A tracking system could help prevent theft as well as help you get your motorhome back if it gets stolen. Here’s our latest round-up…
If you want the ultimate reassurance that your leisure vehicle is protected from theft and can be recovered if it does fall into the wrong hands, you need a tracking system. Indeed, Caravan Guard insist on such a fitting if your motorhome’s value exceeds a certain level.
Typically, a motorhome fitted with a tracking system is monitored constantly via an operating centre. If your vehicle is moved without your authorisation, the system sends an alert and the operating centre, as well as monitoring movement, will liaise with the local police to co-ordinate a recovery.
Devices can be armed or disarmed with a key fob and sometimes with your mobile phone.
Here’s some background to the world of leisure vehicle tracking systems.
Founded in 1969 by a leading group of insurers, Thatcham Research is an independent non-profit making research centre whose work is funded by its members. Its roots are in vehicle safety, but in 1990 it expanded into vehicle security, announcing categories for alarms and immobiliser, including tracking systems. There are currently two main Thatcham accreditations for trackers.
A category S7 device is described as an Asset Location System to increase the probability of the recovery of a stolen asset. And a Category S5 device is described as a Vehicle Tracking System to detect unauthorised use of a protected vehicle and increasing the probability of the recovery of a stolen vehicle.
In reality, there are often only minor differences between many S5 and S7 approved devices. S5 devices must use GPS technology which can more accurately pinpoint the location of a stolen motorhome. S7 devices can use GPS or VHF technology. VHF is a radio wave-based technology that uses radio masts to triangulate the position of a stolen vehicle to within a one-mile radius and then the police or a private finder’s team will use further technology to home in on the device signal.
All S5 devices and most S7 devices are proactive and that means they can alert the tracker’s operating centre if the motorhome is moved with the device still activated. Also, S5 devices come with a separate driver identification device, which means that if someone tries to start the vehicle without this device present it will alert the device’s operating centre – this can be particularly useful against motorhome thieves who have taken your keys first.
Motorhome insurance considerations
Caravan Guard does need owners of motorhomes valued over £60,000 to fit an S5 or S7 approved tracking device. Generally, insurers will stipulate what type of tracking device they want you fit and Caravan Guard is no different. Here’s a list of approved motorhome tracking devices.
Let’s look at a few approved systems.
Star Player #1
Tracker Monitor – Thatcham S7 approved
Tracker says it’s “the only stolen vehicle recovery company that uses VHF (Very High Frequency) technology to track and recover caravans and motorhomes which is supported by the police.”
Its detection systems are fitted in police vehicles, police helicopters and at all major ports in the UK.
VHF means it can sense vehicles that have been hidden in shipping containers or lock-ups, rather than relying just on being able to see them.
Monitor is Tracker’s best-seller in the leisure vehicle sector. It’s a tracker/alarm combination that includes a motion sensor to warn you of when your caravan is on the move without your knowledge.
As well as being supported by UK Police, Tracker coverage continues outside the UK, in France, Spain, the Netherlands, Poland, Italy and Luxembourg. But if you’re planning on travelling outside these countries it might not be the device for you.
The price here includes installation, with subscriptions to pay on top of this – starting at £179 for 12 months.
However, if you’re motorhome is valued over £85,000 Caravan Guard look for the more advanced Tracker Locate S7 approved system.
Key features: Patented VHF and Mesh Network technology, long-life battery (up to five years’ standby), UK-wide installation network, movement and battery disconnection alerts, anti-jammer
Expect to pay: £361
Star Player #2
SmarTrack 5+ – Thatcham S5 approved
Hot off the press, here’s an all-new product from SmarTrack that meets Thatcham’s S5 rating and includes the facility to immobilise your vehicle remotely. It uses an exclusive driver-recognition smartphone app, called D-iD™, which – if your registered device (typically, your mobile phone) is not in the vehicle when it’s on the move, will alert you to the fact.
The app also means you don’t have to carry any tags/fobs etc with you. It has a choice of automatic or manual modes. Operating manually, you will get messages every time the vehicle is driven. In auto mode, you will only get messages if your phone is not inside the vehicle.
