No one ever wants to think about their car getting stolen, but it happens more often than we realize. While it is hard to predict your car being stolen, it’s important that you understand what you need to do once it occurs.
Timing is very crucial in cases of car theft. The faster you react, the better your chances of seeing your car again will be.
This post will serve as your guide for what you need to do upon finding out your car has been stolen. It covers steps for reporting the vehicle stolen to the police and car insurance companies and how you can further prevent auto theft.
How to Report a Stolen Car?
Time is of the essence when pretty much anything is stolen. If you have found your vehicle has gone missing, it is vital that you take action immediately. Failing to report your vehicle stolen could be detrimental to you and your finances. Not to mention that the longer you wait, the less likely it is that you reclaim your car.
Here are detailed steps you should take if you have your car stolen:
File a Police Report
Upon discovering your vehicle is missing, you need to immediately file a police report. The police will help locate and obtain your vehicle safely and within the law.
Before filing a police report, you want to make sure you revoke permission if a friend or family member has borrowed your vehicle and will not return it.
Make sure no one has permission to use your vehicle, then begin taking the following steps to alert the police of your situation:
1. Gather information on your car and account for all your personal items
In order to report your car stolen, you will need to provide the vehicle identification number (VIN), license plate number, and proof of ownership of the stolen vehicle (this can include the car’s title or registration information). You will also be expected to provide personal identification, such as your driver’s license. It is important to make sure you have all this required information prior to calling the police. If you are unsure about your vehicle’s information, your auto insurer should have your car details on record.
While gathering personal information, make sure you also take inventory of all the belongings that may have been in your vehicle when it was stolen. Make a list of them. This can include personal items in your glove box and your trunk. By having a comprehensive list ready, the police can be aware of personal items should they turn up outside your car, like at a pawn shop.
2. Call the police to start your stolen car report
If you are not in immediate danger, you can use the non-emergency police number to report your stolen vehicle. If you are witnessing the theft or have been left stranded, call the emergency number. Inform the police officers that your car has been stolen and let them know where you last saw it.
Give as much information as you can about the vehicle. This includes little details like bumper stickers or tinted windows. Let them know if you have a GPS in the vehicle, as it can be used to track it.
3. Make sure you obtain a copy of the stolen vehicle report from the police
A written stolen car report may not be available right away, especially if you report your stolen car over the phone, so the police officer who took down your and your stolen vehicle information and story will let you know where to get a written copy of your stolen car report.
Once your stolen vehicle report is available, you will need to present your case number and photo identification ready to pick the report up. You will want to keep your copy of your stolen vehicle report on hand just in case something happens with the police’s report copy. You need proof for your car insurer that you filed a report for your stolen vehicle to the police.
4. Follow up with other information, if needed
While the investigation for your stolen car is being conducted, if you learn any other information that may be helpful to locate your stolen vehicle, you should share it with the police right away.
For example, someone informs you that they saw your stolen vehicle parked in a driveway. Let the police know where you believe your stolen car to be. Never just go and try to recollect your stolen vehicle yourself. The police will update your auto file with this new information and proceed accordingly.
5. Stay in touch with the police detective on your case
You usually will not receive updates from the police detective on your case unless your stolen vehicle has successfully been found. For this reason, it may be helpful to call occasionally and ask for updates about your stolen car.
Do not call every day as police officers are very busy and handle multiple cases. If you feel the need to, give them a call maybe once a week to ask about their progress and any potential leads on your stolen vehicle. Be polite and understanding. Having your car stolen is an incredibly frustrating thing to deal with, but you shouldn’t let your emotions get the best of you.
Alert Your Car Insurance Company
After you have a police report filed, you are going to next inform your auto insurance company. Your vehicle insurance company typically requires a stolen vehicle report to be filed to the police first before notifying them and starting the insurance claims process. This is so your comprehensive car insurance coverage can be enacted since it covers car theft.
However, even if you do not have comprehensive auto insurance coverage, you should still inform your car insurance company of the auto theft. By alerting your car insurance company, you will not be held responsible if the thief gets into an accident in your vehicle.
