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How GPS Tracking Can Prevent Boat Theft - Prevention and Recovery

How GPS Tracking Can Prevent Boat Theft - Prevention and Recovery

Lynn Mendez

Every year, cases of boat theft and fraud cause a lot of stress and headaches for boat owners and insurance companies, not to mention economic worries because of the millions of dollars they also lose. Like how it is with stolen motorcycles and cars, stolen boats are commonly sold to buyers in the black market or to unaware customers via middlemen. 

Key Takeaways

  • Boat Theft Statistics: Boat theft remains a significant issue with 4,499 watercraft stolen in 2018. Only 1 in 10 stolen boats are recovered, and those that are often depreciate in value.
  • Common Targets: Boats between 20 to 26 feet and runabouts are most frequently stolen. The majority of thefts occur when boats are stored on trailers.
  • Prevention Tips: Secure your boat with locks, take your keys with you, install an alarm system, and consider removing tires or essential parts to deter thieves.
  • Preparedness: Keep a record of all identifying numbers and documents, take detailed pictures of your boat, and invest in a GPS tracker for real-time location updates and alerts.

According to an official report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau, while there was an 8 percent decrease in watercraft theft in 2018 compared to the previous year’s record, there were still a total of 4,499 watercraft stolen from January 1 to December 31 last year; it’s still a high rate and it should be a cause for concern, especially if you consider the fact that on average, only 1 out of 10 stolen boats are ever recovered, and even those boats that are recovered greatly depreciate in value.

As a result, boat theft claims are said to be at the top when it comes to insurance payouts. In short, boat theft is a serious problem, both for the owners and the insurance companies.

Boat Theft Statistics

They say that the best weapon you can ever have been knowledge. As such, knowing the following statistics about boat theft can help you protect yourself from being turned into a target by thieves.

Percentage by Boat Size

Boats within 20 to 26 feet are the types that are most often stolen; around 75 percent of stolen watercraft are within that size range. On the other hand, boats that are under 20 feet make up approximately a quarter of thefts. Larger boats, especially those that are 30 feet or more, are rarely stolen, accounting for only 10 percent of thefts. 

Percentage by Boat Type

Now let’s talk about types. Runabouts are the most frequently stolen; they make up about 46 percent of the thefts. Cruisers are next at 28 percent, while personal watercrafts (PWCs) are third at 13 percent. For the most obvious reasons, trawlers and sailboats are the least tempting to thieves at just 3 percent; it would be hard to even attempt an escape when the vessel itself is only capable of running at 6 or 7 knots. 

Percentage by Storage 

A great percentage of boats are stolen while they’re stored on trailers—about 73 percent. In most cases, the thieves are so bold as to take from the owners’ yards under the cover of darkness. The portability of trailer boats due to their wheels is what makes them easiest to steal.

On the other hand, boats are less likely when they’re stored in a marina; among reported cases of theft, only about 17 percent had been reported as stolen from a dock or slip. Lastly, boats are least likely to be taken when they’re in a lift, accounting for only 2 percent of theft cases. 

One alarming thing that can be said about these incidents of boat theft is that only about 15 percent ever reported having had any kind of lock installed to secure their boats. This means that a majority of the other cases had owners who didn’t bother to lock their boats because they didn’t think they needed any and thought their boats would be safe where they were. 

Boat Theft Prevention Tips 

Fortunately, there are measures you can take to increase the security of your boat and prevent thieves from stealing it. When thieves are scoping out an area, they tend to choose targets that are easier to steal and are much easier to gain access to. In short, they’re on the lookout for an easy score.

Making your harder to steal will discourage them, and thus, they’ll have to look for easier targets elsewhere. The following are some effective tips for keeping your boat secure:

  • Always take your boat keys with you. Do not leave them in a cockpit locker or even anywhere on the boat. No matter how clever you think a particular hiding spot is, a smart thief will always be to figure out where it is and find it. It’s so much better to pocket your keys or take them with you wherever you go.
  • Make it a point to secure your boat with locks. For instance, you can lock the vessel’s engine, install a chain around the wheels and tires, and lock the cabin, outdrives, and propellers. Be sure that your locks are of top-quality hardened steel. The more secure it is, the better.
  • You can also set up stainless-steels bars or hasps on your hatch boards and cabin doors. They can be a smart addition to your security enforcements, and they do actually make it that much harder for thieves to break into your boat. 
  • Installing an alarm system, even a simple one at that, can also scare off thieves, so we suggest you also set up one, in addition to the other security measures you have undertaken.
  • Another way you can make it harder for thieves to steal your boat is to take off one or more of its tires. It makes for extra work on your part, but it will certainly discourage people who want to take it when they find out that the trailer is tireless. Another strategy it so installs a removable tongue and then removing it when your boat is not in use. If thieves can’t find a way to hook your boat up, they are more likely not to take it.
  • Another strategy, although it might be a bit extreme, is to strip your boat. Yes, strip it as in take-off important parts and take off lights and license plates as the more things you take off your boat, the lesser the possibility that the thieves will take it. No one will want to risk getting stopped by authorities because they had a few parts missing off their boat. 

Preparing for the Worst-Case Scenario

Sometimes, however, despite our best efforts, the worst still happens. Should your boat get stolen, you want to be prepared for it so that there’s still a chance you can recover it quickly. You can take the following measures:

  1. Keep a record of all the important numbers involved, such as your watercraft’s hull identification number (HIN), the state registration number, the decal number, and the serial numbers for the engine, outdrive, and transom assembly. If there are any electronics, you should also take note of their serial numbers as well.
  2. Should you happen to recover your boat, you’ll need to prove that it is indeed your property. It’s wise to make copies of all the documents proving your ownership of your boat. This can be in the form of receipts, invoices, and legal documents that show that you were indeed the buyer and that it belongs to you.
  3. Pictures are another way that you can prove ownership. Yes, your cameras aren’t just for taking pictures of you and your friends when you’re sailing your boat. They can also provide proof that you do indeed own your watercraft. Make sure to take pictures of every part of the boat, from the interior to the exterior parts. Don’t forget about the engines as well as all other identifying features or designs. Your insurance company will also ask for these pictures as well if you’re submitting a claim later on.
  4. Invest in a GPS tracker for your boat. This is probably the best thing you can do in terms of securing your boat and making sure you have a means of recovering it in case it gets stolen. Once you’ve set it up on your boat, a tracker can detect and monitor the exact location of your vessel, no matter where it is and how far you are from it. This way, if your boat does get stolen, you can quickly recover it with the help of the authorities before the thieves have a chance to take it too far away.

Helpful Features of a GPS Tracker

A GPS tracking device has many beneficial features that can help you secure your boat as well as monitor its location. 

Tracki Pro GPS for Boat
  • Real-time tracking – This provides you with accurate location updates of your boat, all in real time. At any point in time, you will be able to detect its actual location.
  • Geofencing – This enables you to set up safety zones for your boat. The moment your vessel gets taken beyond those zones; an alert will instantly be sent to you.
  • Speed and motion alerts - This feature allows you to monitor the speed and activity of your vessel. 
  • Audio monitoring – This is another helpful feature that might be useful in case you want further identification of where your boat could possibly be. It allows you to listen in secretly on the immediate surroundings of your vessel. You might be able to catch the voices of the thieves. 

Among the many trackers in the market, Tracki is known to have the smartest, most compact, and most cost-effective devices. If you want to secure your boat and prevent it from being stolen, Tracki is your best bet.

Author information:
Lynn Mendez

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