250 for a decent mid-grade 360-degree system. Here’s a comparison list at SafeWise for solar-powered cameras.
Like cockroaches when the lights come on, thieves scatter when they get lit up. Motion lights are inexpensive, easy to install, and can use solar power. Check out this slick model that mounts discretely under your awning arm.
Security Monitoring for RVs
You have the option of self-monitoring or working with a security company like SimpliSafe. SimpliSafe’s monitoring service runs off a cellular network, making them an attractive option for RVers.
Selecting the right security system for your RV can be a daunting task. The need for constant power for some systems may not work for an RV in storage. If you feel a security system is right for you, check out Home Alarm’s article How To Find A Security System For Your RV.
Upgrading your Entry Door Lock
Ok, this won’t prevent a thief from stealing your RV but it will make it more difficult for them to gain entry. Making your RV a less attractive target for thieves is our goal. Check out The One Upgrade Campground Thieves Don’t Want you to Know About.
Also, here’s a numerical keypad/key combo lock on Amazon. You can choose from over a million code combinations!
Anchor Down Your RV
RV Life suggests “making your RV less mobile.” Having slides out, stabilizing jacks, and leveling jacks engaged make it difficult for thieves to simply drive off with your RV.
Don’t ever leave your tow vehicle and rig hooked up unlocked and unattended. Sheesh. Talk about a golden opportunity for thieves.
Psst . . . if you’re reading this content anywhere besides Ask The RV Engineer, it’s been illegally “scraped,” and you’re probably on a spam website. So please be careful! Don’t share any private information, and come back to us at www.askthervengineer.com!
Other RV Anti-Theft Devices
Most of what we’ve discussed so far (cameras, motions lights, etc.) falls under the category of anti-theft devices. Here are a couple less traditional anti-theft devices for RVs.
These steering wheel locks add another layer of protection for motorized RVs and tow vehicles.
I used to have one of these sorts of locks on my 96 Nissan Pick-up and it was never stolen. It had to be The Club.
Toylok is a heavy-duty retractable cable that attaches to your RV and is run through anything you want to keep secure. Think bicycles, golf carts, TV satellites, chairs, etc. Other manufacturers make similar products.
These devices don’t just help you and authorities locate your stolen RV. You can also receive alerts for motion, changes in temperature and RV tilt. They can be hidden in inconspicuous places.
GPS trackers provide the flexibility of being hardwired or battery operated. Advertising your camper is equipped with GPS makes your RV less attractive to potential thieves.
Even something as simple as apple’s new “air tag” can be used as a GPS trackers. While the Bluetooth range is limited, the air tags use other apple Bluetooth-enabled devices to located missing air tags.
Make Your RV Stand Out
You ever get back from an exhausting trip around the campground with the kids and almost walk up to the wrong RV? Uhh, sure, me neither, totally.
Let’s be honest, a lot of RVs look alike. If your RV is stolen, how will you describe it to the authorities? Tandem axles, a square body and brown swoopy stripes?
Window decals, personalized spare tire covers, or custom paint all help your rig stand out and make it easier to recover.
Keep the Dirt!
Confession: We probably don’t wash our RV often as we should. I tell my wife, “I’m just trying to make our RV less of a target for thieves. Babe, who is going to want to steal this dirty thing?”
A dirty RV is just one simple way how to stop a thief from stealing your camper. Who is with me?? … anyone? …. ok.
Ingenuity Award Goes To…
Rich Clover, an ingenious RV owner writing on a forum, hid a switch that turns his tongue jack on and off. While admitting the jack could still be raised and lowered manually, his goal was to “make theft more difficult, time-consuming and noisy.”
Take It From The Repo Man!
In my early 20s, I destroyed my ankle (beer and trampolines don’t mix). I could still drive, so I got a job repossessing cars. It was amazing to see how easy it was to back up to a car, hitch up and leave without anyone noticing. So take it from me:
- Hide your keys. Don’t leave them in the ignition or somewhere easily accessible. I’ve heard the best place is by your bed so you can trigger your own vehicle alarm if needed.
- If you have padlocks, use them.
- Choose safe campgrounds and reputable, well-lit storage lots.
- Insure your RV. Some people just suck and they want to steal your stuff. Thankfully, it’s replaceable. Good Sam and Progressive are two of the biggest providers of RV insurance. Call your local agent for a quote.
Michael Huff: Full-time RVer, husband, father, son, brother, friend and dreamer. I am officially “living the dream:” traveling the country with my amazing wife, four awesome kids, and beloved boxer in our 150-sf RV. Each day we are learning, laughing, (maybe a little yelling) and finding the good in this world.