What Can You Do After Your Car Is Stolen?

Vehicle theft is a growing problem in the USA. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), over 700,000 automobiles were reported stolen nationwide in 2024, a 3% increase from the previous year.

America has seen an increase of 28.5% in stolen vehicle crimes in just four years, which is a matter of concern. Thus, it has become highly crucial for American natives to take good care of their vehicles and know every essential detail if someday their ride gets stolen.

Automobiles are expensive and crucial purchases in our lives. Losing one comes with both emotional and practical challenges. You are burdened with car-related payments, have no mode of transportation, and fear becoming a victim of theft again.

Thus, you must be prepared and learn what to do if you fall victim to a car theft. We know that thinking straight is not easy in such a situation. But if you know the proper steps to follow in such an event, there is a high chance you will save yourself from a massive financial crunch.

Today, we bring you this comprehensive guide, which will walk you through the actions to take when you are sure your car is stolen. From informing the police to contacting your insurance provider to reaching your financial institutions and preparing the necessary documents, we will discuss each step in detail.

Keep reading to learn how to keep calm and speed up your car theft investigation and insurance claim process.

1. Make Sure Your Car Is Actually Stolen

The first thing you need to do is ensure your car has really been stolen. Let’s be honest here. We all have been in situations where we parked our cars and took a long time to return. We either forget where we parked our car, or it gets towed. So, before panicking and getting all hasty, take a few minutes, recall where you had parked your ride, and try to find it. 

Also, check if you have parked in the tow-away zone. If yes, check the tow or impound service before filing a stolen vehicle report.

However, if you live in a state with the highest motor theft rates in 2023, namely:

  • District of Columbia,
  • District of Colorado,
  • District of Nevada;

or in a city with the highest motor theft volume, namely”

  • Los Angeles Metropolitan Area: Los Angeles, Long Beach, Anaheim,
  • CA Metropolitan Area: San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley,
  • Chicago Metropolitan Area: Chicag, Naperville, Elgin; you need to be more alert than others.

If you can not find your car in the spot where you parked it and the towing service has no record of it with them, or you live in any of the regions mentioned above, it is definitely stolen.

2. Take Immediate Action and Call The Police

As soon as you are confirmed that your ride, whether the most expensive car in the world or one of the iconic Chevrolet releases, has been stolen, you must call emergency services and report the theft to the police.

While filing the complaint, police will want you to provide detailed information about your stolen vehicle, including:

  • Make, model, year, and color of your car
  • License plate number
  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • Any distinguishing features of your motor vehicle
  • Information about your GPS or tracking system (if you have one)
  • When and where did you last see your vehicle

Note: After reporting the theft to the police, request a copy of the police report. It will be helpful for insurance purposes.

3. Notify Your Insurance Company

After filing a police complaint regarding your stolen car, you next need to contact your car insurance company to report the theft. Ideally, you should submit a stolen vehicle claim to your insurance company within 24 hours of the theft or immediately after you have filed a police report.

Your insurance company will request the necessary information to initiate the claims process. In addition to all the details you provided to the police officers, you can insurance provider may ask for:

  • A copy of the police complaint you have filed,
  • Contact information of people who had access to your vehicle,
  • Location of all car keys

Please understand that a copy of the police report is crucial because, in some cases, you may be unable to make an insurance claim without it. Also, remember that not all car insurance policies provide coverage if your vehicle gets stolen. Only the policies with comprehensive insurance will cover a stolen car.

So, if you wish to be fully prepared for the worst, change your minimum coverage to a comprehensive one, as the minimum carrier will not reimburse you.

4. Contact Your Home or Renter’s Insurance Provider

You may wonder why I need to contact my home insurance provider if my car gets stolen. Well, there is a big reason for that. There is a high chance that you had valuable items in your car when it was stolen, such as your laptop, cell phone, watch, jewelry, and more.

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Your car insurance will not pay for any personal items taken with the stolen car. Thus, your best option is to contact your home or renter’s insurance provider for a rebate.

This means you must file a separate claim for your stolen belongings. While filing, please provide a list and brief description of all the valuables you kept in the car.

5. Contact Your Lender or Leinholder

If you bought your car on loan or lease, you must contact your lender or lienholder and notify the theft.

They are parties with ownership or financial interest in the vehicle. Thus, they need to know everything related to the robbery. You will also need to determine if any documents in your car contained your personal information, such as your vehicle registration or credit or debit cards.

If any document containing your personal information is stolen, you must contact your lenders and set up a temporary fraud alert on your credit records via one of the major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian, or Equifax.

6. Reach Out To Tracking Services (If Applicable)

Reach Out To Tracking Services

If your vehicle is equipped with a GPS tracking device, you should contact your tracking service provider regarding the stealing of your car. Provide all the necessary information to the tracking company to help them locate and recover your vehicle.

You typically need to provide the tracking company with the following information:

  • Vehicle Information: Make, Model, Year, and VIN (in rare cases).
  • GPS Tracking Device Information: Serial Number or Unique Identifier of your GPS tracking device installed.
  • Last Known Location (of your vehicle before it was stolen).
  • Vehicle Description& Distinguishing Features.
  • Your “up-to-date” contact information, including phone number, email address, and alternative contact information.
  • Inform them about the involvement of law enforcement and provide them with a police report number if available.

