Buying a used cash safe

Buying a second-hand or re-conditioned safe – deciding which is best for you. We summarise the pros and cons to help you choose.

When looking to purchase a safe, pretty-much the first decision you have to make is whether to go for a brand new, re-conditioned or second-hand safe. This guide will help you navigate the pros and cons of second-hand versus re-conditioned safes.

For this guide a second-hand safe is classed as a used safe that has not been refurbished in any way or has not been re-conditioned in accordance with the current British Standard.  A re-conditioned safe will have been refurbished in accordance with the latest BS 7582:2021 Code of practice for reconditioning of used safes.

A used safe may be cheaper to purchase and seem an ideal solution for the security of your cash, valuables or family keep-sakes and of course, recycling helps to look after our planet. Modern cash safes are tested and graded by their resistance to physical attack. To insure any amount over £6,000 cash or £60,000 valuables, a safe certified to European standards is required. Generally, all safe makers manufacture safes ranging from Grade 0 to Grade VII. The higher the certified grade, the higher the level of resistance to burglary.

The grading of a safe can be found on a certification plate on the back of the safe door naming the European testing standard (EN 1143-1, EN1143-2, EN14450), the test house and certifier, along with the resistance grade achieved, its weight and test date.

Care is required to identify the actual make, model and resistance grade of a used safe before purchasing or the buyer’s insurer may refuse to provide the required level of indemnity (BSVTA recommends any second hand safe that cannot be identified should only receive a maximum £1,000 cash or £10,000 valuables insurance cover) or even worse not settle a claim if investigators find the safe isn’t the make, model and resistance grade specified.

As important as the grading of your safe, is its correct installation and anchoring.  All safes weighing less than 1000kg should have anchorage points in the base, so it can be bolted to the floor. Always consult with your insurance company regarding the safe’s position and anchoring.  Safe manufacturers, suppliers and installers are not architects or structural engineers and therefore unable to advise on floor loading’sIt is always the purchaser’s responsibility to ensure the proposed location is structurally sound, able to bear the weight of the safe and have no underfloor services.

Many issues need to be addressed when considering the purchase of a second hand safe:

➢           Is the safe lock the correct type for the security level required?

➢           Does the safe have anchor holes in the base?

➢           Inside the safe door are usually additional re-locking devices that protect against physical attack. If missing or inoperative,  the safe is vulnerable.

➢           Are the bolt-work and lock in good working order?  It can be expensive to drill or pick open a locked-out safe after purchase.

➢           If the safe has been drilled open previously are the access positions repaired and restored to the necessary standard of security?

➢           Have all existing combination codes, digital codes and management codes been removed or changed?.

➢           Is the seller/dealer reputable?

Buying a re-conditioned safe.

A reconditioned safe should be refurbished to BS 7582:2021 the code of practice for reconditioning of used safes and should protect as effectively as a brand new safe.  Many older safes were built to a very high standard and may be heavier in construction than modern safes. Recycling safes is good for the planet as older safes can be very difficult to dispose of.

BS 7582:2021 and the British Standards Institute.

The standard was prepared by the Technical Committee GW/2, Safes, representing the following bodies:

➢           Association of British Insurers

➢           Association of Insurance Surveyors

➢           Association of Security Consultants

➢           British Bankers Association

➢           British Security Industry Association

➢           BRE – Building Research Establishment

➢           Building Societies Association

➢           Car Radio Industry Specialist Association

➢           Master Locksmith Association

➢           Post Office

➢           Co-opted members

As a code of practice, this British Standard takes the form of guidance and recommendations and copies are available to purchase from the BSI shop –

The re-conditioning process.

The purpose is to take a used safe and restore it as closely as possible to its original manufactured specification. A reconditioned safe cannot be restored to a higher standard than it was originally manufactured and tested to. To comply with the BS standard the reconditioning process should be as follows:

➢           The safe body stripped and sanded to expose any defects, previous attacks or openings after a lock-out.

➢           The safe door is removed and stripped as above. The locks, handles, internal locking and re-locking devices removed for inspection and service.

➢           The safe body and safe door are repaired and restored to original specification, then repainted. Safe handles are replaced if damaged.

➢           Hinges and door alignment are checked with components being replaced as necessary. Parts must be either original, as good as or of improved quality.

➢           All bolt-work, re-lockers and glass plates are cleaned, serviced, lubricated, re-installed and re-cabled as required.

