It is a bad feeling when you’re standing at the spot where you last parked your car, and it isn’t there. Unfortunately, auto theft has risen dramatically in the last couple of years. Some areas in the country are worse than others. Certain model vehicles are more prone to be stolen than others. Having the right insurance coverage can give you peace of mind.

Your car is missing. What’s next?

It might seem like an emergency for someone when their car is missing. If this happens to you, don’t call 911. It is not an emergency. But it does require immediate attention. Call the police department and inform them that your car is missing. You will need to provide information such as the make/model of the car, color, license plate number as well as the car’s VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). First, they will check their database to find out if your car was towed. If that was not the case, a police report will be filed. In fact, according to NICB data, 35% of recovered stolen vehicles are recovered on the same day as the theft, and 45% are recovered within two days. (NICB)

Depending on the recovery outcome, a police report is needed in order to file a claim with your insurance company. If your recovery was quick and no damages were done, it is not necessary to file a claim with your insurance company.

If you do need to file a claim with your insurance company, it can be done over the phone, online, or direct to your insurance agent as companies and processes may vary. You will need to provide a police report to your insurance company. You may also be required to provide other information per the language in your auto insurance policy.  If it is recovered, it may have suffered damage that requires repair or, if severe enough, be written off as totaled. As a result, insurers will wait for a period of time before writing a car off as stolen and not recovered.

Does your auto insurance cover car theft?

There are three basic parts to an insurance policy:

  1. liability. When you are at fault, liability covers damages to the other driver’s vehicle. It also covers medical cost for the other driver. The same coverage also covers medical cost for pedestrians, or cyclists. Liability covers property damaged due to your fault.
  2. Collision. When you are at fault, collision covers losses/damages to your vehicle as a result of an accident.
  3. Comprehensive. It covers theft or damage not caused as the result of a traffic accident.

Unlike Liability coverage, comprehensive coverage is not required by law. If you have a loan on your car, the finance company will typically require that you have comprehensive coverage. Check with your insurance agent or broker to see if you have comprehensive coverage for theft.

Does your rate increase if you file this type of claim?

Different insurance companies use different standards to determine rate increases if you file this type of claim. But generally, companies use driving record, miles driven, where you keep your car, and the type of car to determine your rate. Some vehicles are more prone to be stolen, so rates can be higher. See if your vehicle is in the top ten list (NICB). Your rates may also be higher if you live in certain areas where there are higher rates of stolen vehicles.

What are my options if my vehicle is recovered?

This depends on the condition of your vehicle when it was recovered. If your vehicle suffers minor damage and the cost to repair is under your deductible, you will need to pay for the damages. However, if your vehicle suffers major damage such as body damage or missing parts, exceeding your deductible, you will need to file a claim with your insurance company.

What if I have a loan on my vehicle?

The lender, also known as the lienholder, is the true owner of the vehicle. They have a vested interest in the vehicle. They will require that you purchase comprehensive and collision insurance on the vehicle. In this case, for example, if the recovered vehicle is declared a total loss, your insurance will pay the lienholder based on the current market value of your vehicle. If you owe more on your loan than the actual market value of your vehicle, you will be responsible to pay the remaining balance on your loan. It may be a good idea to purchase a guaranteed auto protection (GAP) insurance if you finance or lease your vehicle. Learn more about GAP insurance, to see if it is worth it for you.

How can I avoid from getting my vehicle stolen?

Ideally, park your vehicle in the garage if that is available. If you’re currently shopping for a vehicle, consider something that isn’t high on the list of most stolen vehicles. Some of the things you can start doing now is to be mindful of where you park, lock your vehicle, and don’t leave your fob in your vehicle. You can also purchase or install anti-theft warning devices, such as an alarm, or a steering wheel locking device. Many newer vehicles have standard immobilizer devices or optional tracking devices. Review your user’s manual or your original sales contract to see if these features are available.