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What to do if your car gets stolen

How to search for your missing car and get an insurance payout if it can't be recovered

If you find that your car isn’t where you left it, it’s important to keep calm and think through the situation. Take a few steps to make sure your vehicle was stolen, report the theft and get a replacement car covered by your insurance.

6 steps to take if your car gets stolen

Follow these steps to get your car theft reported and dealt with quickly.

1. Double check your car’s location.

When you go to the spot where you left your car and don’t see it, try to suppress that initial panic. Think back to when you parked and ask yourself if you might have left it somewhere else, like a different spot or parking garage.

If you’re positive that your car isn’t where you left it, consider whether it’s been towed. Was it parked illegally or in a tow-away zone? Check for street signs with a towing company listed or call the city office if you’re in a no-parking zone.

2. Report theft to the police.

If you were parked legally and still can’t find your car, inform the police as soon as possible. The earlier you report a theft, the better the chance they have of catching the thief and returning your car to you.

Let the police know if you have a hunch about who might have taken your car, and report any belongings inside like registration documents that thieves could use for resale. When reporting your theft, include important details like:

  • Make and model
  • Model year
  • Color
  • Customizations or identifying features
  • License plate
  • Registration numbers
  • VIN

However, in some states like Texas and Michigan, you can be charged with a crime and fined if your car was stolen with the keys in the ignition or the car left unlocked. Also, if you make a car insurance claim for a stolen car under these circumstances, your claim might get rejected. In this case, decide whether the penalties are worth reporting the theft or making an insurance claim.

3. Call your insurance company.

After filing a police report, call your insurance company about your missing car. Give them the police report number and check what coverage you’re eligible for based on your policy.

If you have a telematics device with GPS installed in your car, your insurance company might locate your car if the thief didn’t remove the device.

Certain insurance companies may require a brief waiting period before paying your claim so the police have a chance to find your car.

4. Freeze accounts or change locks if your wallet was in the car.

If your house keys or a debit or credit card were in your car, you’ll want to replace your locks or call your financial company about locking your account. You can also get new cards sent in the mail.

If you left valuable items in your car, contact your homeowners or renters insurance company to report the theft. You can make a claim and get reimbursed for these items if they’re covered by your policy.

5. Keep an eye out for your car

Look online for any cars put on the market that match your own vehicle’s description. You can post a description of your car on social media and ask people to look for it in your local area.

It’s not unheard of to spot a stolen vehicle. If you have a lead on your car, report it to the police — don’t go check for yourself, since recovering the vehicle could be dangerous.

6. Research a replacement car

If you made a car insurance claim and have rental car coverage, you can drive the rental car while you look for a new ride.

If you have comprehensive car insurance, your insurance company can give you your car’s value to put toward another one. If you want an upgrade, you can pay the difference to buy a better car.

Does car insurance cover theft?

Whether or not your car insurance covers a stolen car depends on the type of coverage you bought. The car insurance coverage that pays out for car theft is called comprehensive coverage. It also pays for any other damage not involving a collision like a hailstorm, fire or even vandalism.

Since states don’t require comprehensive coverage to stay legal on the roads, you can opt not to buy it. But your car loan may require this coverage to protect your lender’s financial investment in your ride. Any lender’s requirements will be laid out in your loan contract.

However, car insurance likely won’t cover a stolen phone or laptop. You’ll need to file a renters or home insurance claim to recoup costs for personal belongings.

How do I file a claim for a stolen car?

If you experience car theft and have comprehensive coverage, file a comprehensive claim the same way you’d file an accident claim:

  1. Start your claim with your insurance company’s website, app or agent.
  2. Report as much information about the incident as you can.
  3. An adjuster may reach out to you for more details and will guide your next steps.
  4. If your claim is approved, you typically get up to your car’s actual market value, minus your deductible.

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What should I do if my stolen car is recovered?

Most stolen cars don’t get returned to their owners. If you’re graced with this fortune, you’ll want to make sure your car is in good working condition.

  • Get an inspection. Take your car to a repair shop or claims adjuster to find out if it has damages to add to your claim.
  • Salvage the car. If your car was recovered after your claim has already been paid out, you can choose to buy your car back from your insurer. If it’s been damaged and your insurer decides it’s not worth salvaging, you may be able to keep it with a salvage title.
  • Claim any damage with your insurance. While the thief is responsible for your stolen car’s damage, you probably won’t know who stole your car in the first place. In this scenario, you can file a comprehensive claim since any damage might get labeled as vandalism.

How to prevent car theft

  • Lock car windows and doors
  • Install a car alarm or antitheft devices
  • Install GPS or a dashcam
  • Hide valuable items
  • Keep car keys away from the car
  • Park in safe, well-lit areas
  • Be strategic about street parking to avoid towing
  • Have the VIN etched into the windshield and windows

What are the most stolen car models?

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s 2016 Hot Wheels report, the most stolen cars by state are the Chevrolet Pickup, Ford Pickup, Honda Civic, Honda Accord, Dodge Caravan, Chevrolet Impala and Toyota Camry. Your car model’s theft rates impact your insurance rates, so choosing a less stolen car will help you save on insurance.

Map of the most stolen car models by state

List of the most stolen cars by state

StateCar model
AlabamaChevrolet Pickup
AlaskaChevrolet Pickup
ArizonaChevrolet Pickup
ArkansasChevrolet Pickup
CaliforniaHonda Civic
ColoradoFord Pickup
ConnecticutHonda Civic
DelawareHonda Accord
DCHonda Accord
FloridaFord Pickup
GeorgiaFord Pickup
HawaiiHonda Civic
IdahoFord Pickup
IllinoisChevrolet Impala
IndianaFord Pickup
IowaChevrolet Pickup
Kansasford Pickup
KentuckyChevrolet Pickup
LouisianaFord Pickup
MaineChevrolet Pickup
MarylandHonda Accord
MassachusettsHonda Accord
MichiganChevrolet Impala
MinnesotaHonda Civic
MississippiFord Pickup
MissouriFord Pickup
MontanaFord Pickup
NebraskaChevrolet Pickup
NevadaHonda Civic
New HampshireHonda Civic
New JerseyHonda Accord
New MexicoChevrolet Pickup
New YorkHonda Accord
North CarolinaHonda Accord
North DakotaChevrolet Pickup
OhioFord Pickup
OklahomaChevrolet Pickup
OregonHonda Civic
PennsylvaniaHonda Civic
Rhode IslandHonda Accord
South CarolinaFord Pickup
South DakotaChevrolet Pickup
TennesseeChevrolet Pickup
TexasFord Pickup
UtahHonda Civic
VermontToyota Tacoma
VirginiaHonda Accord
WashingtonHonda Civic
West VirginiaFord Pickup
WisconsinDodge Caravan
WyomingFord Pickup

Bottom line

If your car isn’t where you left it, don’t panic. If it has been stolen, there’s a chance police will find it. And even if they don’t, if you have a comprehensive car insurance policy, your insurer can cover the cost. Compare car insurance companies to make sure you get the coverage you need at the best price.

Frequently asked questions about car theft

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