How to Report a Stolen Car

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Keys in lock (Photo: @aveamig via Twenty20)
Do you know what to do if your car is stolen? First, take a deep breath. Then follow these six steps to walk you through the process. From assessing whether your car is really stolen to effectively reporting your car as stolen, and beyond, to communicating with your insurance provider, finance or lease company, and DMV, these six steps will get you back on track.

Find out if you car is really stolen

This may sound silly but before you report your car as stolen, you need to first determine if it actually was. Take a deep breath and ask yourself a few simple questions:
  1. Did a friend borrow your car and you forgot?
  2. Did you possibly park it somewhere else?
  3. Could it have been towed due to parking in an illegal spot? If you think it may have been towed, call a few of the local tow shops before proceeding to Step 2.

Report your car as stolen with the local police

Once you have determined that your car has been stolen, immediately call the local police. The sooner you report your vehicle as stolen to the police, the more of a chance they may have to locate it. They can take the information you provide and be on the lookout for similar vehicles.
To file a report for a stolen vehicle you will need:
  • Proof you are the rightful owner of the vehicle, such as a title or bill of sale. If you do not have this information it can be obtained from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
  • Your driver’s license
  • Vehicle information, including year, make, and model
  • Any damage or additions to your vehicle that may make it stand out, including stickers
  • Where your vehicle was when it was stolen
  • Any items you may have had in your vehicle when it was stolen

Contact your insurance provider

After you have reported your car as stolen with the police, contact your insurance provider immediately. They will be able to note on your file that the vehicle was not in your possession should it be involved in an accident.
Your insurance provider will need all of the same information you have provided to the police in Step 2. Many insurance providers have 24/7 hotlines and even online claims help, although it is recommended to call in your report to ensure it’s received and noted in your files immediately.

Report the theft to your finance/lease company

If you are finance or leasing your vehicle, you will also need to report the theft to your finance or lease provider. Typically, you can instruct your finance or lease provider to communicate directly with your insurance provider regarding the status of the claim. Some lease or finance companies have programs in place to put a hold on your payments so ask your specific provider for details.

Contact the DMV

One of the last items you need to do is contact the DMV. If your car has not be recovered within 30 days, you will need to report your vehicle as stolen your state DMV.
Note that while you cannot report it stolen in fewer than 30 days, you must report it stolen before 60 days has elapsed. Most states have a form (that can be found either online or at the DMV) that requests basic information on you and your vehicle and require you to provide evidence that your vehicle was officially reported as stolen such as a copy of the police report.
If your vehicle is located after you have filed your form with the DMV, you must notify the DMV again and fill out additional paperwork depending on whether the vehicle is totaled or operational.

How to prevent burglary from happening

If you are concerned about your vehicle being stolen there are several tips you can follow to help prevent theft from happening to begin with. Some helpful ideas include:
Keep your car locked. One of the easiest ways to prevent your vehicle from being stolen is to keep your doors locked. Get into the habit of always locking your doors. Many thieves are “opportunistic” and are looking for easy vehicles to steal.
Use anti-theft devices. If you use anti-theft devices, such as an alarm system with visible armed light, you can prevent thieves from targeting your vehicle as an easy grab. In addition, providers such as LoJack can help the authorities locate your vehicle after its been stolen.
Hide your valuables. It’s recommended to not keep valuables in your car. If you must, keep them out of sight. As noted, thieves are looking for opportunity and seeing something expensive in plain sight may trigger a thieve to target your vehicle. This can even include change in your ashtray.
Park in a well-lit area. When you park in a well-lit area, it makes thieves uneasy as their actions can be clearly seen. Your vehicle is less likely to be stolen if you are parked in a well-lit area.
Help prevent the rise of your insurance rates by preventing vehicle theft in the first place. But, if you experience the burglary of your vehicle, contacting all of the proper authorities and having all of the information you can about your vehicle can help the authorities try and find it.