Combine harvester working corn field


Preventing Agricultural Vehicle Theft


It’s imperative to put measures in place to safeguard your vehicles. The cost of farm vehicle theft rose by £1.5m in 2018 and is big business for organised gangs, both domestically and internationally.

Generated with the help of Glenn Woolley, Senior Loss Control Surveyor at NFU Mutual and NFU Mutual’s Rural Crime Report 2019, here’s an outline of the major security threats to the various agricultural vehicles you might have on your farm and solutions for theft prevention and the recovery of stolen vehicles.

General advice for all vehicles

  • Where possible, vehicles should be housed in a lockable garage or building, ideally with security lighting installed to the perimeter.
  • Vehicles should always be locked when not in use, with the keys kept hidden and locked away in a secure location.
  • Keep recordings or photographs of serial numbers and vehicles as these can be crucial in recovery, should the worst happen.

It is also important to be wary of crime even when selling a vehicle and check any prospective buyer is genuine before giving out your address details. Equally, it is just as important to protect yourself when buying used vehicles and machinery too. For further information visit our ‘Tips to avoid buying stolen farm vehicles’ article. 

Quad bikes and ATVs

Quads and All-Terrain Vehicles are the top target for thieves in the UK as they are easier to steal and sell-on than larger farm vehicles. As well as being simple to jump on and drive off when they’re left standing, thieves also take them from workshops and barns.

  • Invest in a bespoke quad security device, such as Quadvice or a quality padlock and chain, such as those approved by  Secured By Design - a police approved product scheme. Securing to a fixed point on the ground or something that takes time to remove will also act as a deterrent.
  • Never leave your keys in the ignition, even if you only briefly leave your ATV unattended.
  • Keep gates to yards closed as open gates can be an open invitation to thieves.


Although large, expensive tractors may seem the obvious target, thieves are now also targeting smaller and older, vintage models, which are less conspicuous to move around. The kit inside tractors, such as satellite navigation equipment, is also a major target for theft.

  • Machinery should be security marked with DNA marking devices and SmartWater tools, enabling tractors and their parts to be traced back to their rightful owners.
  • Sign up to CESAR, an agricultural equipment registration scheme, which increases the chance of recovering stolen goods by helping police identify stolen machinery. This provides chips and data dots that can enable machines to be identified, even if they are victim to the common criminal practice of cloning and modifying stolen vehicles.
  • Have the Vehicle Identification Number etched on windows. This makes the vehicle more detectable and less appealing to thieves because they have to grind out the numbers. Autoglass carry out etching free of charge for NFU Mutual tractor insurance policyholders. For more details and to arrange an appointment email
  • Install immobilisers, chip keys and trackers as these are a simple way to deter criminals or track vehicles and can be fitted easily by an experienced agricultural engineer. Thatcham immobilisers are quality tested and allow greater piece of mind for a one-off cost. Fitting a tracking device will provide a 24/7 location of your vehicle and can possibly lower your insurance premium.  

Trailers and horse boxes

Farmers often have no choice but to store trailers outside, but there are still precautions they can take to limit the risk of theft.

  • Fit locks and wheel locks when the vehicle is not in use; these can also be marked to identify who they belong to.
  • Paint your postcode on the roof to enable police helicopters to spot it; chances are the thieves won’t know it’s there.  


Fuel for tractors and ATVs is an increasingly expensive resource and therefore should also be safely guarded.

  • Store fuel tanks within secure buildings or cages, keeping them locked and alarmed.
  • Install an anti-siphon device on vehicles.
  • Protect fuel tanks by equipping them with an alarm that will sound when fuel levels drop. 

Clive Harris, NFU Mutual’s Agricultural Vehicle Specialist, outlines that prevention is ultimately the best strategy, incorporating multiple layers of security that best fit your particular circumstances.

For further information and application of many of the suggested security measures, watch Clive Harris' video presentation.