12 Important Steps to Take if Your Car Was Stolen or Vandalized

Fran Majidi
November 4, 2019

In 2018, 228.9 per 100,000 cars were stolen. The average dollar loss per theft was $8,407, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Unlike in the past, when hot-wiring to start-up and steal cars was common, today’s tactics include acquiring smart keys; switching vehicle identification numbers; hacking; and using stolen identities to secure loans to “buy” expensive cars. Between January 1, 2016, and December 31, 2018, 229,339 vehicles were stolen because of keys or fobs left in the cars. That’s over 31,000 stolen vehicles in California alone!

So, what should you do if your car is stolen? We give you step-by-step tips on who to call and what to do in order to be reimbursed for your loss.

If your car was stolen and your insurance company left you in a lurch, it’s time to switch insurance companies.

1. Track a Stolen Car

If there was a baby or dog inside the car, call the police right away. Otherwise, spend a little time to make sure your car was, in fact, stolen.

Most people aren’t sure what to do about a stolen car. In fact, they usually call the police. The first thing you should do is make sure a loved one has not borrowed it. The next thing you should do is track the vehicle with their Vehicle Tracking System (VTS), which will give you the location of the car. There are various GPS tracking devices that can also help you find your car. You’ll need your vehicle identification number (VIN) and the location where you last saw the car.

Use the best car tracking devices, like LoJack, Spy Tec or OnStar.

2. Was the Car Towed?

Check with towing companies to make sure your car wasn’t towed. If your car was stolen, abandoned and towed, go to step 3.

3. Report Stolen Car to Police

Call your local police to report a stolen car within a few hours of it going missing. You’ll need to do the same if your car was vandalized. You’ll need a police report to file an insurance claim. Also, have your car listed on the stolen vehicle database.

Keep a copy of the police report for insurance purposes.

4. Stolen Vehicle VIN Check

Contact the National Insurance Crime Bureau to report the stolen vehicle. You’ll need your VIN and license plate number to do this. Other information you’ll need if your car was stolen: the car model, make and color.

5. Take Photos of the Damage

If your car was vandalized, take photos of all of the damage, both interior, and exterior.

You’ll need these photos for your insurance claim.

6. Call Your Insurance Company

If you have comprehensive coverage, you may get paid out for the worth of your car if it was stolen. Damages for vandalism should also be covered. Your transportation expenses may be covered too, so keep all receipts. If your car turns up after you’ve been paid a claim, the car belongs to the insurance company. You can always negotiate with your insurer to gain ownership of your car again.

When you call your insurer, you’ll need the following information

  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • Your Title of Ownership
  • Where you last left your keys before the theft/vandalism
  • People who use the car
  • Description of car, contents or special equipment
  • Lienholder or leasing company (if you’re still paying off the car)

Keep in mind that you’ll need to be patient for a claim on a stolen vehicle to be paid. The insurance company will probably wait to see if the police find it or if the car turns up. On average, the wait time is 30 days, sometimes more, sometimes less. If you have comprehensive insurance, you will be paid out for the value of the car on the day it was stolen. Otherwise, you will see no payout.

7. Report a Stolen Vehicle to Lienholder

If you’re still making payments on your car you’ll need to contact your lienholder or leasing company. Ask for the car’s identification numbers and tag if you don’t have them.

8. Check Security Cameras

The best way to do a stolen vehicle check is by checking security camera footage of where you left your car. Most public driveways have security camera systems set up and can help see a clear image of the thief. If your car was stolen from your own driveway and you don’t have security cameras, you may want to invest in one or park in the garage.

9. Call the Cab Company

If you offer a reward, you are more likely to find your missing car if you announce this reward with every cab company in your area. It can be as little as a $100 reward, which is worth getting your car back. Think about who is on the road most often? A cab driver may end up being your hero.

10. Tell Everyone

Post fliers on trees and post pictures of your car on social media. The more people see the car, the higher the likelihood that you’ll get it back after it’s sighted.

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11. Check the City’s Transportation Website

You may be able to track down your stolen vehicle by checking parking violations. Often, thieves abandon stolen cars, which are then ticketed and placed in the parking violation database. All you need to do is log into your city’s transportation website and enter your license plate to check. If anything comes up, contact the police.

12. Thieves Sell Car for Parts

Even though they can often tamper with the VIN and sell the car as one unit, often, it’s less risky to sell a car for parts instead. Check to see if the thief is selling the car on the Internet and see if it’s being sold for parts. Check junkyards and parts sellers in the area where you last left your car. Also, Craigslist checker tracks down stolen car parts. If you find any leads, contact the police. Do not confront or apprehend the thief before contacting the authorities.

Most Stolen Cars, according to the NICB 2017 Yearly Report:

    Model Year Most Stolen / (# of Thefts)      Made/Model                                Total Model Thefts
    1998 (6,707)Honda Civic45,062
    1997 (6,301)Honda Accord43,764
    2006 (3,151)Ford Pickup (Full Size)35,105
    2004 (1,970)Chevrolet Pickup (Full Size)30,058
    2017 (1,100)Toyota Camry17,278
    2016 (1,450)Nissan Altima13,358
    2016 (1,012)Toyota Corolla12,337
    2001 (1,242)Dodge Pickup (Full Size)12,004
    2017 (957)GMC Pickup (Full Size)10,865
    2008 (991)Chevrolet Impala9,487


    If your car is worth a few thousand dollars or tens of thousands of dollars, it may benefit you to carry comprehensive insurance, especially if you live in a high-crime area. If you’ve only gotten really expensive car insurance quotes, we have the cheapest auto insurance rates around. The best part is you fill out one form and get multiple car insurance quotes, all without speaking with anyone until you make a decision on what you want. Visit us here and begin by entering your zip code.

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