Here are a few troubling statistics to kick off your day. In 2019, the National Insurance Crime Bureau recorded a whopping 4,240 watercraft thefts. And with 1 out of every 10 US households owning a boat, it might just be a matter of time before your watercraft is ripped right out of your hands. Throw that thing on a trailer, and you’ve just made it that much easier to take your vessel.
While you can’t really control whether your boat becomes the next target of that thieving crew of modern-day pirates, there are things you can do to make it harder for them or to deter them all together. Here’s everything you need to know on how to secure a boat trailer from theft.
10 Ways to Prevent Boat Trailer Theft
Just to set the record straight - none of these strategies can guarantee 100% that your boat won’t be stolen. Thieves can get pretty crafty these days, and as the old adage goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
So what’s the point of trying these tips if they can’t completely protect your boat anyway? Well, although these measures can’t prevent a stolen boat, they decrease the chances. Robbers typically prefer an easy target. So any hurdles that could get in their way or risk them getting caught will make your boat an undesirable objective.
Here are a few ways on how to lock a trailer so it can’t be stolen:
1. Use a Hitch or Tongue Lock
The mere fact that all locks can be opened is a testament to the fact that all locks can be picked. That means that a seasoned lock picker with the right tools might be able to tinker their way through a hitch lock. But with the right kind of lock, you can give those intrusive thieves a run for their money.
Simple designs like the Reese Towpower 72783 Coupler Lock make it impossible for a car to hitch to your trailer. It essentially jams a ball into your trailer tongue so you can’t hook it up to your vehicle. It also comes in a flashy yellow color so opportunistic thieves can see it at a glance and walk away.
If you’re not sold on the simplistic Towpower Coupler Lock though, you can go with a more sophisticated choice like the AMPLOCK U-BRU2 Boat Trailer Lock. This thing doesn’t only jam the tongue with a ball, but also conceals the hitch in a solid metal box to prevent tampering.
2. Toss In a Wheel Lock, Too
Your tongue lock becomes doubly effective when you pair it with a wheel lock. Just like a clamp that they would use on an illegally parked car, a wheel lock keeps at least one of your wheels in place so that the trailer can’t move forward.
Again, there are a bunch of choices on the market. The Tevlaphee Universal Wheel Lock as well as the Wheel Clamp from Kaycentop are both popular choices for boat trailer owners. Of course, your main consideration would have to be whether or not they’ll fit your wheels.
While a lot of them do nothing more than prevent your wheels from moving, there are others with extra safety measures in place. For instance, one wheel clamp comes equipped with a large needle that punctures your wheel if the clamp is tampered. So even if they manage to get it off, they’d have to try to drive off with a busted tire.
3. Try a Chain and Lock
If the old wheel clamp just isn’t for you, or if you don’t have one just yet, you can try to look for a chain and a lock combo. It will work pretty much the same way, letting you thread the chain through your wheels, and then lock it in place so they can’t drive the trailer away.
However since the friction of a chain against your metal wheel frames might cause rust and corrosion over time, you might want to consider getting a coated or a covered chain to minimize any damage to your trailer.
As for your lock, a heavy, outdoor, industrial padlock should be your best bet. There are lots of picks on the market for sure, but the Master Lock Pro Series Hidden Shackle Padlock makes it much tougher to tinker around with the security measure.
We recommend the Greenfield Coated Anchor Chain or the Vulcan Security Chain.
4. Stow Away the Wheels
No lock, no chain, no clamp? No problem. The best way to secure a trailer would be to render it immovable. You could always just temporarily get rid of a wheel while your boat and trailer are in storage. However for the purpose of even weight distribution, most experts recommend that if you’re using this particular method, you should remove both wheels to prevent teetering your trailer on one side.
It’s worth mentioning though that this method might not be ideal for boat owners who think they might use their boat and trailer a little more often. Nonetheless, if you’re storing for the winter, or if you just don’t have plans of using your boat for the next few weeks, it’s definitely an affordable and effective solution.
One thing to remember though is that when you do remove the wheel, don’t toss it in the boat or trailer. Anyone can figure out how to pop it back on. Keep the wheel inside at home or somewhere concealed to keep cunning thieves from figuring out your strategy.
5. Install an Alarm System
One of the reasons why people brush over alarm systems is because they often think they cost a fortune. And while a full-on alarm system might set you back a few hundred bucks, you don’t really need to spend so much. There are lots of cheaper alternatives that serve the same purpose.
The Trimax TAL2572 Alarm Lock Braid Cable gives off a 110 decibel siren that lets you know when your trailer is being tampered with. Just secure the braid cable where a thief might have to remove it (like a wheel) and the thing should serve its purpose once tampered.
Another clever alarm system you can try is the Solar Sound & Light Alarm Motion Sensor. This device detects motion within 8 meters of your trailer and lights up when activated. It also lets out a loud alarm that should let you know there’s someone within the vicinity of your trailer.
