You went to the parking lot after a dinner date, and your car was gone. You walked around in circles throughout the lot in the dark, thinking and hoping that you’re just wrong about where you think you parked it. Your heart started pounding when reality set in: Your car was stolen. Now what?
In 2012, there were over 720,000 motor vehicle thefts or approximately 230 stolen vehicles for every 100,000 inhabitants. That is a lot of stolen cars. Therefore, you should know you are not alone if your vehicle has been stolen, and it really doesn’t help to panic. Instead, take care of business. Even though it’s a stressful situation, handle the steps you need to take thoroughly and calmly so there are no mistakes or problems when processing your Car Insurance claim. The wrong information will only delay your payout.
For those of you feeling overwhelmed, we’ve compiled a step-by-step guide on what to do if you find yourself in this awful predicament. We’re here to help:
11 Steps to Take if Your Car Was Stolen
Track Your Stolen Car
You can track your stolen vehicle if you had a Vehicle Tracking System (VTS) in your car before it was stolen. The VTS will give you the location of the car. You can also track your vehicle if it is chipped or has OnStar, Spy Tec, or some such GPS tracking device. Another way to track down your car is using its VIN number. Craigslist has a VIN checker, and there are ways to check to see if your car has been purchased on websites like DMV’s AutoCheck, which will issue you a report on your car’s purchase history for under $50.
Call the Police
You’d be surprised how long people will wait before alerting the authorities about their missing car. Some even go so far as to buy a new car before filing a police report, a terrible move because the owner of a missing vehicle is often the first suspect due to so many scams. We know you need to get around ASAP but the police may be able to track your car using security devices built just for this situation. If that fails, you’ll still need the police report. In order for you to get any insurance money back, there must be proof of the crime. If you happen to call your insurance agent or carrier before filing a police report, they will tell you the same thing: Call the cops right away! Take the same steps if your car is still there but has been vandalized and/or damaged. For example, if your car stereo was stolen but the thief left the vehicle behind with a destroyed dashboard, you’ll still need a police report to file your insurance claim.
If your car wasn’t stolen but vandalized, it’s important to take photographs of the damage done to the car. Make sure to get all angles, including both exterior and interior shots, especially if there was damage done to both. Your insurance agent and carrier will ask for these.
Make a List
This list can include parts stolen from the car as well as personal items that may have also been stolen. While Comprehensive Insurance typically doesn’t cover your missing contents, you can try your Renters Insurance or Homeowners Insurance policies to be reimbursed for what was stolen.
Call Your Insurance Company
Now it’s time to call the insurance company. Try to do it as soon as you have your police report and photographs together. You will need some items to file your claim:
- Your Vehicle Title of Ownership
- Location of keys before & after theft/vandalism
- Names of those who have keys or access to the car
- A description of your car
- A description of upgrades or special features
- Contact information for lienholder or leasing company, if you are still making payments on the car.
Comprehensive Insurance may also cover expenses that include transportation while you are without the insured vehicle. Keep all receipts going forward and ask your agent what your policy does and does not cover. Also ask what the limits are on those coverages so you’re not in for a surprise about how much you will receive.
Check Security Cameras
If there was ever a time when you loved the fact that there is surveillance on every street corner and garage, this would be it. But you need to act fast if there is a camera filming in the vicinity that your car went missing. Often, security cameras record on short cycles so you may lose all evidence of the thief if you don’t act fast. If you find any incriminating evidence, take it to the police right away.
Offer a Reward
The more sets of eyes looking for your car, the higher the chances are that it will be tracked down and recovered. If you call a local cab company and post the reward, you can greatly increase your chances of seeing your car again.
Check for Parking Violations or Towing
There’s also a chance the thief only used the car temporarily and abandoned it somewhere. If that’s the case, it may be ticketed or towed, depending on where it was left.
Visit Tow Companies
Tow companies who service your area will survey the streets closely for you if they have a reward to entice them. Make sure to get your information via a flyer out to the dispatchers right away. Always, add a photograph to make things easier.
Take it to Social Media
There may only be so many cops but there are millions of people. If you let enough people know about your situation, it only takes that one person who heard about your car to turn in the thief or just simply report the location of the sighted vehicle. If you have pictures of the car, post as many as you can. If you don’t have any, find photographs of similar cars so people know what to look for. Make sure it’s the correct color, of course.
Check for Your Car Parts
Yes, it’s sad to imagine that your car was taken captive and dismembered, but many if not most stolen cars are parted out. In some cases, there’s more money to be made in parts, especially for cars that sell in really large volumes, like Honda Civics. There are automated checking systems like the Craigslist checker that can keep you updated on new parts for sale each hour, on the hour.
What if My Stolen Car Is Found?
Hooray! Your car has been found. The first thing you’ll want to is thoroughly inspect the car for damages. After taking photographs of the damages, call your insurance company right away. The insurer needs to know that your car has been recovered and what kinds of damages they need to pay for.
What Are the Most Common Ways Cars Are Stolen?
Hotwiring or starting a car without keys: Nowadays, many cars are stolen using OBD (Onboard Diagnostic Port) key cloning kits. Unfortunately, these kits are on sale online. Sometimes, a thief will even tow the vehicle. Yes, car thieves get aggressive sometimes.
Opportunism: Cars are sometimes stolen after the owner leaves the car idling or sitting with the key in the ignition. Or a thief finds the keys hidden in or near the car. Never hide your keys in places where they can be accessed by strangers.
Carjacking: This is usually done by seizing control of the car somehow and forcing the owner out of the car or even taking the owner hostage. Sounds like the movies, but it happens, so if you’re in a shady neighborhood, make sure your doors are locked.
Sneaking Keys: You can easily get replacement keys made if you make it seem like you are the owner of a car. Copying specific vehicle information (the VIN #) is one way in which thieves get this done. Car titles, registration or anything with a home address can be used against you so don’t leave vital information in your car.
Fraud: A person selling a car can be the victim of theft if the funds are never received or if the car is purchased with a counterfeit check or through a loan under a false name or other false pretenses. Usually, the car is sold again right away so the theft is nearly impossible to track. Often, stolen vehicles end up over the border in Mexico, if they turn up at all. Be careful when selling your vehicle. Make sure you have the money before surrendering the car.
How Long Does it Take for Insurance to Pay Out on a Stolen Vehicle?
Insurance companies will not pay you out a claim for a stolen vehicle right away because the car may be found by the police or turn up abandoned somewhere. While waiting periods vary from one insurance company to another, 30 days is the average waiting time before you are paid for a car theft claim. Again, remember that you will only be paid out if you have Comprehensive coverage. You will also only be paid what the car was worth the day it was stolen.
Does the Type of Insurance I Have Make a Difference?
Yes, it makes a huge difference. If you have coverage through a less-than-reputable company, you may not get reimbursed fully. It makes sense to only buy Auto Insurance from reputable agents like AIS (888) 772-4247. Our Insurance Specialists work with the best companies and shop rates to keep your payments low. Plus, you know you’re covered if anything ever goes wrong.
For more on the claims process for a stolen car visit here.
This content is offered for educational purposes only and does not represent contractual agreements. The definitions, terms, and coverage in a given policy may be different from those suggested here and such policy will be governed by the language contained therein. No warranty or appropriateness for a specific purpose is expressed or implied.