Self-storage facilities: Is your RV safe?

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By Tony Barthel
Is an RV self-storage place a safe place to keep your RV when you’re not using it? According to some respondents it isn’t. Despite the barbed wire, security cameras and coded entry systems your RV may not be as secure as you think in these places.

We spoke with a few RVers in a number of places who reported that their RVs had been broken into even though the lots told the right security story.

For example, Lynn in Ohio had her trailer broken into with the propane tanks, batteries and even the TV taken from it while it sat in a lot with full security. We also talked with Joe & Jacie in California, whose RV was severely damaged in a break-in, again in a “secure” place. And several others told very similar stories of their RVs getting broken into while they were in self-storage, including a police chief who had things stolen from his RV.

The one thing that all of these RVers have in common is that the best they got from local law enforcement was that they took a report. The best they got from the RV self-storage facilities was an apology, if even that. And the only thing that saved them was their own RV insurance policy, whose rates often went up in the following year.

IT WOULD SEEM THAT having an insurance policy specifically on the RV was the one bright spot in each of these cases. While some will make do with their vehicle covering the RV when it’s being towed, if it’s a towable, this kind of coverage seldom includes theft, vandalism or other things that don’t happen while in transit.

We’ve also known of RVers whose insurance stepped up when things like tree limbs fell on the RV or someone backed into them while they were at an RV park. Based on the reports from owners about the break-ins, along with a few others about damage at RV parks, it would seem like any RV of any value should be insured all the time.

In the case of Lynn, her RV was not damaged itself in the break-in. Instead, she suspected that the thief or thieves had keys to her RV and used those to get into the rig. In fact, having worked in the RV industry, it’s a little-known fact that almost all travel trailer baggage doors share the same 751 key and almost all RVers have a copy of this. Your baggage compartments are not likely to be all that safe.

There are also common RV keys that will open the latch on many, many RV doors. As a sales person I had one of these universal keys, and while the dealership I worked for was very diligent in making sure these keys stayed safe, not all dealerships have the same concern for safety.

But Lynn was lucky as the damage was limited to things the thief was able to easily remove.

Joe and Jacie had a much different experience with the thief trying to break in by literally prying the slide room off, causing almost $16,000 in damage to the trailer. Once they were inside, their haul wasn’t worth much. The result was months without their RV for maybe $100 worth of stolen goods.

RVs are an easy target for thieves. They know that the RV is just sitting there with propane tanks and batteries that do well on the black market. Inside there are flat-screen televisions, and many RVs have some pretty valuable tools as well. All these highly portable items can be swiped in a matter of minutes – in fact, they can be stolen while a co-conspirator who may be a legitimate customer of the storage facility visits their storage locker for all the right reasons.

Photo: lockaway-storage.com

Even if you change the locks on your RV, the baggage and entry doors are an inch thick, if even that. The most unimpressive tools can easily gain access to the RV, so even the best locks can’t stop a determined thief.

But if your locks are better than those of the RV sitting next to yours, you may win this battle.

When Joe and Jacie had their break-in experience, the thief or thieves were clearly on a mission and damaged several RVs – again, in a “secure” storage facility.

I spoke with several police officials and, apparently, there are no national statistics on RV break-ins on a national level.

What about the security?

I talked with a few self-storage facilities for this review and specifically asked them about the security. Initially they all sung the same song about how secure their facilities were and how they monitored who came and went.

But as I pushed them further, the layers of the onion peeled away and they admitted, to a person, that they couldn’t control everybody who came and went. Sure, someone who’s a customer may have the key code to the gate but what about the passengers in their vehicle when they come and go?

So while the illusion of security is certainly there with the key code at the gates and all that barbed wire, the fact that anybody with the code can just come and go means that security is just an illusion. In fact, I have gone into several self-storage units in my area to retrieve things from friends’ lockers and the people at the front desk have never ever said a single word about my comings and goings, and I wasn’t their customer.

Usually the security cameras are just in a few places including the entry gate, but it’s difficult to pinpoint when a thief came and went with all the legitimate traffic at the gate of an RV storage facility. If your RV is sitting for weeks it would be almost impossible to pinpoint when it was broken into. Or by whom.

What can you do?

If you’re not able to store your RV at your home, there are some steps you can take to make sure your RV is safer.

One of those is to install a security system with cameras. I talked to home security company SimpliSafe, who offer monitored systems for $14.99 per month. They indicated that, if someone simply had a source of 110vac power most of the time they could monitor that RV.

This could be in the form of a smaller solar panel, battery and inverter, as the SimpliSafe monitoring system draws very little power. In the event that power is lost the system does have a battery backup and it uses cellular calling to stay in touch with monitoring rather than requiring a landline.

If I were to install an alarm system on my RV I would make sure that this is indicated where thieves could see it. Again, you don’t have to be thief-proof, you just have to be better protected than the next person’s RV, sadly.

