Drivers never want to think about vehicle theft, but it happens far too often. According to the Insurance Information Institute and the FBI, 707,758 owners had their vehicles stolen in 2015 or one every 45 seconds.
If you find yourself in a situation where you believe someone’s stolen your vehicle it’s important you handle it properly. These tips should help you get through the ordeal as quickly and easily as possible.
Was It Actually Stolen?
It’s natural to think someone stole your car when it isn’t where you left it. Stay calm and retrace your steps. Ask yourself whether a family member borrowed it and didn’t tell you, or you forgot. It’s also easy to lose track of your vehicle in a large parking lot, so don’t panic.
The other possibility is you’ve parked illegally and a company towed your car. Call your local towing companies or the parking lot owner to determine if this is the case. Many municipalities also have searchable websites where you enter your vehicle identification number (VIN) or license number for verification. If you have credit problems with your vehicle finance company, repossession is another possibility.
Call The Police
If you’re certain someone’s stolen your car, call the police. They will ask for your VIN, your license plate number, and your driver’s license and ask you to complete a police report. Many insurance companies require this report before you contact them.
Provide the police with as many details as possible beyond the basics such as make, model, year and color. Include distinguishing characteristics such as a dent, scrape, a broken/missing part, or stickers on the vehicle.
Filling out a report is also valuable because authorities often add your vehicle information to state and national databases to prevent resale or vehicle retitling.
If your car has GPS or telematics, the police may be able to use electronics to track your stolen vehicle. Some newer vehicles can also slow or immobilize a vehicle. Notify the police and provide them with your account details.
Once you’ve notified the police and filed your report, start the claims process with your insurance company. If you lease or finance your vehicle, you must contact them as soon as possible. They may work with your insurance company directly.
Otherwise, your insurance company will ask for the vehicle’s title, and confirm who has vehicle access. They may also ask you whether you can account for all sets of keys. If you left personal property in the vehicle, you will also need to compile a detailed list. Personal items stolen from the vehicle may be covered by your homeowners or renters insurance.
Comprehensive automobile insurance covers theft, but you should still notify your insurance company even you only have liability insurance because thieves can cause damage to other property.
What If The Police Recover My Car?
If the police are able to recover your car, it probably won’t be in the same condition. Contact your insurance company so they can assess the damage. They may order repairs or replacement if your vehicle is beyond repair.
Preventing car theft is the simplest way to avoid the situation in the first place. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports nearly half of vehicle theft is due to driver error.