➢           The key-lock’s  levers altered and new keys supplied or the entire lock replaced.  Combination codes are changed and digital combination lock user codes and management codes removed. Locks must not be modified, but can be replaced with as good or better quality.

➢           Anchoring points are checked and if not available, drilled and sleeved. All safes weighing less than 1000kg must be anchored.

➢           All manufacturers badges, certificate plates and serial numbers must be intact and legible.

➢           The supplier will issue a notice listing their company name, address, make, size, model, serial number and year of manufacture of the safe.

➢           A document should be available listing all works completed during the reconditioning process.

➢           The refurbishing company will attach a label to the safe confirming it has been reconditioned in accordance with British Standard BS 7582:2021.

  • The higher the Grade safe, the less chance of it being forced open
  • The greater the weight of a safe, the less chance of it being removed
  • Bolt your safe securely to a solid floor
  • Buy your safe from a BSVTA UK approved member
  • Purchase an AiS approved safe

The insured jewellery and valuables amount is usually 10 times the cash amount.

These ratings are for guidance only, you should check with your insurer for your specific insurance requirements.

AiS Approved safes.

The Association of Insurance Surveyors (AiS) is independent of insurance and security industries and is a well-known and respected body of risk control experts. Through its collective expertise and influence it aims to seek continuous improvement in all aspects of protection of persons and property, against insurable risks. Manufacturers and importers are requested to submit test certificates to AiS for verification.  Once verified they may display the AiS Approved  label.

Founded to represent the interests of manufacturers and distributors of safes and security containers.

To take such steps as necessary to improve and maintain the standard of safes and security containers marketed in the UK and to assist in the restoration of confidence in current European standards for testing and rating such products.

To work with the international parent body, BSVTA, to promote recognition of the European Fire & Security Group (EFSG) and the European Certification Board.Security (ECB.S). To ensure a duty of care to member’s customers by adhering to the association’s Code of Practice.

To advise insurers, underwriters, insurance brokers and their representative bodies of the advantages of recommending safes and security containers tested and certified by the BRE/LPCB in the UK, or tested by foreign laboratories affiliated with the EFSG or certified by ECB.S

To ensure a duty of care to member’s customers by adhering to the association’s Code of Practice.

To encourage insurers to require that all used safes are reconditioned in accordance with BS7582:2021 Code of practice for the reconditioning of used safes.

Secured by Design

Widely recognised by security professionals and increasingly by consumers as a flagship UK police initiative to help ‘design out’ crime through the use of high-quality, innovative products and processes. The Secured by Design brand is owned and operated by Police Crime Prevention Initiatives Limited on behalf of the UK police service.

Certification Plates and Testing Bodies:

VdS – is one of the world’s most renowned institutions for corporate security with a focus on fire protection, security, natural hazards prevention and cyber security.  Services include risk assessments, testing of equipment, certification of products, companies and  professionals. The VdS seal of approval enjoys an excellent reputation.

ECB – European Certification Body – The blue certification mark.

The European Certification Body GmbH was founded in 2011 as a neutral certification body. Until its foundation, the certification of physical safety products had been carried out by the International Security Association ESSA.


ESSA is the leading international association of the physical security industry. The Association was established in 1967 as Forschungs- und Prüfgemeinschaft Geldschränke und Tresoranlagen e.V. (FuP) by the companies that were most active in the security market in Germany at that time. Their aim was to develop  standards to enable comparison of physical security products providing the industry with a certain level of transparency to ensure high quality standards and fair competition.

The Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB)

The Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) – has been working with industry and government for more than 100 years to set the standards needed to ensure that fire and security products and services perform effectively.

LPCB is part of BRE Global. LPCB’s Loss Prevention Standards (LPS) are now widely recognised and applied in fire and security sectors around the world. LPCB offers third-party certification confirming products and services have met and will continue to meet these standards.  Full details of the Loss Prevention Standards (LPS) are available online. All fire and security products, services and companies certificated by LPCB to LPS and other industry standards are listed in their ‘RedBook’.

BRE Global – offers a huge range of advisory services, conduingct innovative research to set and monitor industry standards, develop and deliver professional training courses, and provide independent, third-party certification services.

Special thanks to Charles Holmes, Alan Bullock and Adam Greenaway for contributions to this guide.  We also express our appreciation for the assistance of the Association of Insurance Surveyors.

All information is for guidance only – Full and detailed information can be found by contacting all the associations, standards and certification bodies or by visiting their websites.

To find out more, please visit the BSVTA website where all the latest news is available

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16 October 2019


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