7. Spread The Word

Use social media and community forums to spread the word about your stolen vehicle. Sharing photos, license plate numbers, and descriptions of your car increases the chances of someone from the crowd spotting it.

8. Monitor For Suspicious Activity

You must watch for any suspicious activity related to your stolen vehicle, like attempts to sell its parts or unauthorized use.

It is always better to work closely with law enforcement and provide them with any relevant information you have.

9. Stay Informed Of Investigation Progress

Your duty as the victim does not end by filing a theft complaint. You must keep in touch with the progress of the investigation and see if there are any updates from the police.

In addition, follow up regularly with your insurance provider to track the status of your insurance claim or any potential reimbursements.

Explore Your Legal Options

If the theft case of your motor vehicle involves complex issues or if you are facing challenges with your insurance claim, you should consider seeking legal advice.

A professional lawyer can help you with your case much better than you could have done just by yourself.

Also, it is better to familiarize yourself with your rights and responsibilities as a victim of a car theft.

11. Seek Emotional Support

Losing a car to thievery is a disastrous situation, so do not avoid addressing the emotional impact it has on you. Seek emotional support from friends, family, or a professional to cope with the emotions you are dealing with.

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It will help you handle yourself better, and your judgment will not be clouded.

12. Prepare Yourself For The Outcome, Good Or Bad

Generally, USA car insurance providers wait 72 hours after the theft to process your auto claim if your vehicle is recovered. During this 72-hour deadline, you are responsible for paying for your alternative mode of transportation. However, this will not be an issue if you have rental reimbursement coverage in your car insurance.

Another thing you must know about your stolen car is that it will not increase your auto insurance rates because you are not considered to be at fault for a stolen automobile.

However, if you enjoyed any discount for being claim-free in the past, you will surely lose that, which will, in turn, increase your rates.

13. Inspect Your Ride If It is Recovered

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), law enforcement officials are usually the first ones to find a missing car. As soon as they find your vehicle, they will impound it and contact you to take it with you.

However, before you drive away with your car from police custody, it is highly advised to inspect it first.

  • Inspect your ride carefully and thoroughly to ensure there is nothing unwanted or unrelated to you inside, like illegal drugs.
  • Use a flashlight if you must to get the job done. If you find anything, notify the officials.

The other scenario is where you or someone else happens to find your car.

  • If that happens, inform the police, followed by your car insurance company.
  • If you have found your car after you get your claim, your insurer will own the car, but you may get to repurchase it if you haven’t bought a replacement ride.

Also, if you have filed for the stealing of any personal items inside the car and have recovered them, let your insurance company know about it immediately.

Furthermore, if your sedan, SUV, pickup, or minivan is found while your insurance claim is still in progress, get it inspected by a professional to check if any parts are missing or if it is safe to drive. If everything is okay, you can stop the claim process. And if not, continue with it.

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Lastly, suppose your stolen ride has suffered damages due to the theft. In that case, your comprehensive insurance will pay for those repairs, excluding your deductible.

14. Initiate Insurance for Your Claim If Your Car Is Not Recovered

If no one can find your stolen ride and you have taken comprehensive insurance, your insurance provider will pay you the value of the car it held when it was stolen. But remember, comprehensive claims have deductibles, so the amount you receive will come minus the deductible.

15. Take Preventive Measures For The Future

Whether you have recovered your stolen motor vehicle or not, you need to be extra careful in the future. Invest in additional security measures like an alarm system, GPS tracking device, steering wheel lock, or immobilizer to prevent future theft attempts on your ride.

Also, get the optional comprehensive insurance coverage (if you did not have it already) for your car, as car theft is not included in the STATE-required car insurance minimums.

How can I prevent my car from being stolen?

One can never predict the occurrence of unfortunate events like stealing. However, one can understand and analyze the situation and appropriately handle it.

If you or someone around you has fallen victim to car theft and you wish to prevent such a thing from happening to you, there are some steps you can take:

  • Whenever outside, park your car in safe locations.
  • Avoid leaving valuables like laptops, smartphones, and crucial documents inside your ride.
  • Install anti-theft systems in your car.
  • Whenever leaving the car or parking it, ensure you lock all the doors and windows are completely closed.
Can I shop for a replacement vehicle after my car is stolen?

If your stolen car is not recovered and your insurance claim is settled, you can surely buy a new car with the money you have claimed.

However, if your car is recovered but you have just settled your insurance claim and do not wish to own it, you can keep the claim money and hand over the ride to your insurer.

Do I need a duplicate or replacement title?

Yes. If your car is not recovered, you may have to transfer ownership to your insurance company using your title certificate. But if you lost the original, you must apply for a duplicate.

The purpose of a duplicate car title is to show that the vehicle for which the title is is stolen. One thing to consider is that the duplicate title is valid only for insurance transfers.

Conclusion

Car thefts are increasing in the USA with each passing year. This is becoming a headache for natives, so every car owner must know the crucial steps to follow when such an event occurs. You need to be strong and collected when calling the police or reaching out to your insurance provider to collect all the car-related information and pass it on.

Not only this, but you should also know about future preventive measures, like getting GPS tracking and theft alarms, to ensure you do not fall victim to any such events again. 

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