How to Prevent Trailer Theft
As the summer travel season hits full swing, don’t leave your rig unattended without taking these smart trailer-theftprevention steps.
Every year, trailers are stolen right off tow vehicles. And theft risk doesn’t depend on your trailer type or model. Everything from two-horse tag-alongs to four-horse goosenecks with living quarters are routinely stolen. Thieves will simply unhitch your trailer and attach it to their own tow vehicle. Here, we’ll give you the steps to take to deter trailer theft and tell you what to do should the worst happen despite your theft-prevention efforts.
Step 1: Paint Your Trailer
When thieves size up your trailer to decide whether it’s worth stealing, one of their first considerations is its appearance. Trailers that are easy to identify are less appealing, because they’re easy to spot on the road.
If your trailer is white and generic-looking, it says “steal me.” Think of how many white trailers are sold and used each year. Can you tell one from another at a glance?
Make your trailer visually stand out from the crowd. Thieves might pass over your trailer if it’s easily identifiable.
Fixing the look-alike problem is easy, thanks to companies that provide custom paint jobs tailored to horse trailers. By painting your farm or ranch name, your horse’s name, an equine scene, or just about anything else on your trailer, you can make it unique and, therefore, undesirable to steal.
Painting your trailer a unique color is another way to make it stand out. To find a custom vehicle-painting company in your area, contact a local trailer dealer, and ask for a referral. Or contact an auto-painting company nearby, and ask whether it paints horse trailers.
Obtain a written estimate before committing to a paint job. The price you pay will depend on the size of your trailer, and the detail of the paint job you’re looking for. Expect to pay at least $1,000, probably more.
Bear in mind that you’ll get what you pay for: If the price is low, the quality of paint and workmanship may be sub-par and less than durable. To investigate a company’s quality of work, ask for references.
If you choose to go with a custom paint job, be prepared to leave your trailer at the shop for at least a few days while the work is being done.
If custom work isn’t in your budget, you can discourage thieves by adding decals and stickers to the outside of your rig — and you’ll have fun doing it.
Breed- or discipline-specific decals will also ease identification if your trailer is stolen. You can also buy larger, elaborate decals that show such images as wilderness scenes or horses galloping through a pasture.
Reflective stripes, signs, and murals are another option. Signs that say “Caution: Horses,” as well as reflective pinstripes, will
Don’t leave your rig unattended without taking these proven trailer-theft-prevention steps. BY AUDREY PAVIA
make your trailer more visible at night, as well as deter thieves.
Make sure whatever you choose can’t be easily removed.
Step 2: Invest in Security Devices
Another way to make your trailer unattractive to thieves is to use security devices. These include locks, alarms, and tracking devices. Here’s a look at each type. • Hitch locks. Hitch locks work by making it impossible for a thief to attach a tow vehicle to your trailer. The lock fits into your hitch and is secured with the turn of a key. Although some people use a padlock instead of an actual hitch lock, a well-equipped thief can easily cut through a padlock.
“A hitch mount can be stolen even with all the trailer doors locked by simply rolling down the trailer stand, then dis- connecting and pushing the trailer back on the dolly wheel,” says Bonnie Davis, The Trail Rider’s consulting editor and a seasoned horse hauler.
Hitch locks come in a number of styles to fit different kinds of hitches. High-quality hitch locks are virtually indestructible.
The downside to hitch locks is that you have to unhitch your trailer from your tow vehicle to put the lock in place. You also have to make sure you don’t lose the key. Find a safe, secure place for the key, such as a zippered pocket. • Tongue locks. Tongue locks allow you to include the trailer chains when securing the hitch. In some situations, thieves have literally dragged the trailer away by the chains if they couldn’t use the hitch. • Coupler locks. Coupler locks prevent the thief from being able to hook up to the coupler. You can usually use them while your trailer is still hitched to your vehicle, depending on the design. • Trailer-wheel locks. You attach trailerwheel locks on the outside of the tires. When these locks are in place, thieves find it nearly impossible to move the trailer. Well-designed models are easy to install and remove. • Alarms. Trailer alarms are similar to car alarms. Sensors attached to the trailer doors will sound if the door is opened. Some alarms are equipped with sensors that are designed to go off if someone tries to move the trailer or tamper with the locks. These alarms emit a piercing noise if your trailer is moved without the alarm being deactivated.
