Tool Theft – The Real Cost To The Trades

Tools worth £98 million were stolen from tradespeople in 2023 according to new analysis by Direct Line business insurance. And tradespeople lost an estimated £82 million because they couldn’t work without their tools.

In total, 44,514 incidents of tool theft were reported to police forces in 2023 a five per cent increase from 2022, which equates to a tool theft reported every 12 minutes.


Thefts from vans

Last year saw 24,543 reports of tool theft from a vehicle, up 14 per cent from the previous year, accounting for over half (55 per cent) of all tool thefts in 2023.

This comes even though 94 per cent of tradespeople are taking extra precautions to secure their tools, with tradespeople spending on average £626 retrofitting their vans with additional security including additional locks, drill plates, trackers and alarms.

Over half (56 per cent) of tool thefts from a vehicle occur at night, with thefts most commonly occurring while the vehicle is parked overnight at the tradespersons home or in a carpark. 


£82 million lost work

Tool theft has a massive financial impact on tradespeople. As well as the cost of replacing tools, 83 per cent say they lost business because of the theft and not having their tools to work. Tradespeople reported losing work worth an average £1,836 the last time their tools were stolen – giving that estimated £82 million worth of jobs lost by trades in 2023.


London hotspot

London’s Metropolitan Police accounted for over half (54 per cent) of all tool theft, yet when the size of the local population is assessed, Cleveland police had more tool thefts per resident than London.


Thieves about

Tool theft, according to the data, is seasonal, typically peaking after the clocks go back in October, with 4,517 thefts in this month last year, usually hitting a low in April when the clocks move forward. The same pattern is visible for tool theft from vans, with a peak of 2,511 in October 2023, compared with 1,632 in April.


Sophisticated criminals

Dr Kate Tudor, criminologist and associate professor at the University of Durham, says: “Tool theft is a huge issue, both in terms of the frequency with which it occurs and because of the devastating impact it has on those affected by it. Those involved in tool theft are increasingly organised and sophisticated in their criminality and they continue to be involved because of the significant financial rewards they generate. I therefore hope this research can help support conversations around what can be done to prevent tool theft in the first instance and also how protection might be afforded to tradespeople by closing down opportunities for the sale of stolen goods.”


Risen again

Jonny McHugh, head of small business insurance at Direct Line, says: “It’s alarming to see that tool theft has risen yet again. Despite tradespeople taking numerous precautions and investing in additional van security to protect their tools, brazen thieves are continuing to target them.

“Tradespeople rely on their tools for their livelihoods, meaning this can have a massive financial impact if they are taken. Replacing tools is costly, takes time and vans will often need to undergo substantial repairs following a break in, meaning tradespeople are off the road and unable to work. The rise in these thefts means that it’s more important than ever that tradespeople take precautions to help keep their tools safe and deter thieves, as well as making sure they have the correct insurance to help deal with the consequences if a theft does occur.

”At Direct Line, we are committed to helping tradespeople deal with the consequences of tool theft so that they can get back to work quickly. Our Tools and Business Equipment cover, which is available with Public Liability insurance, comes with Tools Essentials. This service helps tradespeople replace their essential tools following a valid tool theft claim, by providing an upfront faster payment of up to £1,500, subject to a few checks. Claims can be reported between 8am-6pm, Monday to Friday, except Bank Holidays, policy limits and exclusions apply.



Picture: Tool theft keeps rising.

Article written by Cathryn Ellis
28th June 2024


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