Today, it happens all too often. You walk out of your front door, a movie theater, a restaurant, or the mall—and your car is missing from the spot where you parked it.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), car theft has increased by 17% since 2019.
For many of us, cars are an essential part of daily life, so having your car stolen is exceptionally stressful.
Recent statistics show that around 56% of stolen cars are recovered in the U.S. each year—which means that you do have a chance of getting your stolen car back.
In this article, we take a look at what you should do if your car has been stolen, and then also take a look at how your insurance will handle the situation—including your claims—if your car is recovered.
What Should You Do If You Find That Your Car Has Been Stolen?
Before we take a look at what will happen if your car is recovered, let’s first consider the initial steps you should take if you discover that your car has been stolen.
Taking the right steps will mean that your car may be recovered quicker, and if you need to, that you can get the correct compensation from your insurance company.
Step 1: File a police report
It is essential that you get to the nearest police station as soon as you can. You will need to file a stolen vehicle report and get a case number which you will then need to provide to your insurance company. To file a report you will need your:
- Vehicle identification number (VIN).
- Car registration number.
- Make, model, and color of your car.
- The location where your car was stolen.
- The time that you first realized the car had been stolen.
You will find most of these details about your car in your insurance documentation or on your auto insurance card.
Step 2: Contact your insurance provider
Once you have filed a stolen vehicle report, you will need to contact your auto insurance company within 24 hours of the theft to inform them that your car has been stolen.
In addition to the information that you have provided to the police, your insurance company may request:
- A list that describes any valuables that were in your car—such as a laptop, tools, and so forth.
- A copy of the stolen vehicle report.
- The location of all the keys to your car.
- A detailed description of the car and its condition when it was stolen.
Step 3: Contact your lender
If you have financed your car or have it on loan, be sure to notify your lender since you will need to continue making payments.
This is one of the reasons why your lender will insist that you take out comprehensive coverage, and usually gap coverage, too. Your obligation to the lender will only end once the loan has been repaid.
Step 4: Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
The DMV keeps a record of stolen motor vehicles, so it is very important to make sure that you report the vehicle theft to them.
This also helps ensure that you don’t have any ownership or title issues with the vehicle, and it is especially important if someone tries to register the stolen vehicle.
What Happens If Your Car Is Stolen and Returned with Damages?
While it may be a relief to receive a call from the police to tell you that your car has been recovered, you may find your car in worse condition than it was when it was stolen.
If your car has been found, the local authorities will contact you to collect your stolen vehicle.
Depending on the extent of the damage that has been done to your car, you may need to collect your vehicle from an impound lot.
To avoid any costs, be sure to collect your vehicle as soon as possible, as impound lots usually charge you for holding the vehicle.
After you’ve retrieved your vehicle, you will need to contact your insurance company immediately.
Depending on how much damage has been done to the car, your car insurance company will need to assess the vehicle and pay out for the repairs or the replacement of your car.
What Will Your Insurance Company Cover If Your Car Is Stolen and Returned with Damages?
The amount of compensation you will receive for a damaged car will depend on the insurance coverage that you have in place with your insurance provider.
To check your insurance coverage, be sure to review your policy documentation or contact your insurer to inquire about what you have in place.
Basic car insurance
If you have the most basic car insurance, such as minimum liability coverage or uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, your stolen car will unfortunately not be covered for damages or replacement.
If you have homeowners insurance in place, the good news is that any personal items that were stolen out of your car will be covered.
However, the terms of this coverage will depend on your insurer and the insurance policy you have.
This insurance will generally cover the actual cash value of the car if it is stolen and not recovered.
Comprehensive insurance will also cover any damages to the vehicle when your stolen car is recovered. If you want to make sure you are covered fully if your car is stolen, be sure to select this coverage.
If your car is on lease and you have been a victim of vehicle theft, gap coverage will help you pay off an auto loan if your car is totaled or stolen, and you owe more than your car’s depreciated value.
This type of coverage can be combined with comprehensive insurance and is usually recommended if you are leasing or financing a new car.
When you want to make an insurance claim under gap coverage, be sure to ask your insurer about your policy’s time limit. Most insurance policies specify the number of days you have for the authorities to recover your car before it begins to lose its value.
What Happens If the Insurance Company Has Paid for Your Stolen Car, and Then It Is Found?
If the insurance company has paid you for a stolen car, they now legally own it and if it is recovered, they can sell it if it is in good condition.
Most insurance companies will not change the title of the car to their own name.
When the police recover a stolen vehicle, they will contact the registered owner—who will either be you (if you own the car), or your lender (who will still be the registered owner until the car is paid up).
Can You Reject Your Stolen Recovered Car?
If the police recover your stolen car, you may be wondering whether you can simply decline to take it back and get a new one instead.
The answer to this question depends on the type of insurance coverage that you have in place.
If your car has minor damage that can be fixed, the insurance company will be informed.
If your insurance company believes that the damage can be repaired, then they will pay the repair costs, and you won’t receive a new car or be paid out for the stolen vehicle.
Should your car have been totaled, then the insurance company will pay out the current cash value of the car.
Will Your Insurance Rates Go Up If Your Car Is Stolen?
If you have made a car insurance claim after the theft of your vehicle, there is a good chance that your auto insurance premiums will increase.
The reason for this is that the insurance company will have no choice but to pay out for the claim.
If your car has been stolen and you decide to add comprehensive coverage to your insurance policy, or if you’re being charged higher rates after a car theft incident, it will be time to start shopping around for cheaper car insurance quotes.
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Having your car stolen is an extremely stressful event. In addition, being charged higher insurance premiums—after being paid out for repairs or the replacement of your car—can be very tough on your pocket.
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