How to protect tradie tools from theft

tradie carrying tool box

Danny Baggs

Posted July 07, 2023

Tradie tools are prime targets for thieves because they’re high value and easily portable. Learn how to protect your tools from theft by discouraging thieves and preventing removal.

Losing trade tools to theft is a big issue for both domestic handypeople and professional tradespeople. The theft of tools costs Victorian tradies $20million a year, with over 29,000 tools stolen in the 12 months to March 2023, according to the Crime Statistics Agency.

Tool theft can have a devastating effect on sole traders and small businesses. Not only will the tradie have to buy replacements, but they will also not be able to work at full capacity until they fork out hundreds or thousands of dollars to replace their tools. 

“Some tradies can be lackadaisical when it comes to securing their tools,” says Neighbourhood Watch CEO Bambi Gordon. “As so many are stolen, it becomes the norm, and anyway – won’t insurance cover it? The issue is that even if insurance covers it, the tradie is without tools, which can affect income and their relationship with their employer or client.”

That’s why it’s important to learn how to protect your tools at home, on the road and at work. Here’s what you need to know about rising tradie tool theft, plus tips on protecting your tools.

upset looking male tradie sitting slumped on the ground wearing a hard hat

Tradie tool theft can be devastating without insurance. Image: Getty


How to protect tools from being stolen

Lock up your tools

“We understand that it isn't convenient to remove tools from a ute or truck and store them elsewhere when coming home at night,” Gordon says. “But we can make those tools a little less appealing to a thief by storing them in a locked toolbox, which in turn is secured to the vehicle. To further help prevent theft, make note on the toolbox and the ute that all items have been marked or engraved.”

Whether you keep your tools in your ute, in your garage or at your jobsite, it’s vital to securely lock your tools up. Whenever you step away from your toolbox – even if it’s just for a few minutes – make sure to lock up. Never leave tools lying around a jobsite.

In your car, store all tradie tools in a heavy-duty toolbox with a strong padlock. If you don’t have a truck bed toolbox, fix a portable toolbox to your vehicle with a hardened steel security chain so that thieves can’t simply walk off with your tools. A motion-activated alarm that emits sound when the toolbox is moved will also help to scare off thieves.

At home, tradie tools are often stored in garages. Invest in a tamper-proof storage cabinet with a heavy-duty lock to best protect your tools. Make sure to keep your garage door closed and in good repair to prevent garage break-ins. If you don’t have a garage, move high-value items inside your home after work.

Some newer model power tools also feature the ability to be locked remotely via a smart device. Once disabled and locked, they become worthless to thieves.


man opening a large tool box

Tool storage boxes and cabinets are great for locking tools away. Image: Getty


Mark your tools with identification

Clearly marking or engraving your ID details on tradie tools will make your tools much harder for thieves to resell, easier for you to report and recover, and more likely to discourage theft in the first place. Your name and driver licence number are recommended for the best chance of recovery, as it makes it easier for Victoria Police to find your address in their system.

Try a high-quality oil-based UV pen for markings that are long-lasting, waterproof and heatproof. This ink works well on the plastic casing found on most tools. Alternatively, you can engrave your details onto you tools with diamond-tipped engraving tool or an engraving tipped rotary tool. For tradies with dozens of tools, it might be best to purchase a custom-made engraving block with your ID formed in the steel. Then you can simply press the block against each tool and hammer the marks in.

Make your tools harder to resell

“There is a market for second hand tools,” Gordon says. “Tradies should mark their tools (engraving, spray paint) to make them less attractive to thieves who intend to sell them on.”

Thieves often pawn stolen tools in-store or via online marketplaces like Facebook, Gumtree and eBay. By making your tools unattractive and identifiable, and therefore more difficult to resell, you can help to discourage their theft.

Try marking your tools up with bright spray paint, stickers, and electrical tape to make them unattractive to potential buyers. Removing the tool brand name with an engraving tool or covering familiar brand colours will also help to ‘devalue’ the item to thieves. Make sure never to cover up the tool’s serial number, which you will need for identification if lost or stolen.

“If your tools are stolen, register them at Property Vault – it is a free service,” Gordon advises. “That way, an innocent person who is offered a second-hand tool can at least check on that website to see if the tools are registered as stolen.”


Victorian police vehicle

Report stolen tools to the police. Image: Getty


Insure your tools

In the unfortunate event that your tools are stolen, having the right business insurance for tradies can be a big relief. Research insurance options to make sure that your tools of trade are fully covered under the policy. Trades-specific insurance may cover your tools for loss, damage and burglary, plus your business vehicles. You may also be able to get coverage for your business expenses while your tools are being replaced.

To help ensure that your tools are properly covered, and to help police recover stolen tools, keep a complete inventory of your tools with their makes, models and serial numbers recorded. Make sure to declare the accurate value of your items to avoid underinsurance. Having clear photographs of your tools will also help police.

Secure your vehicle

“Tradies’ tools are often stolen from work vehicles that are left out in the street unattended, either at night or while the tradie is working on a building site,” says Gordon.

To help discourage theft, never leave tools visible in your vehicle – always lock them away. This goes for rooftop equipment like ladders, which ideally should be placed in your home overnight. Most thieves are opportunistic, so if they can see that your tools are locked and secured, they may well move on.

It’s also important to secure your vehicle so that it isn’t stolen along with any tools that may be inside. “Park your ute or truck in a locked garage – never leave the ute sitting unattended on the street,” Gordon says. “If you can’t store the ute in a garage, at least park it on the driveway and have sensor lights on the house and fence.”

You can also help to prevent car theft by investing in an electronic alarm system, wheel locks, extra-strong puck padlocks, and other security systems. If possible, park your vehicle in a locked garage.


man walking away from an open work van carrying a toolbox

Never leave your work vehicle unlocked and unattended. Image: Getty


Invest in a security system

You can see how well your home is protected and find out ways to improve your home’s security with the RACV and Neighbourhood Watch initiative How Safe Is My Place

Quality security systems are theft deterrents, especially when paired with warning signs. Consider security cameras to help police track down thieves, or a home alarm system to scare would-be burglars off.

You could also add small GPS trackers to your high-value tools, so you can track their live location on a linked smartphone app. Putting up signs around your jobsite and vehicle warning potential thieves of the high-tech tool tracking you have in place is a great deterrent.


Cover designed to protect your tools of the trade.
Discover RACV Insurance for Trades →

The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit AAs a referrer, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Product(s) issued by Insurance Australia Ltd, ABN 11 000 016 722, AFS Licence No. 227681.

RACV Security Pty Ltd ABN 49 079 148 342 trading as RACV Home Security. Security Licence (Vic.) 733-411-10S and Security Registration (Vic.) 733-411-31S.