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How to keep a better grip on your tradie tools to deter theft

Stealing a tradie’s tools is a low crime. On average, each tradie carries thousands of dollars of equipment in their ute. And some of them possibly even more, with one in 11 Australian tradies earning $200,000 a year.

In one state – Victoria – thieves took $44 million of tradies’ tools from building sites and vans in 2018. Theft can be constant and relentless, as this Ballarat tradie explains.

And, when brazen criminals steal the ute as well, the damage to a tradie’s business escalates to breaking point. In the 12 months to December last year, 7,329 light commercial utility vehicles were stolen with the median value of $8,331. The most targeted were: Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger, and Nissan Navara says the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council.

So, there’s a lot at stake – tradies’ livelihoods, for one.

To avoid having to trawl through buy, swap, and sell Facebook pages to track down your stolen gear (and ute), keep a step ahead with these tips.

Boosting your storage and records

As an apprentice, you would have had it drummed into you to stop heists by locking, and if possible, chaining your equipment wherever it’s located. This could be the site office or the back of your ute. The recommendation is to use a hardened steel security chain with high-quality padlocks. Use a truck bed toolbox or heavy-duty storage cabinet. Keep your batteries and charger separate from power tools. And look into installing interior deadbolts to your ute. These can be manual or electric, even connecting to your vehicle’s remote keyless system. That way, they’ll lock and unlock when you push a button on your key fob.

But, storage won’t be fail-safe against theft, so here’s a list to refresh:

  • Distinctly mark or engrave your identification details onto your tools, making them trickier to resell
  • Consider adding ‘Call xxx for a REWARD’
  • Photograph your tools, highlighting identifiable features (such as the ID marks or wear and tear)
  • Store those images with details such as the make, models, serial numbers, and general description. Uploading those to the cloud helps you give police an accurate list of your missing items anywhere
  • Remove or cover brand names on your tools – black electrical tape works well – so you’re not signalling to would-be thieves the tool’s value (keep the serial number uncovered, though)
  • Get creative with an ugly makeover. Use your own funky design with lurid neon spray paint to ‘revamp’ your tools (annoy would-be thieves even more by decorating them with floral or childish stickers that aren’t easy to remove). Then spray a clear coat to protect your masterpiece.

Make tech your buddy

It’s easy to lock your power tools with a mobile phone app, so they’re disabled until you say so. Coin-sized GPS trackers are also a good investment if you combine them with an app to reunite you with your tools. Help deter opportunistic criminals with warning signs about high-tech tool tracking in place on your sites, gear, and vehicles.

With most ute break-ins and tool thefts happening between 6pm and 6am, it pays to protect your vehicle with an electronic alarm system. Sophisticated ones include two-way communication with your smartphone and alerts. If parking overnight, avoid having a building shield the side or rear doors of your work vehicle.

You can also fix puck padlocks to your vehicle’s exterior. These are extra strong padlocks with key control that are very difficult to pick. Some you can install without drilling. Use a sturdy wheel lock for utes or trailers. Make sure you lower the trailer as far as possible and remove the jack handle, too, before you pop on the lock.

Reducing your risks

So, there’s plenty you can do to protect your gear. We can give you extra peace of mind by discussing best practices, including tailoring insurance to your needs. Tools cover, otherwise known as general property insurance, protects your transportable items if they’re lost, damaged or stolen.

To discuss your insurance program, please contact us on (08) 6279 2300 or email us on

Article originally published by Insure, June 2021.