Do Motorcycles Get Stolen Often? (& How To Avoid Theft!)

Statistics over the past several years have shown an overall decline in the frequency of motorcycle theft in the US.

On the surface, the numbers can still seem quite high, but as recently as 2019, the US reported all-time lows for motorcycle theft when compared to previous years.

This article answers the question: “Do motorcycles get stolen often?”…

How Often Do Motorcycles Get Stolen?

Most recent data tells us that motorcycle thefts have fallen by a total of 12 percent since 2016. In 2016, the National Insurance Crime Bureau said that reported thefts numbered 46,467. Year after year, these numbers have been coming down:

With 44,268 thefts reported in 2017,

41,674 in 2018,

and just 40,380 in 2019, the last year of available data.

What Brand Or Type of Motorcycles Are Stolen The Most?

There are concerns that confirmed 2020 data will confirm a rise in motorcycle thefts in the wake of the pandemic.

During the health crisis, car thefts exploded statistically, but there is no confirmed data to date on motorcycle thefts in the same period.

Given the relative ease that motorcycles can be stolen when compared to cars, it wouldn’t be surprising to learn of a rise in thefts in 2020.

In fairness, however, the social circumstances weren’t exactly “normal.”

The five most stolen brands of motorcycle are:

  • Honda – 8,122 thefts reported in 2019
  • Yamaha – 6,495 thefts reported in 2019
  • Harley-Davidson – 4,737 thefts reported in 2019
  • Suzuki – 4,686 thefts reported in 2019
  • Kawasaki – 4,641 thefts reported in 2019

To see these names in the list is likely unsurprising to many people.

These are also the most popular brands in terms of sales, brand image, and perceived reliability in motorcycles.

It follows that thieves would target these brands since they have either the best chance of being resold down the line, or they have the best quality parts to strip from the motorcycle and sell.

How Big Is The Risk That A Motorcycle Gets Stolen?

Data from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) still suggests strongly that urban centers overall have a higher rate of crime, and therefore a motorcycle is at greater risk of theft in the city, compared with the suburbs.

Detroit remains the city with the most vehicle thefts per capita, with 103 vehicles stolen for every 10,000 residents in 2018.

There was a significant drop of 31 percent in 2019, however, when the city managed to find the source of many of the thefts, which was a single towing firm.

This is not to say, however, that residents of the suburbs are somehow immune from motorcycle theft as a problem.

Suburban areas come with their own risks, mostly because motorcycle thieves often find easy prey in the more complacent suburban areas.

Suburban and rural areas, as well as smaller cities, are often victimized by thieves from further afield because those thieves know that residents of these areas are more likely to leave motorcycles unattended overnight.

Arriving at night to steal parked motorcycles is therefore not such a difficult task.

Data overall still show those city areas are more likely to get hit.

The top 8 cities for motorcycle theft in 2019 were as follows:

  • New York, NY – 1,195 thefts
  • San Diego, CA – 767 thefts
  • San Francisco, CA – 671 thefts
  • Miami, FL – 561 thefts
  • Los Angeles, CA – 534 thefts
  • Las Vegas, NV – 450 thefts
  • Houston, TX – 395 thefts
  • Seattle, WA – 386 thefts

What To Do If Someone Steals My Motorcycle?

The first thing you should do if you discover that your motorcycle has been stolen is to report that fact to the police.

Even if you have a GPS tracker on your bike and you know the approximate location, you shouldn’t take the recovery of your bike into your own hands.

It should be reported to the proper authorities.

Once you have reported your bike to the police as stolen, you will also likely be required to inform your insurance company.

You might be tempted to wait until the bike is recovered before reporting it to them, but in fact whatever the result, you’ll need to explain what happened to the insurance company.

If the insurance company were to discover that your bike was reported stolen to police but you hadn’t informed them of that fact, then your entire insurance policy could be voided.

It may impact your premiums in the short term, but it’s important you keep the insurers apprised of any thefts of your motorcycle.

Let us reiterate one more time that vigilante justice is not the right course of action.

If you have a GPS tracker on your motorcycle, then share the location data with the police and let them handle the rest.

This is their jurisdiction.

Are Stolen Motorcycles Ever Recovered?

Despite the skepticism of many people regarding stolen vehicle recovery, the rate of recovery for stolen motorcycles is very high.

Of the 40,830 motorcycles stolen in 2019, an impressive 46 percent – or 18,857 – were recovered by police.

This should reinforce the message that the best course of action when facing motorcycle theft is to report the theft to the authorities at the first opportunity.

Can You Tell If A Motorcycle Is Stolen?

With tens of thousands of motorcycles still being stolen, it’s a genuine concern of many people as to whether a “pre-owned” bike they are looking at is genuine or stolen merchandise.

