What To Do When Your Car Gets Stolen

Published on
June 6, 2023

Being a victim of car theft can be an unsettling and stressful experience. In the US, hundreds of thousands of cars are stolen each year, leading owners to grapple with the loss and confusing next steps they have to take afterward. This guide will not only help you navigate the immediate aftermath of car theft but will also offer insights on how to protect yourself from this kind of incident in the future.

Gather Your Vehicle Information

Your first and immediate action when you find out that your car has been stolen should be to gather all the relevant information about your vehicle. This includes the make, model, color, VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), and license plate number. It’s best to save this information on any notes app you have on your phone, so it’s handy in any situation.

Photos of the vehicle are also helpful. All these details will help you when filing a police report and making an insurance claim.

Importance of Vehicle Documentation

Keeping your vehicle documentation accurate and updated can substantially streamline the reporting and recovery process in case of car theft. Make sure you have copies of these documents safely stored somewhere other than in your car’s glove box.

Now It’s Time For The Police Report

Once you have all of your vehicle information, the next step is to report the theft to the police. Make sure you provide them with all the information you've gathered, including the last known location of your car. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), reporting the theft promptly can significantly increase the chances of your vehicle being recovered.

When making your report, it's important to provide as much detail as possible. Besides the vehicle's make, model, color, VIN, and license plate number, be ready to provide the following additional information:

  • The exact time and location you last saw your car.
  • Any distinctive features of your car, such as bumper stickers, dents, or aftermarket parts, which could make your car easier to identify.
  • A list of personal items that were inside the car when it was stolen. This can include electronics, personal documents, or other valuables.

If you have GPS tracking or a telematics system installed in your vehicle, this would be the time to mention it. This information can support law enforcement in tracking and possibly locating your car.

Make sure you're speaking with the police department in the jurisdiction (local area) where the car was stolen, as they are the ones who have the authority and resources to conduct a thorough investigation in that area.

In smaller jurisdictions, you may be dealing directly with a local sheriff's department. In larger metropolitan areas, there might be a dedicated auto theft task force. Either way, their intimate knowledge of local crime trends and hotspots can be invaluable in the search for your stolen vehicle.

Once your report is filed, ask for a copy, or at least the report number (this is the most important thing to remember). This will be needed for your insurance claim and any other necessary paperwork.

Remember, it's important to stay calm and patient during this process. While it might feel frustrating and disheartening, law enforcement agencies deal with these situations regularly and will do their best to help recover your vehicle.

Contact Your Car Insurance Company

Once the police are on the case, the next critical step is to reach out to your car insurance company. Depending on your insurance coverage, you may be entitled to compensation for the stolen vehicle. Your insurer will also require a copy of the police report.

Comprehensive Coverage and Car Theft

Comprehensive car insurance coverage is the type of insurance that typically covers car theft. Unlike liability coverage—which primarily covers bodily injury and property damage that you may cause to others—comprehensive insurance is designed to cover damage that might occur to your vehicle due to factors other than a collision. This can include fire, vandalism, and theft.

If your policy includes comprehensive coverage, you may receive a payout equivalent to the actual cash value (ACV) of your car at the time of the theft, minus your deductible. The ACV takes into account factors like your car's make, model, age, condition, and mileage. Understanding your coverage beforehand can help you know what to expect in the unfortunate event of your car getting stolen.

Reach Out to Your Home or Renters Insurance Provider

If your car had personal belongings that were stolen along with it, you should report this to your home or renters insurance provider. These policies often cover personal property theft, even when the theft occurs outside your home.

Contact Your Leasing or Financing Company

If your stolen vehicle was leased or financed, make sure to notify the relevant company (the lienholder). They may provide you with specific instructions to follow and will also require a copy of the police report.

Report Your Stolen Car to Your Financial Institutions

Suppose you left your wallet in the car and now the thief has your credit cards. In this case, it's important to alert any associated bank you’re a customer of, to protect your accounts and credit from potential fraudulent activity.

Steps to Take After Your Car is Recovered

Should your car be recovered, it's crucial to thoroughly inspect it for any damage or missing items. Make sure you report these to your insurance company, so they're covered in your claim.

Be Prepared for the Possibility the Car May Not Be Returned

It's always a painful thought, but it's essential to prepare for the possibility that your vehicle may not be recovered. This might entail beginning the search for a new car or considering alternative means of transportation.

Also remember that your insurance company will typically pay out the claim based on your car's actual cash value, minus your deductible (see above). This payout can be a lifeline in obtaining a replacement vehicle.

Keeping Your Vehicle Protected in the Future

To prevent future theft, consider investing in anti-theft devices like steering wheel locks and immobilizers. Cultivate habits like always locking your car, keeping valuables out of sight, and parking in well-lit, secure areas to deter thieves.

While the theft of a vehicle is undeniably a horrible experience, being well-prepared and informed can significantly ease the process if it does happen to you. Make sure you keep your vehicle documents updated, fully understand your insurance coverage, and take proactive measures to prevent theft.

About the Author: This article was crafted by the LOOP Marketing Team. Comprising of seasoned professionals with expertise in the insurance industry, our team is dedicated to providing readers with accurate, up-to-date, and valuable information. At LOOP, we're passionate about helping families navigate the world of car insurance, ensuring they get the best coverage at the most affordable rates. Learn more about our mission and values here.

For more insights on auto insurance and other related topics, visit our blog.

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