Another thing to do is replace all those commonly keyed baggage door locks with something else. I replaced the entry door latch of my RV with an RVLock keyless entry system and replaced my baggage door locks with combination locks. In addition to being slightly more secure, this also means I don’t have to carry around keys when I’m out camping, so I can go out for the day and come back and not worry that I can’t get into my own RV.

Unfortunately, self-storage facility security seems to be about as effective as political promises. As with hiking in the woods, you don’t have to be faster than the bears – you just have to be faster than the slowest person in your group. So having the most relatively secure RV in the facility could be to your advantage.

Editor: SimpliSafe is available on Amazon.com.

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Donald N Wright
5 days ago

These are good ideas. Thank you.

John Koenig
22 days ago

Dedicated “Storage Facilities” are EASY TARGETS for thieves. A thief can simply rent a storage unit! That will give give him virtually unlimited access to that storage facility, usually on a 24/7/365 basis. MOST RVs are relatively flimsy units and, do NOT pose much of a challenge against forced entry. Items stolen from stored RVs don’t even have to be carried away immediately. A thief can simply stash his haul into his own rental unit until such time as he’s ready to move (sell) it. I was fortunate when I owned a “stick & brick” in that I could keep my RV on my property. I expect that a majority of RV owners do NOT have that luxury and peace of mind. My biggest worry is, when I need to travel away from my RV, where I can safely store my RV for the time I need to be away. Even internet based cameras can not prevent theft / damage; at best such electronics might help in identifying the perpetrator(s). Good luck in getting a conviction and restitution.

Don Driever
22 days ago

Many years ago, our best friends 1st grandchild was conceived in their travel trailer while it was in a so called secure storage facility in SoCal. It seems that their son and his now wife would take the trailer keys and with a good story to the management gain access to the trailer for an undisturbed evening of love making.

Last edited 22 days ago by Don Driever
Ron V
24 days ago

Our storage facility is guarded and entry is controlled by a guard. If I am accompanied, then I am given a pass for that person which must be turned in when I leave. Control is tight for our 5000 spaces for our Del Webb communities here in the west Phoenix valley.

Bluebird Bob
24 days ago

When we first got our Bluebird, we had sold our home and had our Tracker tow car and personal items that we would be putting in our rig in a month or so. We rented a supposedly secure locked storage building with code access and cameras. Went after a month to put fresh tabs on the Tracker and found someone had cut off our lock and opened the door. No Tracker and just empty boxes greeted us. Police told us people would rent a small storage locker which gave them access to the property and they would drive around till they saw someone with an open door and look in while passing to see what they had. I’m sure this is what happened to us. Police eventually found the car but everything else wasn’t recovered. Office said “Sorry, not our problem”. We don’t trust these places anymore and you shouldn’t either!

Ron Britvec
24 days ago

Motorhomes and trailers can’t be expected to be safe in a storage facility. People can take available precautions but there are often many people entering and leaving storage facilities. The storage facility we use has video . . . but not in the area for RV storage. So, of course, someone crawled under the motorhome and cut the gas hose where it connects to the gas tank. It’s too easy to siphon at that point. They also broke a side window but didn’t enter the coach. Total repair was about $789.00. The storage company paid but said they would not cover a re-occurance.
I’m sure there are similar risks for people who store their boats at a marina.

Jerry Hayes
24 days ago

We store our coach in a secured lot under cover. Gated access and fenced. Security camera. I’ve always had the attitude that a lock only keeps an honest man honest. If a thief truly wants to steal something or break into something, he will do just that. I feel like I’m taking reasonable precautions to avoid problems. I don’t think I can ding my storage facility for having only one or two cameras, or whatever else they have as security. I know its not perfect and still could have a problem. But I think its wrong to infer that the storage facility is somehow negligent or at fault. I’m sorry for anyone who suffers a loss, but one can only take so many precautions.

Jeff Craig
25 days ago

If you are retired military, and live near a base, check with MRW (Morale, Welfare and Rec) about vehicle storage on base. I’ve stowed my rig in the RV lot 20 minutes from my home for 12 years now, and never had an issue. That said, I plan on moving it to my home in the next few years so I can have it hooked to power – but I need to regrade and pave the side yard to my home.

jim S.
25 days ago

Our RV was broken into while in the driveway about 4-5 years ago. Car thieves sold a new Volvo, 20 mile police chase, they crashed into a car dealers lot at 70 mph, $200,000 in totaled new and used cars, driver caught, two passengers escaped at 3am after trying to break into 3 different homes to hide out, finally broke into my RV to sleep and fix their wounds. No damage to RV suffice, but blood and stolen jackets and shoes. So I count myself lucky….Why can’t thieving “opportunist” keep their dirt hands off what is not theirs?

Lisa Adcox
25 days ago

Seems safer and cheaper to store at Campground that has storage area.

Ron Britvec
24 days ago
Reply to  Lisa Adcox

I wouldn’t be surprised if you are 100% correct. I’ve been intending to look into our nearest 1000 Trails facility. Good intention . . . seem to take a lot longer.

