What To Do if Your Car Is Stolen

What To Do if Your Car Is Stolen

Everyone knows the basics of car safety: keep it locked, don’t park your car in a place where it can’t be seen, and keep valuables and personal items out of sight to prevent vehicle theft. But even if you take every reasonable precaution, you might still find your vehicle stolen if you’re unlucky or if you park in a bad part of town. 

When this happens, there’s still a chance that your car might be found and even returned to you so you don’t have to buy a new vehicle. However, to maximize those chances, you need to know what to do if your car is stolen and who to contact. Let’s break down exactly that in this guide.

Call the Police

Firstly, be sure to call the police immediately to report your stolen car. You can take a few moments to make sure that you and anyone with you aren’t in danger. But once you get back to somewhere in public, call the police and report your vehicle as missing. When you call the cops, you’ll need to provide several important pieces of identifying information so the police can start the search effectively. Include the following information:

  • The make, model, and year of your car
  • The color and any other distinct features of your car. Anything that might help a police officer spot it in traffic, such as a bumper sticker, will also be helpful
  • The license plate number of your car
  • the actual cash value (ACV) of your car
  • Whether it was a rental car and whether you have renter’s insurance
  • The car’s vehicle identification number or VIN
  • The leasing company’s contact information, if applicable, or other lender information
  • The GPS tracking system information, if applicable
  • The last known location where you saw the car
  • The appearance of the person who stole your car, if you saw them do so

Giving this information to the police — and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) — ASAP is the best way to maximize the odds of your car being returned. Once your car is reported stolen, the vehicle’s license plate number goes into the law enforcement system. Then, if a police officer checks the plates of the vehicle, it’ll show up as “stolen” if it’s your car.

Inform Your Auto Insurance Provider

The next big step is to tell your car insurance company right away and file an insurance claim after you report your car stolen. You should submit a claim for your stolen vehicle within a 24-hour waiting period of the theft or right after filing a stolen vehicle report, whichever works best for you. Make sure to include a copy of the police report in your claim, tell them the value of your car, and inform them about any liability insurance or personal property insurance you have.

Try to start the claims process within 24 hours at maximum so you stand the best chance of getting an insurance payout based on your car insurance policy and whether you have comprehensive coverage.   

Your auto insurance policy will require all of the above information, plus potentially additional information depending on their policies. For example, they might want a list of any items that were in the car and that were stolen by proxy, like electronic equipment, clothes, and so on.

Then your insurance company might request a copy of your police report. You can get this from the local police station after contacting law enforcement. You can then either send a copy by mail or online (which is quicker and oftentimes preferred).

Telling your insurance provider about your stolen vehicle ASAP is crucial so your claim doesn’t get denied. The earlier you report the theft, the less likely it is that your insurance company will deny your claim.

Get a Rental

Once you’ve informed the police and your insurance company, you’ll likely still need to get around, either to go to work or to return home. While taking an Uber is fine for getting to the police station or getting home at first, you may need to rent a vehicle for long-term transportation.

It could take several days, weeks, or even months until your car is returned if it is ever found at all. Therefore, it’s a good idea to contact an affordable rental agency in your area. Advantage Rent-a-Car can provide you with an excellent rental vehicle no matter what you need, whether you prefer an affordable and basic sedan, a workhorse truck, or a luxury car.

How Likely Are You To Get Your Car Returned?

Unfortunately, not very. According to the statistics, only approximately half of all stolen vehicles are recovered. Even if they are recovered, they are oftentimes damaged or missing valuable parts. Most vehicles are stolen for the parts they contain, especially if the stolen vehicle in question is high-quality or new.

Still, you are more likely to get your car returned if you reported missing quickly and if you provide the police with as much information as possible. Don’t count on your car being returned just because you filed a police report. You may need to rent a car for several months or purchase a new car.

If Your Car Is Returned…

If you’re very lucky and your car is found and returned to you, do a thorough inspection. We recommend taking your car to a mechanic’s shop so they can check it for wear and tear and make sure that your vehicle isn’t missing any crucial parts that would make driving the car dangerous.

If needed, you can then repair the car and clean it thoroughly before taking it back on the road. If you do notice that there are any missing parts or property, inform the police once again. If your mechanic discovers any dangerous substances in the vehicle, such as illegal drugs, inform the police immediately as well. The last thing you want is to get pulled over by a police officer with drugs unknowingly in your vehicle due to previous criminal activity.

How To Stop Your Vehicle From Being Stolen

Of course, recovering your vehicle is a secondary objective to preventing it from being stolen in the first place! The best ways to stop your vehicle from being stolen include:

  • Not parking in alleyways, in the corners of parking garages, and in other obscured locations. Generally, vehicles don’t get stolen or broken into if they are parked in plain view of the public. This is easier in some parts of town than others, of course. But you should still try to park in logical, exposed locations whenever possible
  • Not leaving your car unlocked. Many car thieves are criminals of opportunity. If your vehicle is locked, they may pass over your car for another one with unlocked doors or lowered windows
  • Not leaving important or valuable property visible on the seats. Your car is more likely to be stolen if you leave an expensive jacket draped over the driver’s seat or if you leave a laptop in plain view in the backseat
  • Close your convertible, if you have one, so it’s not easy to get into.

These tips won’t guarantee your car won’t get stolen. But they will make it less likely your vehicle will be seen as a good target by prospecting car thieves.


Car theft can happen to anyone. If it happens to you, Advantage Rent-a-Car can help. With our diverse fleet of rental vehicles, we can get you mobile and back home or to work once again while you wait for the police to find your vehicle. Best of all, we offer lots of rental vehicles at convenient locations in major cities and near airports, ranging from trucks to convertibles and more. Contact us today for more information!


Help! My car was stolen, what do I do now? | CATPA
Does Car Insurance Cover Theft? | Investopedia
Auto theft rises in the summer. Here’s how to prevent your car from getting stolen | USA Today

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