Skip to Content

Are motorcycles easier to steal than cars?

This is an important question for any motorcyclist or prospective motorcyclist. Motorcycle theft is a huge problem, with over 46,000 motorcycles stolen per year in the United States alone. Compared to cars, motorcycles have some unique vulnerabilities that can make them targets for thieves. In this article, we’ll analyze the major factors that contribute to motorcycle theft risk and compare that to cars. We’ll look at theft methods, security devices, insurance rates, recovery rates, and more. By the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of whether or not motorcycles are in fact easier to steal than cars.

Motorcycle Theft Statistics

Let’s start by looking at some overall motorcycle theft statistics and trends:

  • In 2020, 46,567 motorcycles were reported stolen in the United States. This represents a 2% increase over the previous year.
  • California, Florida, and Texas accounted for over 40% of all motorcycles stolen in 2020.
  • Sport bikes are the most commonly stolen motorcycle type, followed by cruisers and dual-sport bikes.
  • The top 5 most stolen motorcycles are the Honda CBR600RR, Yamaha YZF-R6, Kawasaki Ninja ZX6R, Suzuki GSXR600, and Harley Davidson Road King.
  • July and August are the peak months for motorcycle thefts, when warm weather leads to more bikes on the roads.

For comparison, over 810,000 cars were stolen in 2020. So while motorcycle thefts are increasing, they still pale in comparison to car thefts in terms of total volume. However, motorcycles only account for about 3% of registered vehicles in the U.S. When adjusted for the total number of vehicles on the road, motorcycle theft rates are actually much higher than cars.

Vulnerabilities of Motorcycles

So why exactly are motorcycles more vulnerable to theft than cars? There are a few key reasons:

Lack of integrated security systems

Most cars today come with sophisticated anti-theft systems integrated into the ignition system, such as chipped keys. While motorcycles are adding more electronic security features, the majority still lack advanced protections like this. A simple hotwire or makeshift key is often enough to start and steal a motorcycle.

Easier physical theft methods

The size and weight of motorcycles makes them very easy targets for thieves to simply pick up and roll away or toss in the back of a truck. Most bikes weigh less than 500 pounds and can be maneuvered by a single person. Entire fleets of motorcycles have been stolen by thieves loading them into trucks and vans. Cars offer more protection against these bold physical theft methods.

Lack of storage security

Motorcycles are routinely left parked in open lots, on streets, and in other unsecured areas. Thieves can scout for targets that are not locked to fixed objects with heavy chains and locks. Cars are much more likely to be stored in locked garages, driveways, or with some form of perimeter security.

High salvage value of parts

Chop shops love motorcycles. All of the vital engine components are easy to remove and sell to shady buyers looking for cheap replacement parts. For older bikes especially, the individual components may be worth more than the vehicle as a whole on the black market. Cars have more integrated and hard to remove parts.

Motorcycle Security Methods

Given these vulnerabilities, what are some steps motorcyclists can take to prevent theft? Here are some of the most important security methods to deter thieves:

Disc brake locks

Disc locks attach to the front brake disc and sound an alarm if the bike is moved or lifted. They provide a strong visual deterrent and immediate notification if tampered with. Always use a lock rated at least 10mm thick.

Chain locks

Thick hardened steel chains looped through the frame and locked to fixed objects can foil grab and dash thieves. Use at least a 10mm chain secured to an immovable object. Heavier chains are harder to cut through.

Wheel locks

A clamp lock on the front wheel prevents rolling and steering. Quickly stops thieves focused on pushing the bike away.

Steering locks

“U” bar locks clamp onto the fork and triple tree to immobilize steering. Stop opportunistic hotwiring in its tracks.

Alarm systems

Integrated alarm systems use motion sensors and tilting detections to activate sirens if the bike is disturbed. Can be an effective deterrent.

GPS trackers

Hidden GPS trackers relay the location of stolen bikes. Better chance of recovery. Requires monthly subscription.

Smart keys

New motorcycle models with encrypted smart key systems make hotwiring impossible. Provides similar protection to modern cars. Aftermarket smart keys are now available for older bikes too.