Fortunately, there are several ways that one can use to find out if a motorcycle is stolen.

1. Look for suspicious signs from the seller. Is the seller trying to prevent you from looking at VIN numbers, or withholding key paperwork?

Do they appear to be in a hurry? Is the bike being sold for a strangely low price? Does the seller say they will only accept cash?

2. Run a VIN inspection at the DMV. You can conduct a free VIN inspection online via your local DMV to see if the bike has been reported stolen.

3. If the seller shows you a title, compare the VIN numbers. Look at the VIN number on the title and make sure it lines up with that on the bike.

If the seller hesitates to allow you to compare them, then regard that with great suspicion.

4. Look for signs of tampering on the paperwork. On any papers that are given to you, look for signs that numbers or letters have been altered on the title to match the bike.

The more sophisticated motorcycle theft and sale operations will try to make everything look as legitimate as possible, but if you look closely you might spot a problem.

Even if you don’t directly find an issue, your desire to look at things closely and maintain an air of suspicion will apply huge pressure on the seller and they will more likely reveal themselves if they are crooked.

5. Check service records and contact the auto shops where it was serviced.

If you ask for and get the motorcycle’s service records, check out the locations listed as to where it was serviced.

Call up the centers and ask them to check their records.

You should do this anyway, even when you’re sure it’s a legitimate sale.

If the seller gets agitated or is unwilling to let you see any service records, then that should also raise your suspicions.

Do Motorcycles Have Serial Numbers Like Cars?

Yes, Motorcycles have unique Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) just like cars do.

For the most part, the VIN on a motorcycle can be found to the right of the headstock tube.

This may differ between different bike brands, however.

When buying a new bike, ensure that the seller, be it an OEM dealership, an independent dealer, or a private seller, takes a moment to point out the VIN to you.

How Long Is A Motorcycle Serial Number?

A motorcycle VIN is usually 17 digits in length for a bike produced after 1981.

If the bike is a classic model that dates before 1981, however, then the VIN may be shorter.

Each digit represents a different key think about the bike:

For example, the first digit identifies the country of manufacture; the second identifies the OEM name; the third identifies the vehicle type (1, A, or 2 for motorcycles); the fourth indicates vehicle category, and so on.

How To Prevent Theft: Lock, Alarm, Or GPS?

A lock, alarm, and GPS system all installed on your bike will provide an impressive array of security features.

However, none will guarantee your bike’s safety from thieves.

Looking at each one individually.

A lock is good physical protection and comes in many forms, all of which are affordable.

Whether it’s a mechanism on the bike itself or a physical exterior lock like a chain, it merely presents an obstacle to any determined thief, and all can be broken.

Alarms are also handy for deterring thieves.

When they go off, it’s usually followed by thieves fleeing the scene for fear of being seen by other witnesses, or for fear of attracting the attention of the police.

Skilled thieves may be able to move your bike without activating its alarm, however, depending on their own skill and how advanced your security system is.

The goal may not be for the thief to ride your bike away, but to simply load it into a truck and then drive the truck away.

Therefore, the GPS system is the best tool to have on your bike, but strictly speaking, it’s not there to prevent theft.

Most thieves won’t be able to see or tell that the GPS tracker is there.

The GPS system helps to improve chances of recovery after a theft, which is still a good system.

Over time, it’s conceivable that the threat of any GPS being present will deter thieves from stealing motorcycles.

Are Motorcycle Alarms Worth It?

If you live in a high-crime area, then motorcycle alarms are definitely worth buying.

Some insurance providers will insist that you have them, and even if they don’t insist on it, it can help to make your annual premium lower.

Alarms can be an effective method to stop criminals in the act while they’re trying to steal your bike.

An alarm sound is an anathema to the stealthy thief who needs darkness and a lack of attention from any witnesses or authorities.

Alarms draw attention to the situation.

What Is The Best GPS For Motorcycles?

The Spytec GL300 GPS tracker for motorcycles is one of the best units recommended by gadget experts and users. It is affordable, effective, easy to use, and secure.

It’s not the only unit on the market, though.

You could also consider any of the following which is recommended by users:

  • Americaloc GL300W
  • Amcrest GPS Tracker
  • Optimus 2.0 GPS Tracker
  • LandAirSea 54 GPS Tracker
  • Trak 4 GPS Tracker

The fact is that riding a motorcycle is riskier than driving most other vehicles.

You, therefore, need comprehensive insurance.

Whatever policy you sign from whatever provider, ensure that it has at least the following three things:

  • Bodily injury liability per person covered up to $25,000
  • Bodily injury liability per accident covered up to $50,000
  • Property damage liability per accident covered up to $25,000

This should be your standard, and this would suit most riders. Anything above that would be a good bonus.