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What to do if someone steals your car

Your guide on what to do if your car goes missing.

You come back to where you left your vehicle, only to find it isn’t there. Or maybe you were out at work all day and arrived back home to find that somebody’s taken it from where it was parked in the street. While it seems like the high-tech cars we cruise around in these days shouldn’t be stealable, car theft is still a big issue in New Zealand.

Here are the steps you should follow if your car ever goes missing.

1. Double check it’s actually lost

Mistakes can be made, especially if you’ve had a long day or are feeling particularly tired. When you go to where you’re sure you left your vehicle and it isn’t there, suppress that initial panic and think back to when you parked it. If you’re then absolutely positive that it isn’t where it should be, consider the possibility that it’s been towed away. Was it parked somewhere illegal or in a tow-away zone? If not, it was probably theft and it’s time to move on to the next step.

2. Call the police

Once you’re sure your car has been stolen, you should inform the police as soon as possible. The earlier a theft is reported, the better chance they have of catching the thief and potentially returning your car to you. Depending on who has stolen it, police might catch it being driven around a nearby neighbourhood. Let them know if you have a hunch about who might have taken it, like an angry ex-partner.

When reporting your theft, make sure you include all the important details like make, model, colour, registration number and VIN number. Let the police know what was inside the car at the time of theft, including any registration documents thieves could use to resell your car.

3. Ring your insurance provider

After reporting the theft to the police, you should call your insurance provider and let them know your car is missing. Give them the police report number and check what cover you’re eligible for based on your policy.

Certain providers may require a brief waiting period before paying your claim so the police have a chance to find your car. In many cases, a comprehensive policy will provide you with a hire car so you can still get around without your vehicle. Also let your insurer know about any valuables that might have been inside.

4. Do some security admin

Were your house keys in your car? How about your bank card or your driver’s licence? Call up the appropriate organisations and people and let them know your things have been stolen. Take any action you might need to ensure your own safety, such as changing the locks on your house.

5. Look around

This doesn’t mean you should go looking for your vehicle by yourself – leave this to the police. Trying to recover your vehicle personally even if you know where it is, by a GPS tracker for example, is a dangerous activity. What you can do instead of conducting your own private investigation is to look online and see if any cars have been put on the market recently that match your own vehicle’s description. You may also be able to post a description of your car to various online sites where people will keep a lookout for it in your local area.

6. Research a replacement

While the police are out looking for your vehicle and your insurance company is processing your claim, it’s best to take your mind off worrying about your stolen car and think about what to do now. If you have comprehensive car insurance, you may be able to get another vehicle of comparable value but with some features you felt were missing from your previous ride. Rather than dwelling on the tragedy that’s taken place, look forward to what you could be driving around in a couple of weeks.

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