1. Report car theft to the auto insurance company right away
Do not wait to report the car theft to your auto insurer. Your car insurance company needs to know that you are no longer in control of your vehicle in the event that an accident involves your car. You will not be held liable then for any damage or injuries that have been caused.
If you are in a situation where someone has borrowed your car but failed to return it, still inform your auto insurance company. It is crucial that you are not held financially responsible for an auto accident someone else has caused using your car.
2. File your vehicle insurance claim
If you have comprehensive auto insurance coverage, you should file a vehicle insurance claim with your auto insurance company for the stolen car after doing the police report. Your car insurer will need information on your vehicle like description, last known whereabouts, location of keys, and who has access to the car.
Cooperate with your auto insurance company and provide all the information you are able to so they can get a good idea of the situation at hand. Your car insurance company will eventually settle on an auto insurance payout based on your car insurance coverage limits and car insurance deductibles.
3. Assist your insurance company with the investigation as necessary
Auto insurance fraud is a very serious and common thing for insurance companies to deal with. Do not be offended if your auto insurer is a bit suspicious of you at first. You may have to speak with your car insurance company’s fraud department upon filing your auto insurance claim. Answer all their questions honestly and completely to set the record straight.
If your car insurance company requests any additional information or documents, provide them as soon as possible. You should also make a note of when you speak with the car insurance company. Keeping records may help you in case your auto insurer brings up more concerns about your stolen vehicle.
4. Alert your renters insurance or homeowners insurance, if applicable
If any personal belongings were in your car at the time of the auto theft, let your renters insurance or homeowners’ insurance know. These items may be covered under your insurance policy. But do not take this step until you know for sure that your items have truly been stolen.
You should also keep in mind your insurance policy coverage limits. If the value of the items stolen is less than your insurance deductible, it may not be worth it to go through the insurance claims process. You’d be better off just replacing the items yourself.
Reporting to Your Financing or Leasing Company
If your car is financed or leased, you will need to let the finance company know when your vehicle has been stolen. You should not assume that your auto insurance company is taking care of this. Your car insurance company can, but verify with them before you choose not to call your finance company. If you do not have comprehensive car insurance coverage, chances are your auto insurance provider will not alert your finance company of the auto theft. No matter the circumstances, if your stolen vehicle is being financed or you have a lease on it, the finance company must be informed of what has happened.
Notify The DMV of The Stolen Car When Required
Whether you need to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles or DMV will depend on your state’s laws about reporting vehicle theft. In most states, you should report car theft to your state’s DMV as soon as possible. Make sure you have any police stolen car reports and auto insurance documents to prove that you are the owner of the vehicle. Reporting stolen cars to the DMV may be a long process with all the paperwork required.
Reviewing Your Car Insurance Policy
As annoying and stressful as having your car stolen can be, it is a great example of when comprehensive car insurance coverage can come in very handy. It highlights the importance of full coverage auto insurance.
Do not wait until your vehicle has been stolen to start considering the worth of comprehensive auto insurance coverage. It is highly recommended that every car driver carries some amount of comprehensive auto insurance coverage.
Comprehensive auto insurance coverage is usually paired with collision coverage, which will help pay for damages to your vehicle following a car accident. These types of car insurance are very valuable to invest in and can seriously save you when things go south. Take time to review your car insurance policy to pinpoint any gaps in your auto insurance coverage.
You Found Your Stolen Vehicle: What Happens Now?
If your vehicle has been recovered, let me extend my grandest congratulations to you. Lost items turning up is not rare, but it also isn’t exactly common, so it’s a very exciting thing when your stolen item has actually been found. But just because you have your vehicle does not mean everything is completely resolved. There are still a couple of things you need to do before you can officially put this incident behind you.
Once you’re notified your stolen vehicle has been found, you must make sure to do the following:
1. Retrieve your stolen vehicle
Once the police have your stolen vehicle in their possession, they will notify you where you can pick your auto up. Police typically take it to an impound lot. To get your stolen vehicle out of the impound lot, you will have to prove you are the owner of the stolen car and pay any impound fees.
