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What to do if your car is stolen

February 10, 2016
Car theft is incredibly common, and car owners need to know what to do in the even their car is stolen.

You might think it could never happen to you, but car theft is incredibly common in the U.S. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, almost 700,000 motor vehicles were reported stolen in 2013. This means a vehicle is stolen every 45 seconds and half are never found. Car theft is a very real possibility, and while it can be quite a headache to deal with, those with the right auto insurance coverage will not have to do it alone.

Who to call first

The first thing to do after your car has been stolen is file a police report. As explained by DMV advisory website, DMV.org it's likely your auto insurance provider will refrain from processing your claim until a police report has been filed. Once the police have been informed, contact your insurance company.

"Your auto insurance provider will probably refrain from processing your claim until a police report has been filed.”

According to Auto Guide, you should try to have the necessary information about your car ready before you call police—just make sure you compile it quickly, as the sooner you call the police, the quicker they can start searching. The police will need to know the license plate number, vehicle identification number, model, year, color and make. The insurance company will want to know the location of every car key, as well as the full names of anyone authorized to drive the car. If any personal property was in the car, you can also provide a list to your insurance company, as some will reimburse you for it.

If your car is being leased or you still owe money to a lender for it, you will need to contact the lender or leasing company as well.

Will auto insurance cover the theft?

DMV.org said if you have comprehensive coverage, it is likely you will be covered. Even more, some insurance companies will pay for your alternative transportation until you can drive again, so make sure to ask about this possibility and save your transportation receipts. If your car is found, call your insurance company immediately to report any damages. It may be beneficial to photograph them as well.

How to protect your car from theft

While hopefully you have the proper auto insurance coverage to assist you in the event of car theft, there are many measures you can take to prevent theft from happening in the first place. The DOT said almost half of car thefts happen because owners are not careful enough, so a few extra precautions can make a big difference.

Drivers should never leave keys in the car and should never leave a car alone while it is running. When the car is parked, always lock the doors and never leave the windows cracked. You should also avoid parking in dark areas. To protect your car from theft, remove any valuables. According to Safewise, something as insignificant as some change on the seat could entice thieves to break into your car. Once they are inside, they may choose to take the car.

The DOT also recommends implementing anti-theft devices, such as car alarms, steering wheel locks and immobilization devices that prevent thieves from hot-wiring your car. Tracking technologies like OnStar can also help police locate your car.