How to Report a Stolen Car
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UPDATED: Aug 4, 2021
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- Vehicle theft is on the rise, making it especially important to know how to report a stolen vehicle
- After the theft, immediately contact the police and then your insurance company to report it
- Prepare for theft by taking out comprehensive coverage, which can help pay for the damage or a new vehicle
After a decades-long decline, the rate of auto theft within the U.S. went up 9.2% between 2019 and 2020. In 2020, more than 870,000 vehicles were stolen.1
And while no one wants to imagine this crime, knowing how to report a stolen vehicle is an important life skill. Following the proper steps in a timely manner is key to getting your vehicle back. If your car is stolen, you don’t want to waste time wondering, “Where do I call to report a stolen car?” or “Who needs to know about this?”
Instead, read on to learn everything you’ll need to do in the event that your vehicle is stolen.
Step 1: Contact Law Enforcement
Calling the police is the first step of reporting a stolen car. Your insurance will likely require you to file a police report before beginning the claims process.
If you are hurt or in danger, call 911.
If not, call your local law enforcement agency’s non-emergency phone number. Many law enforcement agencies now allow you to file an online police report if you prefer.
The police will ask for several pieces of information about your vehicle, including:
- Make, model, and year
- License plate number
- Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
- Other identifying features (bumper stickers, modifications)
- GPS tracker capabilities
- Where/when it was stolen
The more information you provide, the easier the police investigation will be, and the more likely your vehicle can be recovered.
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Step 2: Contact Your Auto Insurance Provider
Does car insurance cover break ins and vehicle theft? Insurance usually helps, so after the police, your auto insurance provider should be your next call.
If you have ‘comprehensive coverage,’ you’ll be covered for any damage the thieves make to your car if it is recovered—or the cost of a replacement if it isn’t.
Be prepared to answer many of the same questions as the police asked you about the incident. “Owner give-up” (an owner lying about a car being stolen and making a false report to the insurer) is a common type of insurance fraud, so your insurance company will try to confirm your car has actually been stolen.2
Ways to quickly alleviate their suspicions and start processing your claim include:
- Reporting your stolen car right away
- Answering questions fully and honestly
- Having as much information (title, location of all keys, etc.) ready as possible
Step 3: Know About Special Cases
For most car owners, the above two steps are the only necessary actions after a car theft. After filing a stolen vehicle report with the police department and reporting the incident to your insurance company, it’s time to secure an alternate form of transit and cross your fingers for good results.
But if you have any lingering concerns about your situation, you may need to take some additional steps. Below, we’ll cover your potential questions and their answers.
What if Someone Borrowed My Car and Won’t Return It?
Even if you lent someone your car voluntarily, borrowing could become theft if they refuse to give it back. However, police may hesitate to get involved in what they see as a personal dispute.
Before the police consider your car stolen, you must clearly express to the borrower that their permission to use your vehicle is revoked and that the car must be returned to you. Communicate this message via text or email so that there is a written, dated record of it.
The police officer may refer you to a domestic violence unit if the borrower/thief is your:
- Family member
- Spouse or romantic partner (current or ex)
- Roommate (current or ex)
What if I had Valuables in My Car?
Oftentimes, the vehicle itself is not the only valuable thing stolen in the case of car theft.
Comprehensive coverage policies that cover the cost of your stolen vehicle typically won’t cover the cost of the stolen things inside, such as:
- Cell phone
- Tablet or laptop
- Handbag or purse
Check with your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance provider to see if you are covered for the loss of these items.
If you’re wondering how to prevent car theft in the future, do not leave valuables in your car, as this can make the vehicle even more enticing to thieves. To further deter thieves and add a layer of protection, install the best car alarm system for your vehicle.
What if My Vehicle is Financed or Leased?
Unfortunately, your financial obligation to the company financing your auto loan or fulfilling your lease does not end if your car is stolen.
However, if you have comprehensive coverage, your auto insurance company may cover your remaining payments.
Call your financing or leasing institution to figure out their exact policy for stolen vehicles.
What if My Rental Car is Stolen?
If your rental car is stolen, report it to the rental car company. They will close your rental contract, so you’re not on the hook for paying for a stolen vehicle.
The optional damage waiver (aka collision damage waiver or loss damage waiver) should cover vehicle theft. If you declined to purchase this, you might be liable for repairing or replacing the stolen vehicle. However, your auto insurance provider may help cover these expenses, too.
What if my Car was Stolen Outside of the USA?
Follow the process outlined above and file a police report with the local law enforcement. After you return to the USA, bring a hard copy of the report to your local police so they can assist in the investigation and recovery process.
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Now you know how to report a stolen car—but what results can you expect?
The recovery rate of stolen vehicles depends on many factors, including where you are. Statista reported a national stolen vehicle recovery rate of 56.1% in 2018.3
With a coin toss chance of recovering your vehicle, it’s essential to take additional steps to secure your vehicle, like adding a car alarm system and to take out comprehensive coverage that can help pay for the cost of a damaged or unrecovered vehicle. After all, the car alarm installation cost and monthly cost of an insurance policy are much less than a new pair of wheels! Browsing rates can be time-consuming. At 4AutoInsuranceQuote, we do the legwork for you. Just input your ZIP code and a few other details, and we’ll compare the best local rates, all in one place. Get a quote today.