By on November 27, 2013
Pickup truck tailgates recovered by the Garland, TX police department.

Pickup truck tailgates recovered by the Garland, TX police department.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau says the theft of pickup truck tailgates is soaring in the U.S, aided by the ease of removal and a ready market on the internet. Most of those thefts go unreported because the replacement cost is often less than truck owners’ insurance deductibles. Still, the number of thefts reported to insurance companies have gone from just 3 in 2008 to more than 500 last year. An experienced thief can remove an unlocked tailgate in as little as 10 seconds.

“Those are just insurance claims. We know that number is woefully under-representative. The problem is much, much larger,” said Frank Scafidi, NICB public affairs director. “There’s a huge market, and that feeds the monster.”

Chrysler, which started making remote locking system for tailgates standard on 2013 Ram trucks that come with a remote key fob. The company blames the thefts in part on how easy automakers have made it to remove their tailgates. The remote system also locks RamBox storage compartments on trucks equipped with them.

“Tailgates can be taken with no effort at all. There’s no bolt. There’s no tools. I don’t know a single manufacturer that makes a tailgate that doesn’t pop right off,” says Chrysler spokesman Nick Cappa. “The incentive for some sort of locking system is pretty high.”

Another reason given is that tailgates get damaged and need to be replaced, creating a ready market for replacements.

“It’s the Number One theft item on a pickup,” said Bob Hegbloom, Ram brand director. “Typically, the thing that’s damaged first on a pickup is the tailgate. People are always replacing these things.”

They also aren’t stamped with serial numbers, making it difficult to trace them.

Ford and GM tailgates can be locked, but they are manual locks and not many drivers will walk back to the back of their trucks to secure the tailgate.

Chrysler says that they discovered the problem while doing consumer research for the 2009 Ram pickups, hearing from a number of Ram owners that they’d like a locking tailgate.

Another thing that’s made the tailgates worth stealing is the proliferation of backup cameras, nearly tripling the replacement costs if there is a camera or other electronics in the tailgate.

The most tailgate thefts take place in the number 1 market for pickup trucks, Texas, and the most common tailgate stolen unsurprisingly is from the Ford F-150, the most popular pickup truck sold.

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31 Comments on “Gone In 10 Seconds: Tailgate Thefts Soar...”

  • avatar

    You just can’t have anything nice outside…

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      The fact that many of these have cameras and other expensive sensors and electronics make them very expensive and very easy to steal, I have a buddy who had his stolen twice within 3 months from within his fenced and locked property

      • 0 avatar

        Even without sensors (never seen any; those seem to go in the bumper) or a camera, they’re still very east to steal and have a lot of steel in them.

        (Which is why I leave the one on my F-250 *locked*, and if I didn’t want to, would get a theft-prevention system.)

  • avatar

    I would have thought the tailgates were being sold as scrap metal but parts replacement would probably be more lucrative.

    I’m curious how all these tailgates are being damaged and need to be replaced. Is it just a simple matter of the high number of trucks that are sold these days?

    • 0 avatar

      Drunk drivers love pickup trucks.

      Also, the ass-up unloaded stance of said trucks blocks a lot of rearward visibility, anything that’s below the tailgate is at high risk of being backed into. Signs, poles, kids, you name it. Yes the bumper will likely impact a concrete-filled pole first, but take a look at tailgates sometime when you see trucks in traffic or parking lots. Dents, dings, scrapes, bottom rusting away, etc. Think about all the things that are that height that are around to back into. You may drive a car, and the trunk would miss said objects entirely because it’s so low to the ground.

      Anyway, I’m not surprised that all the lazy people leave their tailgates unlocked these days. The rising beltlines of the modern truck make it impossible to load or unload things over the side easily. So you’re constantly dropping the gate to put things in or out, and you don’t want to have to use your keys and unlock the damn thing EVERY time.

    • 0 avatar

      Quite often its a result of…..gasp….the truck being used as a truck.

      Forget to put the tailgate down after unhooking your 5th wheel? Wasted tailgate.
      Drop hay out of a barn onto the tailgate instead of the ground? Wasted tailgate.
      Have hired help unload 6 tons of hay off a semi by dropping it bale by bale onto the tailgate? Wasted tailgate.

      And thats just what I’ve seen or heard about. Plus when you replace it you really want to go OEM, as the Taiwan replacements are as strong as tin foil, we could barely even stand on the one we had.

      • 0 avatar

        Wtf kind of tailgates have you used that could take hay being dropped on them?
        Tailgates are made to withstand four wheelers and up riding on them, hay should not do more then micro scratches.

        • 0 avatar

          My 83 Toyota took the single bale from about 14 feet to the very edge. And my Dad’s 84 Fords tailgate was pounded into a U by all that hay. Try dropping 100+ pound bales of Alfalfa a full story onto a tailgate and see what happens?