When shopping for an alarm, choose one that includes an LED system that you can place on the outside of your trailer. This will send a message to thieves that your trailer is protected and may thwart any attempts to steal it.
Almost all alarm systems sound a siren and flash the trailer lights when set off, but some go as far as locking the trailer brakes so the trailer can’t be moved. Some also come with paging systems that will notify you if the alarm has gone off. (Unfortunately, these systems don’t usually work if you’re more than a mile away.) • Tracking devices. Although tracking devices don’t necessarily deter theft, they’ll make it easier to find your trailer if it’s stolen. Tracking devices use a global positioning system to tell you where your trailer is located. In most cases, you’ll need to subscribe to a tracking service, which will allow you to locate your trailer online.
Step 3: Insure Your Trailer
You’ve taken steps to deter thieves and avoid having your trailer stolen. Your next step is to have your trailer insured so if the worst happens, you’re covered.
Although your trailer is automatically insured on your tow-vehicle’s policy in the event of an accident, theft is another matter. Most automobile policies cover auto theft, but not trailer theft. If you want theft coverage for your trailer, request an addition to your auto policy. If your auto insurer doesn’t offer trailer-theft coverage, insure your trailer through a company specializing in such policies.
If you’re on a budget, consider the deductible. If you think it’s unlikely your trailer will be stolen, you might want to go with a higher deductible to save money on premiums. Also, consider insuring your
trailer for the replacement value rather than the actual value, if possible. Quality used trailers can be hard to find at reasonable prices, so you might want to be able to purchase a new trailer if your trailer is stolen.
One of the worst things about having your trailer stolen is losing what’s inside. If your trailer is taken while you’re riding your horse, he’ll be safe, fortunately. But you may lose the valuable tack and other equipment that’s inside your trailer.
The good news is that if you have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, your policy should cover your trailer’s contents. Verify your coverage with your insurance agent. Keep careful records, including photos, of all the items you keep inside your trailer when you travel.
Step 4: Document Your Trailer
If your trailer is stolen, keep the right documentation and records in your files to help law enforcement officials track it down.
Take photos of your trailer from all sides, so you can show police what your trailer looks like and make lost-trailer flyers. Record and keep handy a complete description of your trailer’s model number, along with details on the type of windows, ramp, and interior.
Your trailer’s vehicle identification number (VIN) is an important piece of information; you’ll find it on your trailer-registration card. Keep this card on your person, along with a photo of your trailer. That way, if your trailer is stolen, you’ll not only prevent thieves from having the registration card, but also you’ll have the necessary information ready to immediately provide to police.
Also keep with you photos and descriptions of all the items that you’ve stowed inside your trailer so you can report these items as stolen.
Step 5: Take Safety Precautions
Do some research before you head out to make sure the area is safe. Some areas are more prone to illegal activities than others. Find out who owns or manages the area on which you plan to park, and inquire about the area’s safety record.
Whenever possible, park in areas that are open and well-lit. Look for areas where other horse trailers are parked or that have activity. If possible, park where there are security cameras.
If your destination is a public land, park your trailer close to a visitor’s center or ranger station so land-management personnel are likely to notice whether someone tries to take it.
If you park in a remote location, try to back your trailer against a large tree or group of trees, a hill, or any other large object that will make it difficult for thieves to gain access to the trailer doors.
Also, try to park in clear sight of a road or highway. Although cars do go by rather quickly, the fact that people can see your trailer from the road can discourage thieves. TTR
Left: If your trailer is white and generic-looking, it says, “Steal me.” Right: To reduce the chance of theft, paint your trailer to make it unique.
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