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How likely is it that your RV will be stolen? We have the stats, plus tips

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?

Conflicting “experts”

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.

stolen RVAgain, 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!

stolen RVSecond 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

stolen RV
“Bolt” coupler. R&T De Maris photo

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.

Click or drag a file to this area to upload.

##RVT1069

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Howard Johansen
24 days ago
Mark
25 days ago

I read the weekly posts about stolen rigs and see how the owners/police always ask for help in retrieving them when that wouldn’t be an issue at all if all owners simply put trackers in their rigs. Similar to the necessity of insurance to protect your vehicles, tracker devices are so cheap now it’s stupid not to use them so if your rig is stolen and you don’t have a tracker, it’s shame on you for being stupid/cheap.

Bob
25 days ago

After reading this article I think all this talk about stolen RV’s is way over blown. Your list of RV’s stolen (which includes Canada) shows about 150 units stolen, out of probably 1 million RV’s? Been other road for almost 7 years and heard many stories of other rv related problems but never heard of even 1 stolen rv.

Cindy
25 days ago

Prevention of a trailer theft can be daunting. I was never happy with the security provided by the one size fits all hitch locks. I got lucky and saw a Proven Locks hitch lock at a dealership. I was more than impressed. They are pricey, mine was $250 several years ago, but the peace of mind I get knowing that my trailer is protected is well worth the price!

Bob M
25 days ago

If you have an iPhone you could hide an Apple Air Tag some where in your RV to track it. Not sure how hard it is to steal a Ford F150 hybrid. One morning when it was dark out and rained, I was walking my dogs. I noticed my Travel trailers tail light blinking slowly and faintly. Figuring moisture had seeped in the connection from the rain. I got some dielectric grease and a flux brush. Pulled out the 7 pin RV connector from the truck. The horn started blowing. No one told me, nor did I see anything in the owners manual. It has some kind of alarm system protecting the travel trailer.

STEVE
25 days ago

If the trailer is going to sit for awhile, remove the tag and disconnect the running lights. The police will notice a unlit unit at night or an untagged unit in the day time more quickly.

Bill Fisher
25 days ago

Our Montana fiver, when not in use is parked at a gated storage facility with security cameras six miles from our home. I purchased a Optimus GPS type tracker that is hard wired to 12 vdc power and hidden away in the trailer. Since our Montana has solar and lithium batteries there are no worries about the batteries running down. The Optimus unit is on its own cellular network and if moved so much as one inch it sends an alert to my iPhone. Heck, even dropping one of the slam latch doors from halfway up will cause an alert. If it leaves a self-defined perimeter it sends an alert and if stolen it can be tracked real time on a map. It also reports on battery voltage and some other stuff. If power to the unit is lost for any reason I also get an alert. It works wherever we may be as long as it has a cellular connection. The cost is very reasonable, especially considering the Montana’s value. And no, I am not affiliated with this company.

Last edited 25 days ago by Bill Fisher
STEVE
25 days ago
Reply to  Bill Fisher

Thanks for the info.

Dave
25 days ago

Good info!

Last edited 25 days ago by Dave
Bill
25 days ago

When camping I replace the fuse for my slides with a “dummy” fuse that looks good but will not work. I do not think most thieves will take the risk of trouble shooting an electrical problem.

Bob p
25 days ago
Reply to  Bill

That’s a good idea, never thought of that, no the thief is going to look for an easier mark. But the amateurs won’t even retract the slides, they’ll never notice.

Tommy Molnar
25 days ago
Reply to  Bill

Good idea Bill.

At home our trailer (a TT) is parked next to our house behind a locked gate. Still, I worry about it and put all our locks on it (even though they can obviously be knocked off easily. All our neighbors have RV’s of some kind and we definitely watch out for each other’s stuff. That helps.