Avoiding Theft

Suggestions to make your boat less vulnerable

Begin by looking at your boat through the eyes of a thief: How hard would it be to steal the boat? How long would it take?

What would you have to do to break in? Is there equipment that isn’t protected?

  • Most boats are stolen while on their trailer; don’t make it easy for a thief to hook it up and take off. If possible, park the trailer away from the road. If you must leave your boat in the driveway, don’t leave the hitch facing the street. Chain your trailer to a tree or a sturdy post. If not, remove one or more tires and store them inside along with the lug nuts. Not only does this make it impossible to pull the trailer; it prolongs tire life and reduces the chances of a flat. Consider removing the license plate and lights as well; the last thing a thief wants is a traffic stop. Simply locking the hitch or removing the coupler is not always enough; some thieves carry coupler devices that can be quickly attached to the trailer.
  • Use locks on props, outboards, and outdrives. Buy good quality hardened steel locks that aren’t easily defeated.
  • Whenever possible, store equipment at home. If you have a small outboard engine, it’s much safer in your garage than hanging on your boat’s transom. The more stuff you take off, the less attractive your boat will be to a thief.
  • Consider upgrading your cabin doors or hatch boards with locks that are harder to defeat. Stainless steel hasps or bars can be fitted that are much harder to break into than what manufacturers typically offer.
  • Make sure there is good lighting where you keep your boat. Would a burglar feel threatened?
  • If you have curtains, keep them drawn to keep prying eyes off of valuables. If you can’t, be sure to store alcoholic beverages and valuables where they won’t be seen.
  • Don’t leave your keys in a cockpit locker. This is a common practice and thieves know it. Hide keys below or, better yet, take them home.
  • Invest in an alarm system. You don’t have to spend a lot of money – even simple alarms can scare off a thief.
  • Another worthwhile deterrent: Install a fuel or electrical cutoff device. These are simple, relatively cheap and will often thwart a theft.
  • Avoid having a “For Sale” sign on your boat. This gives thieves an excuse to snoop around without drawing suspicion.
  • If you have anti-theft device warning stickers, place them where they can be easily seen. Often thieves will pass up a boat that appears to be well guarded.
  • Use chains and locks to secure dinghies and small boats. Painting your dinghy in unusual colors or patterns makes it less likely to be stolen – thieves don’t want to risk possessing anything easily identifiable.
  • Visit your boat frequently or make arrangements with other boat owners to check on each other's boats.
  • Display your BoatUS theft reward decal. The program is free for all members and registration is automatic. After a review, a $2,500 Cash Reward may be offered to any person or persons providing information resulting in the arrest and conviction of anyone stealing or vandalizing a boat or its equipment registered with BoatUS.

What are the Chances of Your Boat Being Stolen? *

Personal Watercraft 10 per 1,000
Runabouts 2 per 1,000
Cruisers (with cabins) 8 per 1,000
Trawlers 3 per 10,000
Sailboats 2.5 per 10,000

* Based on a 10 year study of the BoatUS Marine Insurance Claim Files.