The insurance industry is warning pickup drivers to watch their backs. Tailgate theft is surging.
Tailgates have a rough life. They get rear-ended, backed into objects and dented by shifting cargo. That's why thieves find a ready market for replacements, selling them on eBay and Craiglist. They are even valuable as scrap metal.
Tailgates are being stolen from private vehicles, commercial vehicles and even vehicles parked on dealership lots, the National Insurance Crime Bureau said.
Houston was the most likely place to get your tailgate stolen, and Texas was the state with the most reported thefts, the insurance bureau said. California was in second place and Arizona third. Together, the three states represented 67 percent of the total claims.
Overall, the number of tailgates stolen jumped 31percent from 2012 to last year, the bureau reported.
Although the total number is small at 1,090 claims, the insurance bureau said the frequency of thefts probably is underreported because of the way that the industry collects and labels the data.
The high cost of replacing tailgates also has contributed to what the bureau called "black market demand." A tailgate from a new or recent model year truck can be outfitted with a backup camera and other electronics and cost as much as $3,000 to replace.
Tailgates are easy to steal, far easier than swiping an entire vehicle. The gates can be detached quickly and the theft doesn't require any complicated tools.
"If a car can be 'gone in 60 seconds,' a tailgate can disappear in 15," said Frank Scafidi, the insurance bureau's spokesman.
Over the years, tailgate attachments have evolved from rigid hinge mechanisms bolted to a pickup truck's bed to a simple and lightweight cable suspension method that snaps in place, he said. But in all cases, they are easy to remove by simply unhooking or unbolting the suspension devices.
The simplest way to prevent tailgate theft is for drivers to park in locked garages or to back the truck up against a building wall to limit access. There also numerous anti-theft tailgate locking devices available, both manual and electronic.