If your motorhome’s base vehicle has an immobiliser, the next logical step is to add an alarm system. Or is it…?
There’s a good chance your motorhome came with some kind of engine immobiliser. It may have come as a surprise, though, to find out you’d have to fork out for some kind of alarm system.
And choosing the right one may not be so easy. First, it depends on the type of motorhome you own. For example, if you own an elevating roof campervan, it’s akin to a car and can easily be kitted out with a low-price aftermarket alarm system, although you may not be able to use it, for example, when you’re sleeping in your ‘van. You might want to bear in mind how often you hear a car alarm go off only for it to be ignored.
As far as high-top van conversions and coachbuilt motorhomes are concerned, you’re looking at very specialised vehicles for which, frankly, an alarm system that was initially designed for cars may not be suitable without some modifications.
And bear in mind that having an alarm system may be a condition of your motorhome insurance cover, and the likelihood is then that your insurance company will want the alarm to be of a certain standard, most likely Thatcham Category 1.
Set up by leading car insurance companies as an independent, not-for-profit organisation, Thatcham is a recognised leader in assessing vehicle alarms. A Thatcham Category (CAT) 1 approved security system combines an alarm and an engine immobiliser. Find out more at www.thatcham.org.
What is CAT 2-1?
Thatcham states that, as long as your motorhome has a factory-fitted immobiliser, adding to it with what’s known as a Thatcham Category 2-1 approved aftermarket alarm essentially takes the security fitted on your motorhome up to Thatcham Category 1 approved standard. A list of such alarm systems is here: http://ww2.thatcham.org/standards/index.jsp?page=254&systemType=61&productType=189&posted=2.
But, do note not all will be suitable to your particular motorhome. As Thatcham itself puts it: “Generally installer companies will take an LCV (light commercial vehicle) Thatcham CAT 1 device (which only covers the opening of the front doors and interior protection of the drivers cabin) and add additional detectors where required for the openings and interior protection of the motorhome.”
Caravan Guard offers a 19 per cent insurance premium discount for motorhomes fitted with a Thatcham Category 1 approved security system.
- Ask your supplying dealer about any specific aftermarket security systems it recommends and/or is authorised to fit. For example, Brownhills of Newark has been fitting its own Sigma Thatcham CAT 1 system for over a decade.
- Make sure any installation is carried out by authorised, professional installers. Also, insist on getting an installation certificated once you’re happy with the finished work.
- Before an alarm is fitted, do check the location of warning lights and whether they will be visible with the blinds drawn etc.
- Other considerations include: can extra features like bike locks be added. Plus what protection is provided for cab and habitation doors, bonnet, exterior lockers, windows, rooflights and so on?
- For most motorhomes perimeter protection is an essential. It means an alarm can still be armed when you or your pets are on board.
- Good quality stickers warning of the presence of an alarm system are a useful visual deterrent.
- Check what level of warranty you get with your alarm.
- It should go without saying but, if you have an alarm system fitted, make sure you use it.
- Always look after your motorhome keys. Electronic theft is on the rise. At its most sophisticated, this involves cloning keys so any theft simply bypasses any alarm system. Do note, also, that stealing original keys is another easy first step to pinching the whole vehicle – look after your keys, including spare sets!
Star Player #1
Van Bitz Strikeback
Exclusive to Van Bitz, the Strikeback is produced solely for motorhomes and takes a whole day to fit at its premises (overnight camping is available here). It’s a full facilities, approved Thatcham CAT 2-1 upgrade, an alarm that covers the motorhome’s living quarters, cab, bonnet, external locker doors and more, complete with full “sleep mode” as well as offering all manner of specifically motorhome-friendly features, such as an interior movement sensor that, in Van Bitz’s words, sets up a “radio wrap” within the vehicle – far more sophisticated than the usual ultrasonic sensors that are often fooled by the slightest of movements, or even a heating system in operation.
Features also include: Accessory protection loop, international warning stickers
Expect to pay: From £599 fitted www.vanbitz.com
Star Player #2
Autowatch 695 Kit 6 Canbus
Among a number of systems from a company that’s specialised in the motorhome market for over a quarter of a century, this is an ideal upgrade for Fiat Ducato/Peugeot Boxer- and Mercedes Sprinter-based motorhomes. This is a remote control-operated alarm that can be integrated with the base vehicle’s own key fob. Among a long list of features are ultrasonic sensors for the cab and a PIR sensor for the habitation area, plus pet and sleep modes (for when the vehicle is occupied). It can also be enhanced with a pager or tracker.
Features also include: Contacts for habitation door and external lockers, additional remote control, PIR sensor, intelligent battery back-up siren.
Expect to pay: £450 fitted www.rammobile.com
Star Player #3
This is classified by Thatcham as a CAT 2-1 upgrade and is suitable for Fiat Ducato/Peugeot Boxer-, Mercedes Sprinter- and Ford Transit-based motorhomes from 2006 onwards and usually means you don’t need additional key fobs. Features include the facility to disarm the internal ultrasonic sensors when your vehicle is occupied, although that still gives you perimeter protection, and an anti-hijack battery back-up. The warranty is pan-European, valid across 36 countries, so you can have it checked and any issues resolved locally wherever you are. Options also include the facility to add a gas attack sensor, external locker protection and more.
Features also include: LED/control button, panic button facility, emergency PIN code entry, three-year warranty.
Expect to pay: £318.99 fitted www.cobracartech.co.uk
Star Player #4
This latest product from motorhome/caravan specialist Phantom combines a Thatcham Category 6 approved tracker and Gemini CAT 2-1 approved alarm. It’s operated by a Gemini remote control or the base vehicle’s original key. But, it can also be controlled via an app, suitable for both Android and Apple IOS, Internal sensors can be disarmed easily when you’re on-board, but still keeping the perimeter armed – a particularly useful feature at night. The Sentinel records all journeys and alarm activity, showing vehicle location, battery level, mileage and alarm status. It will tell you when the alarm was last armed and whether it was by remote unit or via the app.
Features also include: Four-digit PIN number, 30-day battery level and mileage travelled monitoring, bonnet protection, cab and habitation doors
Expect to pay: £699 fitted (plus annual tracking device subscription) www.phantom.uk.net
Will it affect my insurance?
If you choose to retrofit an alarm, make sure it meets your insurer’s requirements. Thatcham Category 1 approved alarm systems will give you a 19% discount off your insurance policy with Caravan Guard. Note as the Phantom Sentinel includes a Thatcham Category 6 approved tracking system and Gemini 2 to 1 alarm upgrade it would qualify for Caravan Guard’s 25% motorhome tracking device discount.
If you are claiming a discount for or if it is a requirement of your policy to have a Thatcham Category 1 approved security system fitted to your motorhome you must also make sure your alarm is always activated when your motorhome is unattended and the alarm is fully maintained, as per the manufacturers’ recommendations. Therefore, during winter storage, always make sure there’s enough charge in your battery to activate the alarm in the event of a break-in.
Discounts are subject to underwriting terms and conditions. Minimum premiums apply.
Over to you…
Have you fitted a CAT 1 alarm system, if so which and let us know if you’ve been impressed by it? Do you feel alarms offer a good level of security? Feel free to add your comments below.