Drivers Education

What Happens When I Report My Car Stolen?

For the average driver, waking up or coming over to where you parked your car and not seeing it again gets a million questions running through your head at once. Typically, the first step is to report to relevant authorities regarding your stolen car. It then raises the question, “what happens when I report my car stolen?”

When you report your stolen car, the relevant authorities would come to wherever you are and file a report. You’d give them a detailed description of the vehicle, including VIN, and the license plate number. It is also the proof you will submit to the insurance to notify them of the stolen car.

The proper process of reporting your stolen car should be followed for a positive outcome. It included confirming whether the vehicle was stolen or not, then informing your finance/lease Company, insurance provider, and the DMV.

Was Your Car Stolen?

Following NHTSA, more than 770,000 drivers lose their vehicles to theft yearly. Yes, your car may have been stolen. Before you conclude, think of the possibility that it may have been towed. It could be for a parking violation, driving with no registration, or your car is stolen, and the police tracked it there. Look around for the parking meter or and other signs. And, be sure you are not lagging in payments.

Meanwhile, you can always dispute a parking ticket and fight the tow.

Although you must act like the car was stolen, make sure to phone your local DMV. Typically, if the vehicle has been impounded, and entered into records, you will be informed. Otherwise, the DMV will report that no such vehicle is in their records.

What if you parked it in a different location? Well, just give it a look while calling the police.

What Should I Do After Reporting a Stolen Car?

Indeed, after reporting your car stolen, you have a few more steps to cover.

Below is what to do after reporting a stolen car:

  1. Track the Vehicle

If you have a tracking tech installed, launch the process, but do so with the aid of the police. Do not track a stolen vehicle personally to avoid landing in the criminals’ den. Dangerous? Of course, and you will be forced to disable the tracker. That’s if you are allowed to breathe.

  1. Notify the Insurance

The first party you informed was the police, right?

Cool, now notify the insurance company. Prepare information, including car title, current mileage, police report number, service records, detailed vehicle description (vehicle make, model, model year, color, etc.), theft location, date and time, personal items in the vehicle, and information of people that can access your vehicle.

If the vehicle is leased, include it in the information too.

  1. Inform the Lienholder

The next party to notify is the lienholder. If your car is financed or leased, inform the finance company that the car has been stolen. The finance company should rapport with your insurer to contain the situation.

  1. Keep in Touch with the Police

The report entry and transfers can take up to 2 days or more to upload to the Auto Theft queue. Eventually, a detective is assigned to your case. Detectives are human too; do not mount pressure on them.

Be polite and play your role to find the stolen car. Inform your relatives, and known persons to keep eyes out for your vehicle. Meanwhile, the detective will keep you updated on the new developments.

  1. Do Not Steal Back Your Car

If, perhaps, you come across your car, inform the detective of its whereabouts immediately. It could be a trap, so don’t attempt to drive it off, or even get closer.

Keep an eye on the car, and wait until the police arrive. Of course, the police will be careful when approaching the vehicle to ensure it is not a threat.

Will the Insurance Company Get You a New Car?

If your stolen car is not found, will the insurance replace it? Well, it depends; you may get a new car or nothing at all. Depending on your coverage policy, you may get a replacement vehicle. However, you must pay the deductible amount you selected, and the insurer will appraise and pay the actual value of the car.

Moreover, some insurers sell comprehensive coverage even when you do not purchase collision. Suppose you owned an older car; it becomes money well-spent. Meanwhile, if you possess liability-only insurance, the insurance will not replace the car.

What If My Stolen Car is Found?

Some vehicle thefts occur for joyride only. So, when your stolen car is found, notify the insurance and lienholder. If you have comprehensive insurance and find damages on the car, your insurer will repair it, and charge the deductible amount.

If the waiting period exceeds 30 days, most insurance companies declare it stolen. The insurance company then pays the fair market value of the car, which is similar to the public market value. You can negotiate the value with the insurer. Meanwhile, your deductible and lienholder’s debt will be included in the settlement check. Comprehensive claims may not increase your rates, but the items in the stolen car are typically not covered. Your homeowners’ insurance should fix it.

Note: If your vehicle is found after the insurance settles your claim, it becomes their property.

What If a Stolen but Found Car is Declared Total Loss?

If the insurance declares your car a total loss after recovery, they will pay the actual car value before the theft. The claim adjuster appraises the vehicle and decides whether to declare it totaled or not.

Typically, insurance companies declare a car totaled if the damage is irreparable. You can buy the totaled car, but many insurance companies will refuse you coverage.

Meanwhile, you can follow my article to get a totaled car back on the road. You can also clear the salvage title, which includes washing the title. It’s illegal, though.

Can the Police Recover My Stolen Car?

Following Statista, about 56% of the 721,885 cars stolen locally in the US could be recovered. The sincere answer is that the police have a 50/50 chance of recovering your stolen car.

After you report your stolen vehicle, the police add it to the national database of stolen cars. It makes it even difficult for criminals to sell it, and it could be recovered. Nevertheless, given the time, criminals can make the stolen car legal.

Can you sue the person who stole your car?

Well, yes, you can. You can sue a car thief in a civil trial, especially if the car has any damage or punitive damages. Depending on your state, the amount you can claim in a civil trial may be limited. Contact your local legal practitioner for advice. Meanwhile, a car thief will be penalized for grand theft auto.

Beware of the Insurance’s Interrogation

Informing the police or the lienholder is not a problem, the problem is the insurance company. They have some annoying and interrogatory questions that can make you a suspect. Regardless of their assertions, do not take it personally.

Don’t blame the insurer, blame false claims amounting to several billion. The insurance adjuster may inspect information, including phone records, social media posts (that hint the situation), and financial history.

Meanwhile, if the stolen vehicle was put up for sale recently or it is over the mileage on lease, it becomes a red flag to the claim adjustor. Moreover, recently suspended driver’s license, delayed police report, and recent increases in coverage can be red flags.

Failure to answer the questions or giving flimsy responses mitigates your chance of passing the interrogation. If you are innocent of the crime, provide straightforward responses, and do not ask whether your auto insurance covers theft or what happens when your stolen car is recovered. Instead, if you have car theft insurance, say stuff like “can’t wait for a replacement car!” and seek suggestions to safeguard your future car.


Recovery rate of stolen property in the U.S. by type 2019.

Vehicle Theft Prevention.

Latest posts by Bernard Juchli (see all)

Bernard Juchli

Bernard Juchli is an experienced racer, mechanic and team owner who trusts Avon Tyres.Bernard is the lead driver and force behind his Big Dog Garage Race Team. He is the General Manager and Chief Mechanic of Jay Leno’s Garage. Bernard and his crew of seven are responsible for all repairs, restoration and fabrication of Jay’s incredible automobile and motorcycle collection.

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