Discovering that your car has been stolen can be an incredibly stressful and upsetting experience. However, there are steps you can take to report your stolen vehicle and hopefully recover it.
The police will conduct an investigation and work to locate your car. If they manage to find your stolen car, there is a process for reclaiming it and handling any damages or insurance claims.
Process of Reporting a Stolen Car and Police Investigation
Once you realize your car is missing, there are several immediate actions to take:
- File a police report right away to officially document the theft. Provide the make, model, color, license plate number, and VIN of your car. Let them know of any unique identifying features.
- Call your insurance company and report that your car was stolen. They will walk you through the claims process. Retain a copy of the police report number to provide to your insurer.
- If you have a car alarm, use the fob to activate it. This could potentially help locate your vehicle if it’s still nearby.
- Contact your lender or bank if you have an outstanding auto loan on the stolen vehicle. Inform them it was stolen so they can note this on your account.
After you report the theft, the police will enter your car’s details into national and regional databases of stolen vehicles. They will launch an investigation that may involve:
- Interviewing you to learn more details that may help locate the vehicle.
- Obtaining security footage from cameras in the area where it was stolen.
- Contacting chop shops and salvage yards to be on the lookout.
- Following up on any leads from officers patrolling high auto theft areas.
- Fingerprinting the vehicle if it’s recovered to try identifying the thieves.
The police have various tactics and resources to try to track down stolen cars. License plate readers mounted on patrol cars can automatically scan plates and alert officers if a stolen car passes by. Bait cars are rigged with GPS and can be tracked if thieves take the bait.
About 50-60% of stolen cars are eventually recovered according to national statistics. But recovery rates vary widely based on the area, type of vehicle, and circumstances of the theft. Luxury and high-end cars have higher recovery rates as they are more difficult for thieves to sell.
What Happens After Your Stolen Car Is Found?
If the police are successful in locating your stolen car, they will contact you to come inspect it and return possession. Be aware that you may not get it back immediately, even if they find it quickly. The police will hold the vehicle while they gather evidence and process the scene.
When you are finally able to reclaim your recovered stolen car, be sure to thoroughly inspect it and assess its condition. Check for any damage that may have occurred while it was out of your possession. This includes body damage, interior damage, slashed tires, spray paint, missing pieces, broken glass, and engine or ignition damages from thieves attempting to hotwire it.
The police should provide you with a vehicle recovery report detailing the condition of your car when it was found and any evidence gathered. It’s recommended to take extensive photos and notes documenting the state of your recovered vehicle for insurance claims purposes.
If the damage is more severe, your car may be classified as a salvage vehicle. This means the insurer considers it a total loss and the vehicle is issued a salvage title. At this point, you will go through the steps of handling an insurance claim on a totaled car.
Handling Damages and Insurance Claims
Once your stolen vehicle is recovered, you can file a claim with your insurance company, providing them copies of the police reports and your documentation of damages.
- Your insurance will assess the damage and cut you a check for covered losses after subtracting your deductible amount. This can reimburse you for repairs or replacement if it’s totaled.
- For any damages sustained while it was stolen, your comprehensive coverage will apply. Your deductible is generally lower than a collision deductible.
- If your car is totaled, the insurance company will determine a payout value based on the current fair market value. This can go towards buying a new vehicle.
- If you had a rental car reimbursement add-on to your policy, your rental fees may be covered for the time you were deprived of the use of your stolen car.
- If the thieves damaged the ignition trying to steal it, this cost may be reimbursed under comprehensive as vandalism.
- If the airbags were stolen, insurance should cover replacing them, again under comprehensive coverage.
Going through the ordeal of having your vehicle stolen can be extremely stressful. However, taking the right steps when it happens can help you recover some of your losses and get back on the road.
Act quickly to report it stolen, cooperate with authorities during the investigation, thoroughly document the condition of your recovered vehicle, and work with your insurance adjuster to handle the damages claim.
With the police’s help, there’s a chance of getting your car returned to you despite the theft. Stay calm, be diligent with the process, and you’ll get your transportation situation sorted out again.