Every week, RVtravel.com publishes news of stolen RVs in its Sunday newsletter. The hope is, with your help, we may be able to reunite a stolen RV with its owner. It got us thinking: Just how likely is it that a given type of RV will be stolen? And where are the most likely places for an RV to be stolen?
Getting your hands on the hard facts of stolen RVs is practically impossible. A Google search for “stolen recreational vehicle statistics” provides no official information. There are plenty of “RV experts” who will tell you conflicting information. One site screamed, “As of 2017, RVs and similar trailers were considered the 4th most common vehicle type to be stolen and accounted for 6% of stolen vehicles.”
On the other hand, a website article from another source, updated a few days prior to this writing, said this: “RV theft is not very common. Even though it is not impossible, it certainly is not a phenomenon that most RV owners have to deal with. This explains why there is such a low percentage of RVs stolen.” The same article added, “To show just how many RVs are stolen, between 2013 and 2019, 2016 had the highest number of reported stolen RVs. Only three RVs were reported as stolen this year, which is next to nothing.”
RVs are the fourth most common stolen vehicle? “Only three RVs were reported stolen this year”? The site that would lead you to believe that RVs are a high likelihood to be stolen turns out to source their information from a database of stolen construction equipment. It’s possible the construction trailers are high on the list of stolen vehicles, but it appears that RVs would NOT be on the list. As to the latter, “only three RVs stolen this year,” sites their source of information as Recreational Vehicle Industry Association. Yes, the RVIA does have a database of stolen RVs, but it only compiles data on RVs stolen from dealerships—not the general public.
We turn to our own statistics
So much for “reliable” information from the internet. Johnny Robot strikes again. Truth is, there is no government or organization that tracks stolen RVs. So we turned to our own database. For a little less than two years, we’ve been publishing reports of stolen RVs. Some of that information we receive directly from the folks whose rigs have been purloined. Other information we glean from law enforcement or other sources. Here’s a breakdown of what we’ve found from combing through those reports.
Most “desirable” RVs from a crook’s perspective
The numbers don’t lie. If you’re a travel trailer fan, you’re the most likely to become a victim of a stolen RV. Nearly a whopping 82% of stolen RVs were travel trailers. A long way down in the numbers came Class C motorhomes, but even then, they represented less than 7% of total thefts.
Again, we speculate that travel trailers are “easy pickins” for thieves. All you need is a vehicle with a ball hitch to use for the takeaway rig. Fifth wheels, among the other towables, have that specialized hitch that not-to-many folks have in the back of their truck. Truck campers, though a rare bird for being stolen, were targeted—but when they went somewhere, they went on the back of their owner’s pickup truck.
What to do? Follow us down through the rest of the stats and we’ll talk about how to prevent your towable from becoming a stolen RV statistic.
Best places to leave your RV—if you want it stolen
Think your RV is safe if parked in a “secure” storage facility? Think again. Of the RVs listed as stolen on RVtravel.com, the biggest proportion were taken from storage facilities. Some facilities provided security cam footage of crooks taking off with RVs. Cold comfort!
Second in line for losses were other businesses. This included RV repair facilities. Sad to say, we had reports of RV owners who had dropped off their rigs and didn’t hear that their RV was stolen until they called in to find out how long it would be before their work was done. Other RVers have parked in a motel parking lot, then checked in for a night of sleep. Sure enough, the next morning they discovered somebody had “checked out” with their RV. In those cases we often found not only was the RV swiped, but the tow vehicle went right along with it.
The safest places for RVs? In an RV park/campground, or at home. We can only surmise crooks feel that they’re far more likely to have some nosy neighbor, or an RV owner in the house with a shotgun, ready to spot them. Yes, very few RVs were stolen when parked along the roadside, but that may be because so few RVers willingly leave their rigs on the shoulder. In those cases where a rig was swiped, say alongside the freeway, it was when the owner was forced to leave it there because of a breakdown.
State-by-state, and province, stats
And here’s a breakdown, by state and province, of the largest number of stolen RVs, based on our “stolen RV” listings. Texas and California have the dubious distinction of sporting stolen reports in the double digits.
Keep the crooks at bay
Longtime RVtravel.com reader, and retired law enforcement officer, George B., offers up some suggestions on cutting the chances of RV theft. He included a challenge in addition to his thoughts on fighting back crooks: What suggestions do other readers have?
- Ensure you have a hitch lock on your travel or 5th wheel trailer.
- If you can, leave the slides out. If the camper is stolen, surely drivers would call the police to report an RV going down the road with the slides out.
- If you don’t plan to use the camper for some time, remove the wheel(s) from one side of the RV.
- Run a chain through the wheel or wheels on your RV and around an axle. Or if you have tandem wheels, run a chain through the front and rear wheel together with a high quality lock.
- If your RV has an electrically operated jack on the nose or landing gear on a 5th wheel, and you don’t need to have power to your RV while it’s parked, remove the battery so those jacks can’t be lifted, making towing almost impossible. This will also prevent your battery from being stolen.
- Put down your stabilizer jacks, whether manually or electrically operated, to make towing difficult.
Interesting ideas, some a bit more practical than others. But, as George wonders, can you add to the list? We’ll give you an opportunity below.
More on hitch locks
Some time back we reviewed a new hitch coupler lock for travel trailers. We were impressed with it, but one of our sharp-eyed readers suggested it might be defeated like many other hitch locks. For proof, we followed his suggestion to a video produced by Fort Knox Locks, a company that claims to market the “Sampson of hitch locks,” if you will. If you already own a hitch lock, we urge you to take a look at their videos, wherein they defeat many different types of hitch locks using only hand tools. We didn’t see a “defeat” video of the hitch lock we reviewed. If your budget doesn’t have room for a Fort Knox, the less-than-$70 price may be more digestible.
Of course, Fort Knox Locks’ answer to easily defeated hitch locks is their own product, which starts out at close to $140. But if you put $50 into a lock, only to have some clown with a crowbar remove it and then remove your $50,000 trailer, it’s worth a thought. The Fort Knox products are indeed impressive.
Got a security idea for keeping RVs where you left them? Drop us a line, using the form below. Please enter “RV locks” in the subject line.