What to do if Your Car is Stolen: 7 Essential Tips


Having your car stolen can be a real nightmare scenario. Most of us don’t think it could ever happen to us, but formal auto theft statistics show an entirely different story. Anyone can become a victim of car theft, especially car owners that don’t use any anti-theft devices and deterrents and park in unsafe areas.

When a car theft happens, the trauma can make even the most level-headed person panic and forget how to respond to the situation logically. Especially if the person hasn’t done any prior research.

I sincerely hope you won’t ever have to use the following tips. But if your car gets stolen, you’ll be well prepared. This is an easily accessible blueprint for taking the right course of action, which will increase your chances of:

a) finding your vehicle

b) getting fully reimbursed through a car insurance policy

What to do if your car is stolen

1. Make sure your car’s been stolen

If you’ve parked in a large parking lot, there’s always a chance that you forgot where you’ve parked. You could be standing in the wrong spot, as your car is on another level in the parking garage, or perhaps on the other side of the garage. Either way, gather your thoughts and make sure you’re at the right spot before going into full panic mode.

2. Your car might have been towed

Another possibility besides auto theft is that your car was towed for irregular parking or a different reason, who knows. Check the police impound first before making a stolen vehicle report.

3. Call the police ASAP

As soon as you’ve made sure that your car isn’t in the parking lot and that it hasn’t been towed, call the police. The more information you have about your car the better. This is the most valuable information you can give to the police:

  • VIN number (write it down and keep it outside the car if you haven’t already)
  • your car’s make and model
  • where you last had your vehicle
  • color, any special equipment and upgrades that could separate it from other vehicles
  • if you have a tracking device, now is the time to give the police the info so that they can track down your car more easily

File a copy of this police report because you’ll need it for insurance claim.

4. Call your car insurance carrier

Now is the time to use your car insurance. Call the insurance company and let them know what happened. From that point on, everything depends on the type of car insurance you have. If it only covers minimum requirements, don’t expect to get the full price of the vehicle (in case it isn’t found).

These minimum requires vary on a state-to-state basis (check your state) but they usually only cover damages caused in a wreck, if you as the driver were responsible. That includes things like medical expenses and repair expenses for the other person’s vehicle. For anything extra, such as reimbursement in case of a stolen, vandalized or damaged vehicle, you’ll need a better auto insurance.

So which auto insurance is the best for you?

This highly depends on the value of your vehicle and how well you want its value to be protected. Of course, better insurance costs more, so it’s a double-edged sword. You should definitely compare policies available from multiple insurance companies before making a decision.

Make sure to speak directly to insurance agents and have them clarify any parts of the policy you’re confused about. You don’t want to be badly surprised by the tiny letters if an unfortunate event ever happens and you wrongly assumed that your insurance would cover it.

Also don’t expect an immediate payout from your insurance policy. The company will first investigate the situation, considering you, the owner, as the number one suspect for fraud. There can also be a waiting period of up to eight weeks before a payout is made. If the vehicle is recovered in this time period, naturally the payout will not be made.

When will you get paid and how much?

Let’s say that everything goes well; you have full car insurance, the waiting period has passed and the company is ready to reimburse you. How much money can you expect? You can expect to be reimbursed for the actual cash value (ACV) of the vehicle. Actual cash value is the price you paid, minus depreciation. You’ll receive the payment for the ACV minus the deductible.

When it comes to ACV, don’t expect your company to be on your side. ACV is somewhat subjective, as is the value of all things. The company will start at the low end of the vehicle’s value, and it’s up to you to negotiate a higher ACV. Here are two good ACV calculators that can help you figure out the right price:

5. Report the car stolen to your DMV

Every state has a Department of Motor Vehicles. Among other things, it keeps a large database of stolen vehicles and often works together with the police to solve the case. By reporting your car as stolen it will be in the database and hopefully help in retrieving it.

6. Get active and search for clues

You don’t have to depend entirely on the police to do all the work. We’ve all watched enough cop shows to know how it works:

  • Ask around to see if anyone saw anything strange on the parking lot.
  • Ask the workers or locals if auto thefts are frequent in this area and who might be responsible. It could well be that you parked on a local gang’s turf.
  • Search for your car online on places like Craigslist and other car selling forums. If you’re tech savy try looking for it on the Deep web, where many dubious transactions are arranged.
  • Report any findings to the police.

7. Take preventive measures

If anything, I hope this article has shown you how much work it takes to retrieve a stolen vehicle, let alone get reimbursed for it by an insurance company.

This is why I prefer to use anti-theft measures to drastically reduce the risk of my car being stolen in the first place!

There are many devices that can deter the thief from breaking into a car and prevent him from driving it even if he makes it in. Devices like wheel locks, steering wheel locks, alarms, hidden trackers, security film for glass and car surveillance cameras are all very popular and they work well.

There are so many cars that aren’t protected with any device. If a thief sees that you took some effort to make his job harder, chances are that he’ll switch to one of the other thousand vehicles that are easier targets.

Choosing the right device can be overwhelming, so I made this short list of top 8 anti-theft devices for cars. I hope it helps!

Luka Baron

Chief editor of Security Latest with 5 years of real security work experience. I'm also a family man with wife and two sons. When I'm not turning homes into fortresses, the Baron family is usually on the Nintendo or on California's best hiking trails.

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