A stolen vehicle can be a very upsetting experience. Learn what to do immediately after your car is stolen, and what to do in the following weeks to avoid any trouble with your car insurance.
When your car is stolen:
- Contact the police immediately and file a stolen vehicle report. Most insurance companies cannot process a claim for vehicle theft unless you first file a police report.
- Report the theft to your insurance company. Even if you do not have comprehensive insurance, which covers vehicle thefts, you should still notify your carrier of any stolen vehicles immediately. Notifying your insurance carrier of the vehicle theft could help protect you if the thief causes damage to others with your car. When you contact your insurance company, try to have as many of the following items available as possible:
- Certificate of Title for the vehicle and/or loan/lease paperwork.
- Location of all keys to the vehicle before and after the theft.
- Names and contact information of everyone who had access to the vehicle.
- A description of your vehicle, including mileage, options, and service records — if you have receipts for any upgrades or maintenance, please have these available as well.
- A list of any personal property stolen with your vehicle. Coverage for personal items varies from state to state, and your home-owner's or renter's insurance policy may provide additional coverage for personal items that were stolen.
- Any finance or leasing company contact information and your account number, if applicable.
If you don't have comprehensive coverage, you should see if your policy will cover you for rental car coverage, and make sure you are diligent with your local law enforcement so you can try to recover your car.
Should I cancel my insurance policy when my car is stolen?
No, keep your liability insurance for at least 30 days after the car is stolen. A few reasons:
- The police may recover it and return it to you in the same condition it was in before, and you won’t want to have to start a new policy just to drive it.
- Most car insurance companies will extend your liability coverage to a rental car if you’ll be using one.
- If you end up without a car for an extended period of time, you can transition your current policy to a non-owner car insurance policy (car insurance for licensed drivers who don’t own a car, but drive other cars occasionally). This means that you’d retain continuous coverage as a driver, avoiding a lapse in insurance, and ultimately pay lower rates down the road.
Am I liable for the stolen car?
Typically, you won’t be held liable for your car after it’s been stolen. If the thief gets in a wreck, for example, that damage won’t be attributed to your car insurance policy.
However, many states have laws in place that penalize you for negligence that led to the theft. You can be ticketed if you’re caught leaving your car unlocked, leaving it running or leaving keys inside the car. Worse yet, it’s possible to have claims filed against you if your car was stolen due to your negligence and the thief caused damage while driving your car. In cases such as this, the insurance company will pay our liability claims up to your limits, and you can expect to see higher car insurance rates in the future.
If the car is not recovered, how much will I receive for it?
Your car insurance company will pay out the actual cash value (often called ACV) if your car is never found or is totaled by the car thief. The actual cash value is what your car would have sold for on the open market just before the theft. This can be a controversial or upsetting part of having a car stolen, because you may receive less than the Kelley Blue Book value, and certainly won't receive money back for recent repairs, upgrades or sentimental value.
How to avoid a theft
- Have an anti-theft device or alarm system on the car. When a vehicle is purchased make sure that it has an anti-theft device or an alarm system it. This is an easy step for you to do at the dealership and it is only the beginning of prevention.
- Always lock the car doors. Lock the doors even if you are entering your residence to grab that one item that you forgot to take on your way out the door. Theft can happen in matters of seconds.
- Keep your windows up. Your vehicle windows should always be up when no one is in the vehicle. Having the doors locked will not help you if the windows are left down. With the windows up and the doors locked you will prevent personal belongings and even the car itself from being stolen.
- Do not leave personal items in the car in plain sight. Never leave property inside of an unattended vehicle. Items that thieves will break into your automobile for are purses, shopping bags, backpacks, etc. And once a thief is in the car for these items they might also find any important documents, or credit cards you left in the vehicle. Then the next step is that once they have broken into the car is to steal the car itself.
- Do not leave the car keys in the ignition! Sometimes when we are in a hurry we might forget and leave the keys in the ignition. If you do this you are making it way to easy for the thief to steal your vehicle.
- Have your windows tinted. If possible have your vehicle windows tinted. With tinted windows it should be more obvious to any by stander if a stranger going to break into your car. The thief will have to try and peer into the car to figure out how to break in and that is the normal stance of a person who owns a car. Also having tinted windows makes it harder for a possible thief to see what belongings you have in a car.
- Get an aftermarket anti-theft device. To have an extra protection you can go to an auto parts stores and buy an anti-theft device that you can use yourself in your automobile. For these types of devices you do not need professional installations. The most popular is the device that locks around your steering wheel, this is commonly known as The Club.
- Do not leave a vehicle on and unattended. Never leave car running unattended not even for a second. We sometimes stop at a gas station to grab something and pay for it real quick and that is making it extra easy for the thief to drive off in your car. So even if you are just running into a store for two minutes, turn off your car and take your keys with you.
- Do not leave a spare key where a thief can find it. It is very common for one to have a spare key under the car, this is not recommended. Too many people have used this trick so to prevent locking themselves out of their car. Thieves are smart and know where to look for that extra key. So you might get locked out of your car but if you leave that spare key under your car you could end up loosing your whole vehicle.
- Park in a public place with plenty of light. Make sure to park you car in a lighted area if at all possible. Park in a place where your car is visual to public. The more eyes on it will be more difficult for a thief to do anything to it. A car is more likely to get stolen if it is parked in a dark area where a thief can slink up to the car than if in a well lit area in which a thief's every move could be seen.
Vehicle theft rate
The good news is that the vehicle theft rate in the United States has been dropping steadily since 1991. In 2013, the rate was 221.3 theft per 100,000 people.