NICB: 2019 Watercraft Theft Report

Thefts down six percent from 2018

DES PLAINES, Ill., June 3, 2020 — The National Insurance Crime Bureau today released its 2019 watercraft theft report. The report, based on theft data contained in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, revealed that there was a total of 4,240 thefts in 2019—a decrease of 6% from 2018.

Additional Release Resources:
Infographic | Full Report | Anti-theft Tips

Watercraft Infographic 2020

The top five states for thefts in descending order were:

  State Thefts Recovery Rate
1 Florida 942 40%
2 California 475 56%
3 Texas 332 38%
4 North Carolina 193 37%
5 South Carolina 147 42%


No thefts were reported from Hawaii in 2019.

The top five cities for thefts in descending order were:

  City Thefts Recovery Rate
1 Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 43 35%
2 Sacramento, Calif. 39 49%
3 Tampa, Fla. 35 51%
4 San Diego, Calif. 34 65%
5 Miami 33 39%


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

  Watercraft Type* Thefts Recovery Rate
1 Personal Watercraft 1,049 33%
2 Runabout 466 48%
3 Utility 261 44%
4 Cruiser 193 52%
5 Sailboat 45 62%


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

  Manufacturer Thefts Recovery Rate
1 Yamaha Motor Corp., USA 467 33%
2 Sea-Doo 225 32%
3 Bombardier Corp.** 155 32%
4 Kawasaki Motors Mfg. 100 37%
5 Tracker Marine LP 72 42%


Most thefts in 2019 occurred during the months of July (543), June (517) and May (483). December logged the fewest thefts with 205.

With the boating season upon us, 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)
Watercraft Theft Tips 2020

* 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 155 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