This alarm system might not be ideal if the area of your trailer is a place where people, cars, and animals typically pass. Only install this system if your trailer is parked somewhere where you’re certain there won’t be any movement - unless there’s someone trying something shady.
And then, there’s the Magnetic Pull Cord Alarm from Drive. This thing doesn’t really look like an alarm, which works in your favor since a thief might not think to disable it even if its in plain sight. All you have to do is fit the alarm unit on your trailer, and secure the other end of the cord to something stationary underneath.
If your trailer moves out of place, the cord pulls out of the alarm and triggers a loud siren. Of course, that would also entail that your boat security (like locks and chains) have already been breached, and your trailer has now been hitched to a car. But hey, it can definitely rattle and even deter a dedicated thief.
6. Connect to a Land Anchor
Again, it’s not fool-proof. But using a land anchor with any of the other security options on our list might very well keep those thieving hands at bay. If you’ve got a patch of green garden near where you park your boat trailer, this should be an easy security measure to add to your roster.
The ground anchor essentially screws deep into the ground, letting you tether your trailer with a chain or a braided cable (like the ones mentioned above.) It’s simple and easy, and can definitely discourage a robber who might not be too interested in unscrewing a foot-long heavy duty screw.
If you want something a little more secure than just a giant screw driven into garden soil, you can have a few concrete anchor hooks installed. Do note that these might require professional installation, and that removing them might take no more than a sledgehammer. All in all, land anchors are not a standalone solution.
We like the Orange Screw Ground Anchor Pack and M8 Expansion Screw with Eye Ring Anchor.
7. Put Up Motion Detecting Lights
They’re quiet, and the don’t really do a lot to keep your boat ‘secure’ per se. But imagine you’re a nervous thief, almost overflowing with fear and anxiety as you try to undo a bunch of locks while going undetected. And then out of nowhere, a beam of bright light shines on your activity, showing the world around you just what you’re planning to do.
Naturally, anyone would start to panic, and most people would leave the place. And that’s pretty much what a motion detecting light is for. It’s not going to directly protect your boat. But by illuminating the cover of darkness and exposing a thief at work, these lights can definitely deter a shady character.
See to it that you choose something extra bright to really rattle those robbers. Install somewhere that will allow your light to illuminate the whole area. Power source is all up to preference, but solar powered are definitely less taxing to take care of and operate.
Check out the Mr Beams Wireless Motion Sensing LED Spotlight or the LED Motion Censor Flood Light.
8. Install a CCTV System
Outdoor security cameras are super accessible these days. You can buy the device for less than a hundred bucks, and set-up doesn’t even require a professional’s expertise anymore. Just download a mobile app, press here, screw there, and you’re good to go.
Sure, a CCTV camera might not prevent thieves from targeting your boat. But it can definitely help with the boat retrieval process in case it’s lost. And even if the robber fails to take your boat, you’ve got damning evidence that can help identify the criminal and put them behind bars.
Install at least two cameras in the area so you have a full view of the boat and trailer at all times. If you buy one with two-way audio communication, you even talk to the thief as they attempt to steal your boat to dissuade them from going any further.
We really like the Hiseeu Wireless Rechargeable Waterproof Motion Detection Camera.
9. Let Them Know What’s Up
It’s one thing to install a CCTV system and another thing to let them know that there’s a security system installed. This can be done by way of a sign around the vicinity of your boat, telling people who pass by that your trailer is in fact, constantly monitored via a security camera.
Remember that robbers want an easy target. So simply knowing that your boat is under surveillance will definitely deter those who don’t want to run the risk of being identified and caught.
You can buy cheap plastic signs to let those punks know what’s up. In fact, you can beef up the security barrier by letting them know you’ve got a dog on the premises too. Studies have found that the mere presence of a dog (or even just the suggestion that a dog lives on the property) can reduce the chances of burglaries by up to 40%.
These Video Surveillance Signs might be helpful to avoid theft.
10. Get a Live GPS Tracker
Okay, this one’s a bit of a final measure. But just like a fire extinguisher, it’s one of those things you’ll never want to use but will be thankful to have around when you actually need it. What it does basically is that it tells you where your trailer is in real time. You hook the tracker to a mobile app that you can download on your phone, and it tells you precisely where your trailer is.
This can be especially helpful if you’re trying to track a stolen trailer. Do note that it might come with a monthly fee to keep it connected to a network so you can actively track when you activate the device. But even then, it’s a small price to pay for that kind of security.
We highly recommend installing the Tracki Mini Real Time GPS Tracker to your boat trailer.
Protect What’s Yours
Time’s are tough - do you really want to take risks with your precious boat and trailer? Instead of incurring thousands of dollars of losses from replacing a stolen trailer, why not learn how to secure a boat trailer from theft instead? Costing no more than a couple hundred bucks (collectively) these effective tips should help deter those thieves and keep your beloved watercraft and trailer safe from their opportunistic clutches.