How to Keep Your Boat Safe from Theft

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While boat thefts are generally decreasing, they still happen.1 To keep your watercraft safe, the first thing to remember is that thieves look for easy opportunities.

Help prevent boat theft by remembering time, noise, and visibility.2 The more you increase the time it takes to steal your boat, the better off you’ll be. Every theft prevention measure should make noise to keep the burglar away and your boat should be visible, making it difficult to steal.

Here are some additional tips to help make sure your boat stays safe.

1. Get an alarm system

Securing your boat with an alarm system is the number one thing you can do to prevent theft. Finding the right security provider isn’t always easy, so here are some things to make the task easier.

  • Reliability: Is the system designed to last in wet and dry environments? Make sure you ask about the alarm sensitivity too—will it be trigger when a bird lands on the deck?
  • Easy to use: If the system isn’t easy to use, chances are you won’t use it properly. Make sure you are comfortable operating the alarm system.
  • Coverage: Ask if the security system protects decks, hatches, and the gunwale. Find out if the alarm triggers when an intruder first climbs on board or when someone enters the cabin.
  • Weatherproofing: Your boat will be out in nature and on the water. Your alarm components should be protected against water, rain, sun, and wind.
  • Motion sensor lights: Well-lit boats and storage areas will help deter a thief. Motion sensor lights illuminate would-be thieves and tell you when something's up.

2. Make sure the boat can't move easily when parked

The harder it is to move the boat, the more difficult it is to steal.

If you store your boat on a trailer at home

Approximately 73% of stolen boats are taken while on the trailer.3

  • Park it on the side or behind your home where you can see it. Don't leave it on the street.
  • Chain the trailer frame to a tree or other sturdy object to keep it from moving easily.
  • Put a wheel clamp lock on one of the wheels.
  • Park so the trailer tongue doesn’t face the street and use a coupler lock.
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Boat storage

If you don't have a place to securely store your boat at home, consider investing in boat storage near your home or primary marina—especially in the off-season. This could be dry boat storage, a storage unit, or RV storage.

If you leave your boat on the water

  • Don’t leave the keys in the jockey box or anywhere else on the boat.
  • If your boat has a dinghy, store it on the boat, if possible.
  • If the dinghy needs to stay in the water, use a locking cable to secure it to the boat.

3. Remove personal property and valuable documents

If you have personal property on your boat, like electronics, fishing equipment, or boating equipment, either move it out of site or off the boat entirely. If you aren’t using the boat, it’s best to remove the registration, document papers, and the boat title.

4. Choose a marina wisely

If you store your boat in a marina, choose one with good lighting and full-time security. The marina employees should be familiar with your boat and when you are using it. Marina security will alert you if your boat goes missing—improving the odds of getting your property back. Using a vehicle gps tracker can also help.

Your boat is meant to be used and enjoyed. Practice some safety tips to keep your boat safe from theft so you can enjoy hours on the open water.

Related articles on SafeWise


  1. National Insurance Crime Bureau, "NCIB: 2019 Watercraft Theft Report," June 2020. Accessed April 6, 2022.
  2. Patrick Farrell, National Boat Owners Association, "Boat Theft: Being Proactive Is The Key to Preventing Boat Theft," March 2012. Accessed April 6, 2022.
  3. Charles Fort, BoatUS Magazine, "Analyzing Boat Thefts," October 2016. Accessed April 6, 2022.

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Katherine Torres
Written by
Katherine Torres
Katherine has had several years of experience developing and executing multichannel marketing campaigns, but actually started her career path in journalism. Though she switched gears, she continues to be driven by the need to deliver information that can be helpful for individuals. As an owner of two rescue dogs, she is most interested in technology and products that allow her to keep a close eye on her pets when she’s away.

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