Do Harleys Get Stolen More Often Than Other Bikes?

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One of the most coveted motorcycles in the world is Harley-Davidsons. Every year, they get stolen in the top five of all brands.

Harley Davidson motorcycles are always on the top of the list of swiped bikes because of their high-stock value, and this number would be higher, but other brands are more prolific with higher sheer numbers and more generic parts which thieves covet for easier sales. Even with all of the high-tech theft deterrents and more individualized profiles making them more difficult to unload, the Harley brand is desirable on the black market. This makes them a target.

So, Harley-Davidsons are a hot item. This past year, they were the third most stolen brand, and since only about 50% of owners get their bike back, it’s time to talk strategy. You can prevent Harley theft and can more likely retrieve your stolen bike with just a few quick tips.

Most motorcycles are pilfered to chop them up and sell them for parts. Thieves value low-risk, quick turn-over, and convenience. They are not interested in getting the most value by risking their time and identity selling a whole and highly visible bike. However, most Harley owners are particular about where they get their parts. This makes stealing Harleys a little more difficult, but not impossible. They are high-value items. If thieves think they can make a quick profit from your piece of Harley craftmanship, they will.

Fortunately, many data organizations keep track of motorcycle theft statistics. Because of the pandemic, crime has been on the rise, and so I’ve checked the most up-to-date, relevant online sources to find the proper data. I will disseminate the stats and unpack the timeline charts showing why Harleys are a hot ticket for thieves and what you can do about it.

In this article...


How Often Are Harley-Davidsons Stolen?

Every ten minutes, a motorcycle owner feels that gut punch of carrying their key to an empty spot their bike used to be. Bewildered, they look around hoping they forgot where they parked, and then, slowly come to the unfortunate realization that their bike has been stolen. Harleys are often in the top five brands every year with last year being no exception.

Harley-Davidsons don’t always make the best target because they are often personalized with upgrades, mods, and specialized parts making them more easily identifiable by police. They are also bulky and heavy compromising a quick get-away. Finally, most thefts are for breaking the bike down into parts and selling them quickly online or to local mechanics, and Harley owners are usually careful where they get their parts. That being said, Harleys have one thing that bike robbers value: and that’s value. Harleys are expensive and carry a lot of cachet. Cachet means cash. But if you live in Vermont, I have good news.

Theft By State

While over 40,000 motorcycles were stolen in 2019, if you lived in Vermont, you could carelessly leave your bike running while you grab a cold beverage from your local mini-mart because there were only 17 stolen that entire year. Wyoming only had 23 and Maine 33. But if you lived in California (6,913), Florida (4085), or Texas (3165), you better take your keys with you when you go in and leave your bike near the big front window. Weather plays a factor in these states with more opportunities to ride, and more people always means more crime. For whatever reason, hundreds of bikes are stolen each year but not reported to the authorities or insurance companies. So the numbers are even greater, and, unfortunately, this year, the numbers are not trending downward.

Theft By Year

In 2017-2019 motorcycle thefts dropped by 12% with about 41,000 total bikes taken. Whether it was a good economy, stricter crime laws, or other factors, this was a trend that would not last. The next two years would see an increase in motorcycle thefts by almost 26%.

Most motorcycles (almost 80%) are stolen most frequently from the top ten manufacturers including Honda with 10,282 bikes stolen, Yamaha with 8,185, Kawasaki with 5,904, followed closely by Harley-Davidson at 5,811 and Suzuki rounding out the top five with 4,890.

In 2021 the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) blamed supply chain problems, precious metal values increasing, the rarity of vehicle parts, and the inability to secure two-wheelers for the 51,291 bike thefts.

Now, in 2022, a record increase in inflation and a weak economy that often leads to more desperate and higher-risk crimes could continue this terrible trend.  But steps can be taken to mitigate motorcycle thievery risk.

How Can You Prevent Harley-Davidson Thefts?

Nefarious no-gooders looking to make an easy buck are on alert for an easy opportunity. When a Harley is parked outside of an apartment, gas station, or bike shop with low light and low security, they take a grinder or bolt cutter and quickly cut through a chain in mere seconds. This includes the lock to your storage unit or garage. With enough people, thieves can simply lift your bike into a van or run it up a quick ramp into a U-Haul or a storage truck. With a few simple tools, some criminals are experts at hot-wiring your motorcycle in under 60 seconds. They just smash the ignition cap with a screwdriver and hammer, connect the right wires together, and casually ride off with your baby. Here are some precautions you can take to prevent theft or at least slow these thugs down long enough to call the police. These are in order of effectiveness.

  • Steering Lock And Chain: Equipping your bike with a good bike chain and locking your steering every time will not prevent your bike from being stolen. But, it will slow down the thieves a little. While this is an important first step, you need to realize it will only buy you about one minute of time for a good motorcycle thief. Hopefully, you can make the discovery during this time and call the police.
  • Bike Cover And Good Location: This is next in importance. If you can’t store your bike in a well-fortified garage or shed, then look for a well-lit location in plain sight of the street where police patrol. And make sure you have a bike cover. Not only does this protect your bike from the elements, but it makes the bike robber have to guess. They may not want to take the risk of being discovered for a rusted-out bike that doesn’t start or a low-value brand. Make them guess, and they may just leave it alone.
  • Identify And Report Quickly: With only 30 to 50% of stolen motorcycles getting recovered, your chance of ever seeing your bike again increases the sooner you report that it’s missing. Make an official police report for your insurance, and then start looking for it yourself. Identifying your bike with lots of photos, especially on personalized parts of the bike, will be helpful during this process.
  • Alarming And Tracking: Today’s technology is your best and most helpful theft deterrent. Put several cameras from different angles near your bike. They must have live streaming that records right to your phone and alerts you to any movement. Strategically hide GPS tags on your bike that are hard to find like inside the lining under your bike seat, or behind the plastic of a reflector. These are inexpensive and can track your bike in real-time.
  • Harley Theft Protection: When purchasing a new Harley-Davidson, you should also purchase their in-house theft prevention program. They use a MicroDot identification system that is invisible to the thief. The dots are placed all over the bike and are only 1 millimeter wide. The dots will light up under UV light correlating to a secure PIN code that uniquely identifies your bike. This makes it easier for police to identify and return your Harley as soon as possible. This plan also gives you $5,000 to help replace your bike in the unhappy event of an unreturned theft.