Here's everything you need to do immediately after you discover your vehicle has been stolen.
Never leave your car running unattended, even if it’s just for a quick errand. And always close your windows completely when you leave the car. Opened or even slightly ajar windows are an easy target for an auto thief. (Photo: Shutterstock)
A vehicle was reported stolen every 40.9 seconds in the United States in 2017.
That year, 773,139 vehicles were stolen, costing roughly $6 billion nationally according to the FBI. The average dollar loss per theft was $7,708. Even with the peace of mind insurance provides, discovering your vehicle has been stolen can be an overwhelming and unsettling experience.
If you fall victim to an auto theft, here’s what you need to do.
Pick up the phone
The first thing you should do after you discover your call was stolen is call the police immediately and file a stolen vehicle report. The earlier you report a car stolen, the more likely it will be recovered. Having a police report on file will also be an important part of your insurance claim, so make sure you get a copy. Let the police know if your car has any kind of tracking device or GPS system, as this technology could help authorities track down and recover your stolen vehicle.
The next call you need to make is to your insurance carrier to report the car stolen. Next steps will depend on what kind of policy you have and what your state minimum requirements are. You will need a few critical pieces of information to provide to your insurance carrier when you file your report.
Related: 10 least expensive cars to insure in 2019
Information for your carrier
Firstly, provide a description of your vehicle, including mileage, options, service records and upgrades, along with information on the date, time and location of the theft, and the location of all keys to the vehicle before and after the theft. Make a list of names and contact information of anyone who had access to the vehicle. Let your carrier know if the car was leased or financed.
You’re also going to want to provide your carrier with a list of personal property stolen with your vehicle. Coverage for these items will vary from state to state, but your homeowners or renters insurance policy could provide additional coverage for these items.
If your stolen vehicle is leased or financed, the third call you need to make is to your leasing or finance company to report the vehicle stolen. They will work with your insurance carrier directly in this process.
Check your policy
After you file reports with the police and your insurance carrier, review both your auto and homeowners or renters insurance policies to see what’s covered and what’s not.
If your auto policy only covers the state minimum requirements, it likely won’t include reimbursement for a stolen vehicle, whereas comprehensive auto insurance does. Of course, the level of coverage will vary based on your insurer and your policy, and an agent can help run you through your coverage details.
If the vehicle is found, comprehensive coverage will pay to repair any damages or wear the thieves caused, but you will owe the deductible. Most carriers have a 30-day waiting period to recover a stolen vehicle before paying out the fair market value of your car. This number is somewhat negotiable so check multiple sources to ensure a fair valuation of your stolen vehicle.
Related: 10 most expensive cars to insure in 2019
What to expect
Adding to the aggravation, settling a stolen vehicle claim is a lengthy process, and there are a few routine but burdensome measures your carrier needs to take before you see a settlement check.
When a car is reported stolen, the owner is suspect number one. Carriers and police investigating the case will look at you first. Roughly $80 billion in fraudulent insurance claims are made every year, so expect to be interrogated.
Investigators will likely look into your financial history for any delinquent payments, phone records or suspicious social media posts. They will check to see if the car had recently been put up for sale or if it was over mileage on a lease. Not notifying the policy right away, or at all, is also a red flag.
The most important thing to do after you discover your vehicle is stolen is to notify the appropriate sources. Call the police and your insurance carrier immediately, and ask for the help you need.
Related: 6 tips to prevent auto theft