Roy Davis
25 days ago

I stored our Travel Trailer at a campground during off season for 10 years and never had any problems. Friends of ours stored theirs in a secured self storage place and had their propane tanks stolen twice. I built a storage garage on my property when we bought our diesel pusher and our friends now store their trailer right next to it but we put his propane tanks in my garage. Between my elaborate security system and the dogs no one sets foot on the property without us knowing it.

Jim
25 days ago

I stored my RV in a secure, safe, fenced and monitored lot and had an attempted break in. Moved it later to an unfenced, insecure location and no problem for several years. Ya just never know, maybe the fenced location is more tempting.

Burns R
25 days ago

Before we rented a spot at our local storage lot, I called our village police department and asked whether they had any reports or knowledge of theft or vandalism at the facility. They looked back through their records and could not find any incidences of problems. In the 3 years we have been storing there, the only “theft” has been an ever increasing monthly rate, which no doubt will go up again this January because the place is full. The price we pay for security…

Ron Britvec
24 days ago
Reply to  Burns R

The “ever increasing monthly rate” type of “theft” made me laugh. Yeah, I can believe it but I’m still going to look into it. Our current storage is only 2 miles away and that may be the determining factor compared to 15 miles away.

Susan Smith
25 days ago

We have stored our used RV at the same storage facility for the past 3 years. We just took it home yesterday as we are going full-time in a week and didn’t feel it was safe there any longer. This storage facility had recently changed hands and fired the people who had been managing it onsite for the 3 years we had parked it there. The new owners do not have an on-site manager so we decided the sooner we removed our RV the better even though they claimed to be installing more security cameras, outside lighting, etc. There was only one instance in the 3 years we had it parked in this facility that the managers who were living onsite said that entrance had been gained by cutting some barb wire at the top of the chain link fence in one section. No damage was done to our RV or other RVs and TTs parked there, but there was evidence that someone had tried to burglarize a couple of storage units nearby. Having a manager living onsite at a storage facility isn’t 100% foolproof but does help.

Jim G
25 days ago

We sat 8 months on a waiting list for a parking spot at our local self storage. When we rented the spot, the manager assured me they don’t have security issues. Once we parked our Class B there, someone attempted to break into it within 10 days. They scratched the paint and broke the door handle on the sliding door attempting to get inside, but never actually got in. It cost us $425 in labor plus parts to replace the door handle. Now we are trying to decide whether to bring it back to storage or park it in the street in front of the house like we did before our name came up on the wait list. One reason we wanted to park it in storage is because it detracts from the neighborhood. Also, it attracts lots of attention parked on the street (random people knock on the door every month asking to buy it) even though we live on a cul-de-sac in a subdivision with no through streets, so we don’t feel it is very secure here either. A damned-if-you do and damned-if-you don’t situation.

Mark
23 days ago
Reply to  Jim G

$425 in labor to take off and install a door handle….who’s the thief?

Craig Carbrey
25 days ago

We were in one of the top two secured RV storage lot in our area. The thieves wearing full coverings (real nice picture by the security camera), with appropriate equipment cut a hole in the wrought iron fence crawled under our class A and cut the catalytic converter out and walked out at 6am. Deductible paid and got it back. Moved to the other storage facility which has a mangers residence on the property. Hope it helps. Converter theft is so rampant that suppliers can’t keep up. Over a month waiting for a replacement.

Mike Sherman
25 days ago

I know folks who simply leave the door unlocked. They remove most valuables, so they won’t face any damage when they make their discovery. They can still go on their trip with no delay.

Drew
25 days ago
Reply to  Mike Sherman

Some of these people even leave spare keys hanging inside- just like a car lot- thanks. Before we moved to a more secure place, they tried to use someone’s keys to get into ours- again, many thanks. Broken locks to replace and a pried door jam when all else failed. A month or so after we moved the storage place called and said the theives had been arrested and did we want to press charges. Those people were homeless- I wonder what “charges” would have improved things?

Milton Pridemore
25 days ago

Simplisafe works! Period! I keep my RV next to my home but have a simplisafe security home system. I put a motion sensor inside the RV and door alarm sensors on the storage. I added the sensors to my home system…everything is protected! I also have a high definition security camera overlooking the yard and RV trailer. I drop the sensors from the home system while traveling. If your storage lot does not have power for the simplisafe system you can install a pair or more of 100 watt solar panels on the roof. You can run the simplisafe system without the 110 to 12 volt supply by just plugging it into a 12 volt battery system. The Simplisafe doesn’t know the difference and works fine!

Cindy Walker
25 days ago

We have SimpliSafe, we have changed all our locks. Our storage fee is going up to $127 next month. It was $70 when we moved here 7-1/2 years ago. There’s no place else to store it and they know it. What a rip-off.

Thomas D
25 days ago

Little known fact? When we bought our first rv the salesman told us ” you might want to change the locks, they are all the same” and then proceeded to show us from one rv to the next. I’ve put on new barrel locks on everything since.

Mark
23 days ago
Reply to  Thomas D

Actually, it’s a widely known fact but surprising your RV dealership told you!