What To Do When Your Car Is Stolen

If it’s your first time experiencing theft, you may not know where to start or what to do when your car is stolen. With the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) releasing reports of increasing vehicle theft reversing a two-year decline, you’re probably not the only one. 

So, where do you begin when you find yourself staring at an empty parking spot? In the next 24 hours, you’ll need to take the following steps to help recover your vehicle and make sure you have done everything necessary for your insurance coverage.

How To Report a Stolen Car in 6 Steps

Knowing exactly what to do when your car is stolen will help local authorities and speed up the vehicle recovery process. Follow these six steps to collect the information you’ll need to handle all aspects of the situation. 

1. Take a deep breath.

The first thing to do is to take a deep breath. It’s not uncommon for people to think their car has been stolen when in fact it’s been towed, or a family member merely borrowed it to go to the store. Cover several bases first and make a few calls. To be sure your car hasn’t been towed, you can call your local impound or police department to see if they have your vehicle.

2. Call the police and file a report.

Once you’re sure the vehicle has been stolen, your first call should be to the police. Be prepared to provide specific details, including:

  • Make, model, year
  • License plate number 
  • Driver’s license 
  • VIN
  • Items potentially stolen 
  • Distinct vehicle features
  • Any information about an installed GPS or tracking system, if you have one
  • Circumstances of theft, such as where and when you saw your vehicle last.

3. File a claim with your insurance company.

Your next call should be to your insurance company. It’s important to call the police department first as many insurance providers will not honor a claim unless it is reported. 

When filing a claim, you will be asked to provide the same information provided to the police department. In addition, you may be asked to include details in a theft questionnaire, such as a copy of the police report and case number. As for payment, some insurers require you pay a deductible regardless of recovery status.

4. If you currently use a recovery service, make them aware of the situation.

GPS or stolen vehicle recovery systems will often have a phone number or hotline to call in the event your vehicle is stolen. 

5. Inform you Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

It’s essential to contact your local DMV after 30 days. Documenting the change in ownership due to theft will waive any responsibility for accrued fees, such as parking violations. The process and forms will vary from state to state. It is important to note that you do not need to procure a Planned Non-Operation (PNO) certification during this time.

6. Be patient.

On average, law enforcement typically finds a stolen vehicle within 48 hours of it being reported missing. But the process can also take much, much longer. So be patient as law enforcement searches for your vehicle.

In the meantime, you can continue to check the NICB’s VINCheck system to see if your vehicle is still unrecovered.  

Stolen Vehicle FAQ

How long does it take police to find a stolen car? 

As mentioned, police should be able to recover your vehicle within 48 hours. This timeframe is especially expedited if the vehicle is equipped with a pre-installed vehicle recovery device.

How do police track stolen cars? 

Police use a number of tools to track vehicles, such as personal belongings that emit a signal, toll detectors, license plate scanners, dash cams, installed GPS devices, and video surveillance.

What does insurance cover if your car is stolen?

Insurance policies typically cover vehicle theft, stolen parts replacement, and vandalism repairs. Most insurance companies have a waiting period of 30 days before declaring a total loss and issuing reimbursement. You can learn more about vehicle theft and insurance here.

What do I do if my stolen vehicle is financed or leased?

If the stolen vehicle is financed or leased, begin by calling the police and your insurance company, then contact the finance or leasing company.

How To Stay Protected in the Future

Going forward, it’s good practice to install a vehicle recovery device enabled with real-time location data. Having a system in place to communicate the exact whereabouts of your vehicle greatly assists in recovery. 

Solutions like Elo GPS not only provide stolen vehicle recovery systems, but also a 24/7 stolen vehicle recovery hotline with a dedicated team of specialists. To learn more about Elo GPS, connect with a solution expert near you.