What to Do If Your Car Is Broken Into

Posted July 24th, 2017 by Alexa Goyette

You might feel like your high-quality security system is enough to keep your car safe and impenetrable. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Car break-ins are not a rare occurrence, even to vehicles that seem secure.

Although alarm systems and anti-theft devices are strong preventative accessories, car break-ins are still prevalent nationwide. As security technologies evolve, thieves continue to adapt to these changes. Some new technologies and devices are designed to help people break into cars.

Thefts aren’t just limited to the high-ticket electronics like phones, GPS systems, and laptops; air bags and hub caps are popular stolen items, as the former is valuable and the latter is external and will not set a car alarm off.

There were 1,203,497 thefts from motor vehicles that excluded automobile accessories and 349,954 thefts of motor vehicle accessories in 2015, according to te FBI. Respectively, these statistics reflect a 3.7% and -1.7% change from 2014. The average value of this stolen property comes in at $782 and $573. These statistics are too significant to ignore. You should prepare for these thefts, knowing how to lower your chances of having your car broken into and what to do if it does occur.

More: What to do if your car is stolen

What Should You Do?

Hopefully you’re reading this to prepare in case this troubling circumstance happens to you, not because it already happened to you. If you return to your car to find a smashed window or missing accessory, stay calm and follow these steps:

1.     Don’t move your car or tamper with it in any way before you call the police. Instead, take photos of the scene, documenting the pried-open door or broken window. This will make it a lot easier for you to file an insurance claim if you choose to do so.

2.     Either call to send over a police officer or go to the police station yourself to file a police report. To make this process easier, bring along your license, registration, insurance information, and a list of the stolen items. If you decide to file an insurance claim, this police report will be essential. In addition, if the police catch the thief, you might be able to get back the stolen items you listed on your report.

3.     If your credit card, passport, social security card, or other form of personal information have been taken in the crime, make sure you act immediately. Call your credit card company to block that card’s access to your accounts. Act quickly; the longer you wait, the more money the thief could be taking from your account! If the thief has taken anything with your personal information on it, make sure you place a fraud alert on your credit record; this will keep the thief from opening new accounts using your information. You don’t want to fall victim to identity theft; it’s just not worth it.

4.     Deactivate your cell phone or other electronic device is it has been taken. If you have your banking information on your phone, for instance, the thief could do some damage. It’ll also help to keep them from making any phone calls or messages from your number that might be incriminating or strange.

5.     You’ll need to decide if you want to file an insurance claim. Comprehensive car insurance will pay for the damages done to your car following theft or vandalism if you decide to file a claim. If the damage to your car costs less than the cost of your deductible, you might want to take the repair into your own hands. However, if your deductible is $800 and the repairs would cost $1,000, it’s definitely worth filing a claim. Homeowners insurance or renters insurance will cover the costs of any personal property stolen from your vehicle, like a smartphone or piece of valuable jewelry. Again, your deductible will apply when making a claim, so it all depends on the cost of the stolen item(s).

6.     Get your car repaired as soon as possible, especially if your windows or doors are damaged. If you’re driving around a car with a broken window, there’s a pretty good chance someone else might take advantage.

7.     Going forward, take action to prevent it from happening again.

Preventing Theft in the Future

Having something taken from you can be taxing, both financially and mentally. You might be angry that someone would steal from you or upset that the thief took something of sentimental value. Although there’s no surefire way to keep this from happening again, there might be some ways you can prevent history from repeating itself.

1.     Never leave valuable items on the seats, dashboard, or in plain sight. Putting them in the trunk or glove compartment may keep your car off the radar of potential thieves. If possible, don’t leave any valuables in your car in the first place.

2.     Protecting your car from external auto parts, like hub caps, isn’t as clear-cut. However, parking your car in populated, well-lit areas might prevent thefts, as there’s a higher likelihood of them being caught than if your car was parked somewhere with less pedestrians to witness the incident. Not leaving your car parked overnight in an area you aren’t familiar with is also a good bet.

3.     Invest in anti-theft devices and alarm systems. While this isn’t going to stop thieves from breaking in altogether, it will make it harder of them to get away. As an added bonus, there are often car insurance discounts for having anti-theft devices. 

4.     Always lock your vehicle. Although this sounds somewhat obvious, a lot of people don’t lock their cars, especially if they’re parked outside their home or in a low-crime area. I’m sure you know the expression, “Don’t assume…” You’d rather be safe than sorry, right?

5.     If you see something, say something. This goes for both your sake and the sake of others. If you see someone that looks suspicious peering into cars in a parking lot or on your street, report this activity. You could be saving yourself or someone else a lot of trouble.

6.     Invest in homeowners or renters insurance and comprehensive car insurance if you haven’t already. These can be lifesavers if you experience damage to your vehicle or theft as a result of a car break-in.