    • 0 avatar

      When the customer goes to the body shop with a damaged or missing/stolen tailgate, the shady operator will order the new parts, but will also make the call for a stolen tailgate for that exact truck, right down to the correct color. Then the shady operator will send back the new parts for refund, but will send the original invoices (plus paint/labour) to the insurance carrier for a big payday.

      One way to theft deter is to bolt the hanger eyelet/clip ‘under’ the receiver. This would take the thief a few minutes and carry tools.

  • avatar

    “Chrysler, which started making remote locking system for tailgates standard on 2013 Ram trucks that come with a remote key fob.”


    • 0 avatar

      Yep. My 2013 locks/unlocks the tailgate when I lock/unlock the doors via key fob or the power locks inside.

      After having a couple trucks without this feature you wonder why it wasn’t standard across the board years ago when keyless entry became near-standard.

  • avatar

    I have noticed this back about 10 years ago and was pleased to see the Fords with key locking tailgates show up a few years ago .

    Somehow it figures that the terrific idea of a tailgate removable in 20 seconds , was ruined by lazy , shiftless jerks .

    Spare tires too , those are vanishing , just add a padlock to the hoist chain to prevent this .


    • 0 avatar

      Or (e.g. on the Fords) have a keyed socket on the hoist, so it’s loud and slow and annoying to try and operate without the matching keyed tool (of which there are, IIRC, 20-odd combinations).

      Ain’t nothing going to stop a really determined thief with tools, but those are really rare and aren’t wasting their time with your spare tire or tailgate.

      Anything beyond “just able to steal it” stops the casual drug-addict or opportunist, which seems to be the majority of the problem.

      As usual, theft prevention is about raising the marginal cost.

  • avatar

    No worries, bro, I can hook you down with a neon green Airgate for, like, 20 bucks. I took it off my Ranger Splash because it didn’t match my new set of Oakleys and my Zubaz pants.

    Seriously, whatever happened to those mesh airgates that used to be so popular? I never see them anymore.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Over in Arlen, Hank Hill read this and said “asses need to be kicked”.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I’m wondering who these people are that bash the fudge out of their tailgates all the time, but still care enough to want to replace it?

    • 0 avatar

      bumpy ii,

      There’s probably a dichotomy in the market of those who replace damaged tailgates. On one hand, and likely the larger market, are those who use the trucks for work in the field. If they bash their tailgate to the point it won’t stay on the truck or stay closed they’ve lost the ability to prevent tools and material from sliding out of the bed and they’ve lost a place to sit for lunch. The other group are those urban cowboys with trucks polished to high luster who backed into an overloaded cart corral at the big box store. While I can vouch for how easy it is to back into said cart corral (have the inverted flat-top horseshoe on my tailgate to prove it), the damage both discourages theft and is minor enough so as to not hinder function and I’ve left well enough alone.

  • avatar

    I hate car thieves – there’s something arrogant and shameless about the very act of theft, and arrogance and shamelessness are the worst parts of human nature.

    I used to think that car thieves should literally be burned at the stake for their crimes, but I’ve mellowed somewhat.

    Nowadays, I think that car thieves should just be subjected to some sort of grotesque public humiliation.

    Something involving midgets and S&M.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      They’re being sold around So Fl on Craigslist, I don’t know what the hell these auto theft unit cops are doing, so easy to track these thieves, they sell everything from tailgates, to headlamp assemblies, wheels, tires no questions asked, what a freaking joke!

      • 0 avatar

        Because it’s hard to prove a lamp assembly or wheel or tailgate was stolen, of course. Those aren’t serial-numbered parts, after all.

        “I got it from some dude at the swap meet” (or “from a parts truck I bought as a wreck and then sold to a scrapper after I stripped it”) is usually a transparent lie, but one that *is hard to disprove*, and you need proof to get a conviction.

        (Hell, and there probably *really are* occasional people who do get a legitimate scrap-price wreck and part it out…)

    • 0 avatar

      At least they are making money from the theft. As bad is theft is, vandalism gets the person nothing other then the satisfaction that they damaged something they can’t have.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey hey, us leather folk only want to deal with people that want to be flogged.


  • avatar

    We would steal my friend’s tailgate off his little ranger every few weeks when he didn’t have the external lock thing on… It was stupidly easy to take off since the only thing keeping it on was a couple little clips… Seems like a safety torx bolt or two could knock this kind of thing down…

  • avatar

    Do people really remove and reinstall their tailgates a lot, so that a tailgate that is very easily removed is important? Or is this one of those features that everyone wants but nobody really uses, like the fold-down windshield on Jeeps?

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