My Car’s Been Stolen! Now What?


burglar wearing a mask (balaclava), details car burglary insideFirst off, when it comes to auto insurance coverage, check your policy. It’ll need comprehensive coverage, which protects against non-crash damage to your car, like theft. Unfortunately, you’re out of luck if your car is stolen and you don’t have comprehensive coverage.

More than 3 out of every 4 drivers take the chance to buy comprehensive coverage, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). That means more than 75 percent of the nation’s drivers insure their cars against theft, in addition to the required liability coverage. Comprehensive coverage can also apply to damage to a vehicle after it’s recovered.

Protecting your car against theft is even more important if it’s a newer model. According to Michigan officials studying data on the state’s stolen cars last year, a car that is popular with thieves when new will still be a sweet target for theft for around 6 years because:

  • The parts of a car model become more valuable over time, if the model doesn’t undergo a significant redesign.
  • It takes thieves about three years to fully solve an automaker’s theft deterrent systems.
  • Owners of older cars are less likely to buy an aftermarket anti-theft device and/or lock the vehicle.

You’ll be dealing with two groups if you find your car stolen: the police and your car insurance company.

Filing a Police Report

According to the III, police will likely ask you to provide these details about your stolen car for their report:

  1. Year, make, model, and color of the car
  2. Your best time estimate for when the car was stolen
  3. Descriptions of anyone you might’ve been seen around your car around the time it was stolen
  4. Names of any witnesses

Contacting Your Insurer to Start the Claims Process

Hopefully, you have comprehensive coverage.

You should contact your car insurer immediately after your car is stolen. You’ll likely be in contact with your coverage provider several times during the process of filing the police report and car insurance claim.

You’ll be working with a claims adjuster throughout the process who determines the value of your car, should your insurer pay out on the claim (minus your deductible).

It’ll be convenient to have the following handy:

  1. Policy number
  2. Your best time estimate for when the car was stolen
  3. Year, make, model, and color of the car
  4. Your car’s license plate
  5. The police report number and department where the report was filed

Most car insurers require a waiting period before paying out on claims for stolen cars or will pay out the claim over a period of time, according to CarInsurance.com. This period allows police time to do their work to recover the stolen vehicle.

If a vehicle is recovered after a claim is paid out, you’ll have to discuss with your insurer the terms for getting it back . That’s because it’s the car insurance company who gets the vehicle title after paying out on such claims. In essence, they own the vehicle after paying the claim.

Late last year, an 84-year-old man’s antique Ford Model A was recovered in Delaware after it was stolen more than a decade ago. But since the insurer already paid the claim on the car, it belonged to the insurer, an insurance company spokesman told Lancaster Online. The man ultimately told the publication he didn’t want to try to get the car back since it would have required him to get a new title on it.

In a similar case with different ending, a Detroit man recently got his 1979 Corvette back after reporting it stolen in 1981. According to the Detroit Free Press, the man said his insurer never paid on his claim, so he got his beloved silver sports car back when police recovered it in June in Mississippi.

Can I Get a Discount for Anti-Theft Devices?

The short answer: most likely yes.

Some exceptions: the availability and size of those discounts varies, and discounts typically apply only to your comprehensive coverage.

GEICO says it offers up to a 25 percent discount.

Allstate says it offers up to a 10 percent discount.

Esurance says it offers between a 5 and 25 percent discount.

In these states, auto insurers are required by law to discount comprehensive coverage prices for vehicles with anti-theft devices, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC):

  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Mexico
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island

Tune In for More

This month, which is Auto Theft Awareness Month, Online Auto Insurance will delve into stats and numbers about vehicle theft and bring you details on the most stolen car models and the states where they’re most stolen.

Last WeekHow to Protect Yourself Against Car Theft

Next Week: The Most Stolen SUVs/CUVs

Week of July 21: Most Stolen Compacts/Subcompacts

Week of July 28: Most Stolen Sporty Vehicles

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