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 car was stolen. The best thing you can do now is not 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.
10 Steps to Take if Your Car Was Stolen
1. 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 other type of 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. This site will issue you a report on your car’s purchase history for under $50.
2. Call the Police
You’d be surprised at how long people wait before alerting the authorities about their missing vehicle. Some even buy a new car before filing a police report. No matter what the situation is, the first thing you need to do after your car was stolen is file a police report. In order for you to get any insurance money back, there must be proof of the crime. If you 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.
3. Take Pictures
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.
4. 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.
5. 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 lien-holder or leasing company if you make payments on the car
If you car was stolen, 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.
6. 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.
7. 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 your car was stolen, call a local cab company and post a reward. You can greatly increase your chances of seeing your car again when you offer a reward.
8. 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. You can also visit different 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.
9. Take it to Social Media
There may only be so many cops but there are millions of people. If enough people know about your situation, it only takes one of them who heard about your car to turn in the thief or simply report the location of the sighted vehicle. Post as many pictures of your car 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.
10. Check for Your Car Parts
Yes, it’s sad to imagine that your car was stolen, taken captive and dismembered. The truth is that many if not most stolen cars are parted out. In some cases, there’s more money to be made in parts. This is especially true for cars that sell in really large volumes, like a Honda Civic. There are automated checking systems like the Craigslist checker that can keep you updated on new parts for sale each hour, on the hour.
Common Ways Cars Are Stolen
- Hot-wiring 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.
- 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 leave your car unattended or hide your keys in places where they can be accessed by strangers.
- Carjacking. This is usually done by seizing control of the car somehow. This could include forcing the owner out of the car or even taking the owner hostage. It sounds like the movies, but it happens. Always be careful and alert if you’re in a shady neighborhood. Also, make sure your doors are locked.
- Sneaking Keys. You can easily get replacement keys made if you make it seem like you’re the owner of a car. Copying specific vehicle information is one way thieves get this done. Car titles, VIN numbers, registration or anything with a home address can be used against you. Therefore, it’s best not to 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.
What if My Stolen Car Is Found?
Hooray! Your car has been found. The first thing you’ll want to do 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.
How Long Does it Take for Insurance to Pay Out on a Stolen Vehicle?
Insurance companies will not pay 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 after your car was stolen if you have Comprehensive coverage on your policy. You will also only be paid what the car was worth the day it was stolen.
Car Insurance Protection
The type of coverage you have on your Auto Insurance policy 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 those at AIS Insurance. 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 or call an AIS agent today at (855) 919-4247.
The information in this article was obtained from various sources. This content is offered for educational purposes only and does not represent contractual agreements. Nor is it intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. The definitions, terms and coverage in a given policy may be different than those suggested here. Such policy will be governed by the language contained therein. No warranty or appropriateness for a specific purpose is expressed or implied.