If you’ve never been the victim of automobile theft, you might assume your car is safe. After all, many thieves now target specific parts or valuables inside the vehicle rather than the car itself. However, motor vehicle theft is still a common occurrence. In fact, in 2019, 721,885 vehicles were stolen (a rate of 219.9 per 100,000 people) in the United States, according to the Insurance Information Institute. While we hope it never happens to you, here’s what to do if your car is stolen.
5 Steps to Follow If Your Car is Stolen
1. Don’t Panic
While we recognize this is a stressful situation, it’s always a good idea to remain calm. If you park your vehicle on the street or in assigned parking spaces at your residence, try to think clearly about if your car could have been towed. Maybe you got home very late and misremembered where you parked. By remaining calm and running through the possible scenarios, you might realize you need to call the towing company, not the police.
2. Contact the Police
When you know your vehicle has been stolen, call the police immediately. You’ll almost certainly need a police report to file a claim with your insurance company, and the police will use any information you can give them to try to track down your vehicle. The recovery rate for stolen vehicles was only 59.3% in 2018, according to FBI data, but the sooner the police can get to work, the better chance you have of getting your car back. The following information could help them locate your vehicle:
- Year, make, and model of the car
- The car’s color
- The license plate number
- The vehicle identification number (VIN)
- Any identifying features, like bumper stickers, dents, scratches, windshield cracks, etc.
If your car has a GPS system, you might be in luck. Let the police know immediately, and they might be able to use this wonderful piece of technology to track your car.
Need another reason to contact the police as soon as possible? If the person who stole your car commits any crimes while in possession of your vehicle, someone might identify the vehicle they’re driving, and if it’s not reported as stolen, the police might assume it’s you!
3. Get in Touch with Your Insurer
As soon as you’ve finished talking to the police, it’s time to contact your insurer and let them know the unfortunate news.
While there’s no such thing as “stolen car insurance,” comprehensive coverage can be your saving grace in this scenario. Sometimes known as “other than collision coverage,” comprehensive coverage will pay to repair or replace your vehicle if it’s stolen, vandalized, damaged in a natural disaster, or strikes an animal. Comprehensive coverage isn’t required by law, but if you’ve taken out a loan to pay for your vehicle, there’s a good chance the lending institution requires you to have collision and comprehensive coverage. If you have comprehensive coverage, your insurer can walk you through the claims process.
What if you don’t have comprehensive coverage? Well, you still need to get in touch with your insurer. If the thief gets into an accident and causes property damage or bodily harm, you don’t want to be held responsible. Notifying your insurance company of the theft can help protect you if someone else is hurt by the person in control of your stolen vehicle.
4. Contact Your Lender (If Necessary)
If you took out a loan to buy the now-stolen vehicle or if you lease it, you need to contact the company you’re borrowing from. They still have a financial stake in the vehicle, and there’s a good chance your insurer will being paying your claim directly to the lending company.
5. Do Some Online Sleuthing (Optional)
While there’s a good chance your car will be stripped down for parts, it’s not completely impossible that a thief would attempt to resell your vehicle. Check online marketplaces and see if you recognize your car in any of the postings. If you find your vehicle in this manner, do not confront the thief. There’s no need to put yourself in unnecessary danger. Get back in touch with the police, and let them do their job.
Doing this detective work might really be worth your time if you don’t have insurance to help pay for the stolen vehicle.
What If Your Vehicle Is Recovered by Police?
While it doesn’t always happen, there is a chance that the police will track down your car and return it to you. If you get your car back and have comprehensive coverage, contact your insurer, and they should send a claims adjuster to inspect it. They’ll make note of damage done to the vehicle while it was out of your possession, and your policy should have it covered after you meet your deductible. If the damage to your vehicle is extensive and over a certain dollar amount, your insurer might declare the car a total loss and pay you the value of the car. If you still owe a financial institution for the car, this payment would likely be sent to them.
What if your vehicle is recovered after an insurance settlement?
