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Stolen Car? Here’s What To Do

Jason Metz

If you're a stolen car victim, you are not alone. There's a car stolen every 41 seconds in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Here's what to do if your car is stolen.

Step 1: Call the police

Call the police as soon as possible to file a theft report. Your insurance company might not pay a theft claim without a police report. Make sure you get a copy of the report. Provide the following information to the police:

  • Vehicle identification number (VIN) – You can usually find this on several documents, including your vehicle registration, vehicle title, insurance policy dedications page and insurance ID card. If your insurance company offers a digital insurance ID for smartphones, it's a good idea to download it in case you don't have immediate access to paper documents.
  • Vehicle make and model.
  • When and where you last saw your car.
  • Tracking device information, if you have one – Some cars come equipped with OnStar or Toyota's Safety Connect, or you may have a tracking device like LoJack.

Step 2: Call your auto insurance company

Call your insurance company to let them know the car was stolen. If it's not recovered, you'll be able to file a claim if you have comprehensive insurance. Without comprehensive insurance you'll have to pay to replace the car on your own.

It's a good idea to have the following information for the insurer:

  • Car title (if available).
  • If your car was financed or leased, the account number and contact information for the lending or leasing company.
  • Names and contact information for everyone who had access to the car.
  • The location of all car keys, both before and after the theft.
  • A list of personal belongings that were in the vehicle. Personal items are usually covered by a renters or homeowners insurance policy. Auto insurance typically does not cover the theft of personal property inside a car.
  • Other information such as the car's mileage, service records, warranties and receipts, and any upgrades to the car.

Even if you don't have comprehensive insurance, it's a good idea to notify your car insurance company of a theft. You want the insurer to know that you're not responsible for injuries or property damage caused by the thief.

Step 3: Inform your leaser or lender

If you have a car loan or lease, let the company know the car was stolen.

Stolen car FAQs

How long does it take for insurance to pay for a stolen car?

Don't expect an insurance payment right away. There's typically a waiting period for car-theft claims, which could be 21 or 30 days. The insurer will want to see if the car is found.

The delay could be longer if your car insurance company investigates the theft. At least 10% of property and casualty claims are fraudulent, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). If the situation seems suspicious, you could be required to answer questions under oath and provide additional documentation, such as financial and cell phone records.

You may need a rental car while your claim is being processed. If you have rental reimbursement coverage, it will pay a daily amount toward a rental, such as $25, depending on your policy.

What happens if your car is stolen and you still owe money on it?

If the insurance check is less than what you still owe on a car loan or lease, you will need to pay off the remainder of the loan or lease. If you have gap insurance, it can cover the difference between the insurance check and what you owe.

Do you have to pay a deductible if a car is stolen?

Yes, car theft claims have a deductible. Insurance settlements are based on the value of the car at the time it was stolen, minus a deductible amount. For example, if the car's value was $10,000 and you have a $500 deductible, the insurance check would be $9,500.

How many stolen cars are recovered?

Approximately 42% of stolen cars are never recovered, according to NHTSA. If your stolen car is found but you already received an insurance check, your insurance company technically owns the recovered vehicle. If you want the car back, discuss the options with your insurance agent.

Was my car stolen or towed?

If your vehicle is missing, it could have been towed. Look around for "no parking" signs, restricted-parking signs, tow zones and other signs in the area where you last parked. There may be a number on the sign to call to find out if the vehicle was towed. If not, call the local police department to find out if it was towed -- or to report it stolen.

Here's more on what to do if your car is towed.

What are the most stolen cars?

The most stolen car is the Honda Accord, according to NHTSA's 2016 data. Here are the top 10 most stolen cars.

  1. Honda Accord
  2. Honda Civic
  3. Chevrolet Silverado
  4. Toyota Camry
  5. Ford F150
  6. Nissan Altima
  7. Toyota Corolla
  8. Ford F250
  9. Ford Econoline
  10. Chevrolet Impala

Tips for preventing car theft

  • Don't leave the car running and unoccupied.
  • Keep the windows rolled up and doors locked when you park.
  • Don't leave a set of keys in the car.
  • Park in well-lit areas.
  • Hide valuable items that might attract thieves.
  • Install a car alarm.
  • Install a GPS tracking system to help law enforcement locate your stolen vehicle.

The NICB offers more tips to prevent auto theft.