Car thefts happen in big cities, small towns, and everywhere in between. We’ve all heard about them on the news, but you may not hear about what to do after your vehicle has been stolen. If you’re in the unfortunate situation of being the victim of auto theft, you might feel hopeless and lost. But don’t panic. Follow these steps to help you through the process.

If you recover your car, set aside time to review your car insurance coverage. Shopping around is the easiest way to compare your options and find the right policy for you.

Quick Facts

  • According to the FBI, approximately 721,900 motor vehicles are stolen each year in the United States.

  • Over half of drivers have forgotten where they parked at least once.

  • Comprehensive auto insurance typically covers the theft of vehicles.

1. Make Sure You’re Actually Reporting a Stolen Car

Does auto insurance cover car theft?

Comprehensive insurance generally covers losses after auto theft.

Many people mistakenly report their cars as stolen when they can’t find them, but often, the cars aren’t truly gone. That’s a waste of police time and resources. Plus, filing a false police report is a crime in many jurisdictions with severe consequences, including fines and jail time.

Here are some ways to make sure your car is really missing before calling the police department:

  • Ask yourself if the car was moved by mistake (perhaps by a partner or family member).

  • Think about where you parked. Was the vehicle in a parking lot, and you forgot where?

  • Consider if the car could have been towed.

  • Check with family members who might have borrowed it without permission.

If you don’t know where your car is, you can treat it as if it were truly stolen. In that case, don’t hesitate to contact the local police and your insurance company.

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2. Get Ready to File a Police Report

Drivers reported nearly 721,900 motor vehicles stolen in 2019, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. The most-stolen cars were sedans and SUVs, while a small percentage involved stolen trucks and buses.

Before you report your vehicle as stolen, gather the necessary documentation to file a police report:

  • Your contact information

  • Car make and model

  • License plate number and VIN

  • Color and year of car

  • Date and time you last saw the car

Depending on where you live, you may be directed to file a report with either local law enforcement or state law enforcement.

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3. Talk to Your Insurance Company

Once you have a police report number, contact your insurance company. Don’t be surprised if your policy doesn’t cover theft — not all car insurance providers do. But if you have comprehensive coverage, there’s a good chance your auto policy will cover theft.

To file an insurance claim, you’ll need the police report number and a copy of the police report, if it’s available. The insurance adjuster may also ask you to share what happened, including the last time you saw the car, as part of the claims process.

How much will your stolen car payout be?

How much will your policy pay if your car isn’t recovered? It depends:

  • If your vehicle isn’t found, you’ll usually get a reimbursement that covers the actual cash value (current market value of your car) minus any deductible.

  • If the car is found but has damage, the insurance company will cover the repair costs or declare it a total loss according to your policy.

What happens if items are stolen from your car?

Auto insurance only covers “permanent” parts of the car. It doesn’t include personal property that may be inside. For example, policies typically cover a factory-installed navigation system but not a dashboard-mounted GPS unit. Your homeowners or renters insurance should cover the theft of valuables from your automobile.

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4. File a Stolen Vehicle Report with the DMV

Filing a report with the department of motor vehicles (DMV) is a separate step from filing a police report. The DMV will want to know about your stolen vehicle so they can update their records accordingly. You’ll need to provide them with information about yourself and the stolen vehicle.

When you let the DMV know, you won’t be responsible for future issues related to the car, such as parking tickets. If someone tries to register the car under their name or apply for a new title, the DMV can notify the police.

5. Do a Stolen Car Check

If you’re sure your car was stolen, don’t try to find it on your own. You could end up in a dangerous situation. But you may be able to safely help the police do a stolen car check.

Many apps and services can track vehicles. If you have OnStar or LoJack, you may be able to track your car. You could also check Craigslist and social media to see if someone listed your car for sale.

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Get the Right Coverage for a Stolen Car

Being a victim of vehicle theft is something nobody ever wants to experience. It’s not just the loss of a car and the expense of replacing it. It’s also the inconvenience and disruption that comes with losing your primary mode of transportation. Hopefully, this step-by-step guide can help you if car thieves target your ride.

Car insurance can protect your assets, no matter the circumstances. Compare coverage options today to find the right policy for your needs and budget.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Many people report stolen cars when the car is still in their possession — they simply forget where they parked it. So before notifying the police, make sure the vehicle is really missing. Check all the places where you usually park. If you can’t locate the car, then it’s time to notify law enforcement.

  • Certain apps and services can track and send notifications if a vehicle is stolen. For example, OnStar and LoJack have tracking devices to locate your car. OnStar can remotely slow down the car and prevent thieves from restarting it. LoJack has a stolen vehicle recovery system that reimburses you up to $10,000 if the vehicle isn’t recovered within 30 days.

  • Don’t try to find your car yourself. You could get hurt. Instead, let the police do their job. If you happen to locate your car, don’t jump in and drive it away. Call the police and let them handle the recovered vehicle. You should also contact your insurance company to let them know.

  • You can take certain precautions to prevent car theft. These include locking your doors, removing your keys from the vehicle, closing the windows, installing an alarm system or anti-theft device, and parking in a well-lit area.

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  • Data scientists at Insurify analyzed more than 40 million real-time auto insurance rates from our partner providers across the United States to compile the car insurance quotes, statistics, and data visualizations displayed on this page. The car insurance data includes coverage analysis and details on drivers' vehicles, driving records, and demographic information. Quotes for Allstate, Farmers, GEICO, State Farm, and USAA are estimates based on Quadrant Information Service's database of auto insurance rates. With these insights, Insurify is able to offer drivers insight into how companies price their car insurance premiums.

Amy Beardsley
Amy BeardsleyInsurance Writer

Amy is a personal finance and technology writer. With a background in the legal field and a bachelor's degree from Ferris State University, she has a talent for transforming complex topics into content that’s easy to understand. Connect with Amy on LinkedIn.