The more layers of security employed, the better. Use common sense about where bikes are parked and make them difficult targets. Just like cars though, a truly determined thief with time and tools can still defeat any lock or system if given the opportunity.

Motorcycle Insurance and Theft

Given the vulnerabilities of motorcycles, how does that translate into insurance rates? Are motorcycle owners paying more for coverage against theft? Let’s look at some insurance statistics:

Motorcycle Insurance Rates

Vehicle Type Average Annual Premium
Standard motorcycle $519
Sport bike $924
Luxury motorcycle $1,258
Standard car $815

On average, motorcycles cost more per year to insure than standard cars. Sport bikes in particular have sky high premiums, over double the average car insurance rate. The increased theft risk factors into this. Insurance providers classify motorcycles, especially high performance bikes, as highly desirable targets for thieves. Comprehensive coverage, which covers theft, accounts for 20-30% of the premium costs.

Anti-Theft Discounts

The good news is that motorcycle insurance carriers reward proactive security with discounted premiums. Riders can save 10-15% for:

  • Installing anti-theft devices like alarms and trackers
  • Having their bikes stored in locked garages
  • Using multiple security methods like chains, disc locks, covers, etc.

Taking security seriously pays off when shopping for bike insurance.

Motorcycle Theft Recovery Rates

If a motorcycle does get stolen with comprehensive insurance coverage, what are the chances it gets recovered? The statistics show substantially lower recovery rates compared to cars:

  • Just 36% of stolen motorcycles are recovered, compared to 59% of stolen cars
  • High end sport bikes have abysmal recovery rates below 15%
  • Chopped up parts from stolen motorcycles are almost never recovered
  • Most recovered motorcycles have damage from attempted hotwiring that requires expensive repairs

Insurance claims data backs this up as well. Collision claims from crashes are far more frequent than theft claims for cars. With motorcycles, theft claims account for a larger portion of the claims volume and payout amounts.

The bottom line is that once a motorcycle gets taken, the odds are against getting it back. For many owners, they end up having to make a theft claim and buy a replacement bike. Hence why comprehensive insurance is so critical, despite the higher premiums.

Which Anti-Theft Methods Are Most Effective?

We’ve covered a number of security methods to prevent motorcycle theft. But which ones actually work the best in the real world? Here is a ranking based on consumer reports and insurance industry claims data:

1. Disc brake locks – The #1 rated deterrent. Easy to use, visible, and activate an alarm. Can be combined with a cable lock for maximum security.

2. U-lock chain – provide the best balance of security and convenience. Lock the chain through both wheels if possible.

3. GPS trackers – excellent for recovering stolen bikes. Will deter less tech savvy thieves. Monthly cost is the downside.

4. Cover – burly cover secured with lockable straps helps deter thieves casing parking lots.

5. Wheel lock – clamps provide moderate deterrence but can be defeated with tools. Best used with other locks.

6. Steering lock – stops quick joyrides. Easily broken by thieves with extra time.

7. Alarm system – good backup but experienced thieves can disable them. Don’t rely on alone.

8. Smart keys – excellent hotwire protection on new bikes but limited on old models. Aftermarket smart keys help.

9. Locked garage – gold standard security when parked at home. Use other locks when away.

Layering methods provides optimal protection. A disc lock, chain, cover and GPS tracker combine to make a bike very hard to steal. Backed by comprehensive insurance, motorcyclists can ride with confidence their bike is safe.

Are Motorcycles Easier to Steal than Cars? Conclusion

Evaluating all the statistical data and real world scenarios, motorcycles do face greater theft risks overall compared to cars. The key factors that make stealing motorcycles easier include:

  • Less integrated security systems
  • Lightweight design that is easy to maneuver and transport quickly
  • High demand for stolen parts on the black market
  • Lower recovery rates once stolen
  • Higher insurance rates to cover theft claims

Proper security methods like disc locks, chains, trackers and comprehensive insurance can minimize the risks greatly. But at the end of the day, motorcycles remain attractive and vulnerable targets for thieves relative to cars. Riders must take precautions and be willing to pay higher premiums for protection. The thrill and freedom of riding makes the added peace of mind a worthwhile investment for most enthusiasts.