Try to inquire about this information prior to arriving at the lot. The police officer on your car theft case should be able to provide more insight on how much the impound fees are and all the paperwork they will require.
You should also ask if your stolen car is in proper working order. If your auto has been damaged, you will need to call a tow truck and have your stolen car transported to a repair shop.
Never try to recover your stolen vehicle on your own. This means that if someone informs you that they spotted your stolen vehicle, do not try to take your stolen car back. Alert the police, and they will handle your stolen vehicle properly. You never want to handle car thieves by yourself.
2. Inform your car insurance company
Following being notified by the police of the status of your stolen vehicle, call your auto insurance provider as soon as possible. You will need to speak with your car insurance adjuster so they can update the auto insurance claim. Once the car insurance claim is updated, your insurance company will let you know what to do with your stolen vehicle should it have any damages.
Typically, car insurance companies advise you to take your stolen car to a mechanic to get it checked out, even if you are not sure the stolen car has sustained any damage. Make sure you follow your auto insurance company’s protocols on the matter so they will cover any auto repairs needed.
3. Inspect the stolen vehicle carefully
After reuniting with your stolen car, make sure you inspect it closely. Get a flashlight and take note of every inch of the interior of your stolen car. Look on every seat, between and under them. Don’t forget to also check all storage compartments in your stolen vehicle.
Make a note of anything that is missing or items that do not belong to you, most likely from the car thief. This could be evidence of another crime committed using your stolen car, so make sure you do not touch anything you do not recognize. Alert the police immediately of your discovery and allow them to process it.
4. Take your stolen car in for any repairs needed
Even if you have inspected both the inside and outside of your stolen vehicle, it would still be wise to take your stolen car to an auto repair shop for a proper inspection.
Mechanics can inspect your stolen car more thoroughly, and they have a better idea of the kind of damage that may be present on your stolen vehicle. Damaged parts may not affect your stolen vehicle right away but can certainly harm your car later down the line. You want to address them right away before you end up stranded in your stolen vehicle. Once the mechanic has reviewed your stolen vehicle, they will give you an estimate for the auto repairs. If your car insurance covers the repairs, accept the cost you have been estimated.
For instances where you have to pay out of pocket, get a second and third opinion on car repair costs to make sure you are getting the best price.
How To Prevent A Car Theft?
Dealing with a stolen vehicle can be incredibly stressful. Thankfully, there are a few ways you can try to make your car less appealing to thieves.
Honestly, there is no way to truly make sure your car will never be stolen but taking some simple steps can hopefully decrease the chances of people setting their sights on your vehicle.
Here are some common, relatively easy ways to prevent your car from being stolen:
Lock Doors And Close Windows
Thieves are typically opportunistic. This means that if they happen to come upon an unlocked vehicle, they are most likely going to take advantage of it.
It is rarely a personal attack and normally just unfortunate luck for you. This is why it would always be wise to make sure your car windows are closed, and all doors are locked before leaving your vehicle. When your car is secure, the thieves will be less inclined to try to steal it. They will eventually look for an easier target.
Anti-Theft Devices Are a Must
If your car does not already come with one, it would be helpful to install anti-theft devices. This could mean something as simple as a car alarm. Alarms are very noisy and incredibly effective. If someone tries breaking into your car, the alarm will go off, scaring them away. Thieves tend to not want to attract attention to themselves, obviously. A simple car alarm can go a long way.
You should also look into installing tracking on your vehicle, like a GPS navigational system. If your vehicle does happen to be stolen, a GPS can help law enforcement find it faster. Your chances of getting your stolen vehicles back go up as well.
Watch Out For Valuables
Leaving anything of value in your car will put it on the radar for thieves. Something as simple as spare change in your cupholder will be appealing. In order to assure that your car is not at risk of being stolen, either hide or remove any valuable items from your vehicle.
If you must keep something important in there, like a purse, try hiding it under your car seats or drape a blanket over it. If you can remove any personal items, it would be best to do so.
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