2018 Watercraft Thefts Still Sinking

Eight percent drop from 2017 is good news for boaters

DES PLAINES, Ill., May 29, 2019 — The National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) 2018 watercraft theft report shows an eight percent decrease from 2017. A total of 4,499 watercraft were reported stolen between January 1 and December 31, 2018. The report is based on theft data contained in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database for all 50 states.

Release Resources: Report | Infographic

The top five states for thefts in descending order were:

  State Thefts Recovery Rate
1 Florida 1,114 35%
2 California 483 58%
3 Texas 378 33%
4 Louisiana 146 38%
5 North Carolina 143 34%


Hawaii, where boats are as numerous as tourists, reported no thefts in 2018.

The top five cities for thefts in descending order were:

  City Thefts Recovery Rate
1 Miami 203 33%
2 Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 68 25%
3 Tampa, Fla. 64 28%
4 Sacramento, Calif. 55 75%
5 Portland, Ore. 34 65%


The top five types of watercraft stolen in descending order were:

  Watercraft Type* Thefts Recovery Rate
1 Personal Watercraft 1,139 29%
2 Runabout 529 47%
3 Utility 279 41%
4 Cruiser 171 49%
5 Sailboat 33 64%


The top five manufacturers for watercraft thefts in descending order were:

  Manufacturer Thefts Recovery Rate
1 Yamaha Motor Corp., USA 564 25%
2 Bombardier Corp.** 336 33%
3 Kawasaki Motors Mfg. 106 31%
4 Perception Kayaks Inc. 60 25%
5 Tracker Marine LP 51 35%


Most thefts in 2018 occurred during the months of July (551), June (500) and August (500). March logged the fewest thefts with 238. 

Boat owners are reminded to practice safe and smart boating. That includes personal safety while on the water, as well as theft prevention. 

NICB recommends the following tips to protect your watercraft from theft:

  • When you “dock it, lock it” and secure it to the dock with a steel cable
  • Remove expensive equipment when not in use
  • Chain and lock detachable motors to the boat
  • Do not leave title or registration papers in the craft
  • Disable the craft by shutting fuel lines or removing batteries
  • Use a trailer hitch lock after parking a boat on its trailer
  • Install a kill switch in the ignition system 
  • Ensure your marine insurance policy includes your equipment, boat and trailer
  • Take photos of the boat and mark it with a hull identification number (HIN)
2018 Watercraft Theft Report Infographic

* Described below are the 13 watercraft types as found in the NCIC code manual, one of which is “Jet Ski”—NCIC’s universal name for all personal watercraft without regard to manufacturer. Jet Ski is also the registered trademark for Kawasaki Motor Corporation’s line of personal watercraft. 

Airboat: not defined
Commercial: ferry, oyster boat, motor barge, towboat, tug, clam dredge, coaster, riverboat, smack boat, etc.
Cruiser: a boat with an inboard motor that is at least 25 feet long, but no longer than 50 feet
Houseboat: not defined
Hovercraft: not defined
Hydrofoil: not defined
Hydroplane: not defined
Jet-Ski (PWC): aqua bike
Runabout: launch, motorboat, outrider, speedboat, etc.
Sailboat: cat, catamaran, cutter, bark, ketch, lateen, lugger, pinnace, schooner, sloop, yawl, etc.
Utility: fisherman, sedan, etc.
Yacht: a boat with an inboard motor that is more than 50 feet long and is used mainly for pleasure or recreation
All other: canoe, dinghy, dory, johnboat, kayak, lifeboat, paddleboat, rowboat, skull, skiff, etc.

**In 2003, Bombardier Corp. sold off its recreational products division. The Sea-Doo personal watercraft is now produced by Bombardier Recreational Products, Inc. Thus, the 336 thefts would include pre-2003 models.

Media Contact

If you have a question, want further information on the NICB, or to discuss insurance fraud or vehicle crime, please contact:

Joe Brenckle
Director, Public Affairs

Nicholas Zeitlinger
Public Affairs Specialist

If you are a reporter and have a request or question, please complete the Media Request Form.

Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800.TEL.NICB (800.835.6422) or submitting a form on our website.

About the National Insurance Crime Bureau: Headquartered in Oak Brook, Ill., the NICB is the nation's leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to combatting and preventing insurance crime through Intelligence, Analytics, and Operations; Education and Crime Prevention; and Strategy, Policy, and Advocacy. The NICB is supported by more than 1,200 property-casualty insurers, self-insureds, rental car, vehicle finance, and auto auctions. To learn more, visit www.nicb.org.