Typically, there’s some time that passes before your car is considered a lost cause and your insurer pays out a settlement. And while it’s rare that a stolen vehicle is recovered after a decent amount of time passes, it can happen. So, what should you do if you’re reunited with your car after everything is settled with the insurance company? Well, your insurer paid you (or the lender) for the lost vehicle, so they have a right to know if it turns up. They will consider it their own property at this point. Be sure to contact your insurer immediately if the stolen vehicle turns up, even if it’s at a much later date.
Ways to Prevent Theft
You can’t control what thieves do, but you can deter them from targeting your vehicle or make them easier to find with these tips:
- Park in a garage or in well-lit, highly-trafficked areas: If your house has a garage, use it. It’s an extra layer of protection. If you have to park on the street or in a city parking lot, try to find an area with lots of visibility and a lot of light. Thieves don’t want to be seen, so if your car is visible to lots of pedestrians and vehicles passing by, a thief will probably choose another target.
- Always lock your car: Don’t make your car an easy target. Sometimes thieves simply look for vehicles that are left unlocked.
- Install a GPS system: If your car has technology that makes it easy to track, the police have a much greater chance of recovering it.
Rental Cars and Your Car
Having your rental car stolen can ruin your vacation or trip, especially if your luggage and personal items were in the vehicle. And if your own car is stolen or broken into, it can leave you feeling vulnerable. Here are some tips to prevent theft and break-ins at home and away.
- Park in well-lit, trafficked areas so your vehicle can be seen at all times
- Put away electronics and the GPS, don’t forget the cords and mounts
- Put your luggage and other valuables in the trunk, out of sight
- Lock all the doors and close the windows, including the sunroof
- Keep glove box and center console open so thieves can see there is no reason to break-in
- Don’t leave the engine running while you run into the store, hotel, anywhere
- Don’t leave spare keys in your vehicle, thieves know where to look.
If your car or rental is stolen, it’s important to first call the police to report the stolen vehicle. Give them any information about your vehicle. If you have your rental information with you, give them the VIN# as well. Report any stolen items that were in the vehicle at the time.
After you speak to the police, call your insurance company to report your stolen or damaged car even if it’s the rental car. If you have a rental car, call the rental car company to inform them of the situation and get another rental vehicle.
What to Do in a Carjacking
You may think that it could never happen to you, but carjackings are on the rise. Most carjackings occur with the purpose of stealing the vehicle.
Carjackings can happen no matter where you are or what country you’re in, but there are a few tips to help avoid being a victim.
- Stay alert when you’re driving and be aware of your surroundings
- Avoid high crime areas and less traveled roads
- Don’t park your car in isolated places
- Be vigilant at residential gates and driveways
- Be aware of your surroundings in congested driving areas
In case of a carjacking, the U.S. Department of State recommends doing the following:
There are two options during an attack: non-resistive, or non-confrontational behavior and resistive or confrontational behavior. Your reaction should be based on certain factors:
- Type of attack
- Environment (isolated or public)
- The mental state of the attacker (reasonable or nervous)
- Number of attackers
- Whether children are present
In the nonconfrontational situation, you would:
- Give up the vehicle freely.
- Listen carefully to all directions.
- Make no quick or sudden movements that the attacker could construe as a counterattack.
- Always keep your hands in plain view. Tell the attacker of every move in advance.
- Make the attacker aware if children are present. The attacker may be focused only on the driver and not know children are in the car.
In a resistive or confrontational response, you would make a decision to escape or attack the carjacker. Before doing so, consider:
- The mental state of the attacker.
- Possible avenues of escape.
- The number of attackers; there is usually more than one.
- The use of weapons. (Weapons are used in the majority of carjacking situations.)
In most instances, it is probably safest to give up your vehicle.
Protect Yourself from Theft with Comprehensive Coverage from Direct Auto
The best way to deal with theft is to be proactive and get the right coverage before you become a victim. Call Direct Auto or visit one of our nearby locations to talk about comprehensive coverage today!