There’s lots more, including a new website (going live in the first quarter of 2020) in conjunction with the D-iD (android or Apple). There’s also a free online account, that keeps a fully accurate history of all your travels – and can be used to reminisce on your holiday memories.
Plus, there’s a geo-fencing capability, whereby you can set up a virtual perimeter around your vehicle. This can also be set for every port in the UK so, if a vehicle arrives at such an area the tracking system will instantly question it.
Subscriptions range from £16.99 a month to £199 annually to £699 for the whole time you own your vehicle – any of which can be paid by direct debit.
It can also be connected to aftermarket alarm systems, such as Autowatch.
Key features: Thatcham S5 rated, 24-hour monitoring by Global Telemetrics, free android/Apple app, online geofencing capabilities, battery disconnection and low battery warning, option to remotely immobilise at police request, fully transferable (terms and conditions apply), three-year warranty (extendable to 12)
Expect to pay: £799 (device and fitting)
Star Player #3
Phantom Sentinel – Thatcham S7 approved
Phantom has built up a strong pedigree in the motorhome tracking systems market. The Sentinel is its leading motorhome product, comprising a Thatcham CAT 1 alarm and approved tracking system that offers protection of cab and habitation doors, plus bonnet, with internal ultrasonic sensors.
For many base vehicles, it will also integrate with the remote control key to arm/disarm and set for night time/pet mode.
It can also be upgraded to demand driver ID tags to make it a Thatcham S5 device.
Sentinel comes with a smartphone app with battery monitoring. Enhanced app functionality means you can remotely arm or disarm or lock or unlock your vehicle, or simply check on its status.
There’s also an internet portal, MyPhantom, via which you can locate your vehicle, check battery levels, mileages, history etc.
You can register up to three emergency contact numbers that can be alerted by a 24-hour call centre, should the alarm be triggered or the power supply cut.
Subscription prices are £149 per year or £499 for as long as you own the vehicle.
Key features: Choice of Thatcham Cat S7/S5 tracking standard, suitable for all levels of motorhome (including values over £85,000), nationwide fitting service, low power drain, daily server check-in, internal antennae.
Expect to pay: From £699 (includes fitting)
Star Player #4
HAL-Locate – Thatcham Cat 6 (equivalent to Thatcham S7)
HAL-Locate claims 100 per cent success rate in recoveries after a theft and offers a priority monitoring service across the UK and Europe. The device operates using GPS, GPRS and GMS technology. Having an inbuilt battery backup, the device can remain active even if the vehicle power supply is disconnected.
The system automatically arms itself if your vehicle is left stationary for over two hours – a handy feature if you forget to arm it yourself. You can also control the tracker in the palm of your hand via a Smartphone with the HAL-Locate APP.
HAL-Locate can be bought and fitted via several UK motorhome and caravan dealers, as well as a nationwide group of approved installers.
Key features: Thatcham S7 approved, low power consumption, integral rechargeable back-up battery, twin geo-fence protection zones, remote leisure battery check.
Expect to pay: From £350 (including VAT and installation charges). Price also includes access to the Hal-Locate APP and a two-year subscription to a UK-Based European wide monitoring service.
Star Player #5
Although Sargent’s tracking systems aren’t available for aftermarket fitting, we’re featuring them here because they come factory-fitted with leisure vehicles from the likes of Swift (Command Tracker system) and Auto-Trail (Connect system). It’s then up to you to pay an annual subscription, typically £95, to activate the system. The device is proactive so will warn the operating centre of unauthorised movement.
For motorhomes, the tracker will be armed every time the ignition is turned off.
Even if a vehicle is stolen when the tracker is unarmed, a phone number is provided to report the theft direct to the monitoring house, who will activate the tracker and communicate with the police.
Key features: Thatcham Cat S7 rated, bespoke systems for key manufacturers
Over to you…
Got any advice on motorhome tracking systems you’d like to share with other owners? Please feel free to add a comment below.