How to Report a Stolen Car

If your vehicle is stolen, report it to the police and file a claim with your insurance company. Comprehensive coverage might fully cover your stolen vehicle.
Written by Jessica Barrett
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
If your vehicle is stolen, you must report it to law enforcement and then file a claim with your insurance company.
Over 720,000 vehicles were stolen in the US in 2019, and most people don’t know what to do if they’re hit by a car thief. While vehicle thefts have been trending downwards for the last few decades, they still happen more frequently than you might think.
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What to do if your car is stolen

If your car is stolen, it’s important that you take immediate action to minimize any repercussions. Failing to report your vehicle stolen could leave you liable for any accidents that happen in the meantime.
And if you want your vehicle back, time is of the essence. The longer you wait to report your car stolen, the less chance you typically have of recovering it.
Here’s what you need to do if it happens to you:

File a missing vehicle report

Your first step should always be to contact the police and file a stolen vehicle report. You’ll need to share as much information as you can with them to help maximize your chances of getting the car back.
They’ll want to know about the following:
  • Your license plate number
  • The make, model, and year of the vehicle
  • The vehicle color
  • Any distinct features on (or in) the vehicle
  • The vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • Whether your car has a GPS device that can help them track it down
  • Details about how and when it was stolen, if you can provide them

Report your stolen vehicle to your insurance company

Next, you’ll need to contact your insurance company to let them know that your
vehicle was stolen
. If you have
comprehensive insurance
, you might be fully covered (minus your deductible).
your insurance company
means that you won’t be held responsible if someone is hurt or property is damaged while the vehicle is out of your possession.
Your insurer will likely want the following information:
  • A description of your vehicle
  • The last known whereabouts of your vehicle
  • A list of personal items that were in the car at the time of the theft
  • The location of all keys to the vehicle
  • The title for the vehicle
  • Contact information for your leasing or financing company, if applicable
If your insurance policy includes
rental car insurance
, you may be covered for some or all of a rental vehicle until you get yours back.
If your car was stolen and you don't have insurance, your best bet is to wait things out. Let the police do their work, and see what can be done if they recover the vehicle. Remember to notify the police that your car is uninsured—or if you don't have comprehensive coverage.

Report the vehicle theft to your financing or leasing company

If your
vehicle is leased
or financed, you’ll also need to report the theft to the financing or lease provider.
It’s a good idea to give permission for your insurance company and financing or leasing company to speak to each other. Having them in direct contact with each other will help the
claims process
move faster and means that you won’t need to be caught in the middle of communications.
Typically, the insurance company will
pay the claim out
to the financing or leasing company so that you’re no longer liable for monthly payments. Check with your insurer to see how they handle these situations.
Tip If your vehicle is missing, you’ll need to immediately report it to the police and your insurance company. If the car is financed or leased, you’ll also need to make a call to your financing or leasing company.

What happens when I report my car stolen?

If the police are able to recover your vehicle, you’ll want to immediately check to ensure that none of your personal property is missing. While comprehensive car insurance won’t cover personal items, your home or renter’s insurance policy might.
Your insurance company will likely send a claims adjuster out to examine your vehicle for any damage while it was out of your custody. As long as you reported the car stolen to your insurer, you won’t be responsible for any of the damage.
If a claim needs to be paid out and you own the car outright (that is, it isn’t leased or financed), you’ll ultimately receive that payment from your insurance company—minus your deductible and any depreciation amount.
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Reviewing your insurance needs

As terrible as the experience can be, a stolen car highlights the importance of having good insurance coverage—including comprehensive insurance.
If you need to review your coverage needs or revisit your policy, comparing quotes from a few different insurers is usually the best place to start.
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Once you download Jerry, just answer a handful of questions that will take you roughly 45 seconds to complete and you’ll immediately get car insurance quotes for coverage similar to your current plan. Jerry customers save an average of $879 a year.

How to prevent your car from being stolen

Taking steps to prevent car theft can save you a lot of stress. And bonus—it might even help lower your insurance rates! Here are some tips to keep your vehicle safe.

Keep your windows closed and doors locked

Thieves are generally opportunistic, and keeping your car secure makes it harder for them to pull off a quick car theft. More often than not, they’ll move on to an easier target.

Install an anti-theft device

An alarm system is noisy and draws lots of unwanted attention. Put simply, it can make a thief think twice about targeting your vehicle. On the off chance that it is stolen, a GPS can help authorities locate it quickly.

Hide your valuables

Leaving valuable items in your car is an invitation for thieves—even things that seem relatively harmless, like spare change. Keep any valuables out of sight, or better still, remove them from your car altogether!


What if my car was stolen but not registered?

If your stolen car isn't registered, there's no real difference in the process. Just note in the police report that the vehicle title isn't listed under your name. The police should be able to verify that you have ownership of the vehicle—or are a regular driver—in some other way.
You must also apply for a title and then transfer ownership of the vehicle to your insurance company. That way, you might still be able to cash in on your insurance package.

Who can report a car stolen?

Technically, anyone can. But if its' your vehicle, it's important that you go through the process yourself. It makes things easier for the police, and could help you either recover the vehicle or get a new one more efficiently.

Do I have to report a stolen car to the DMV?

Different states have different laws on reporting vehicle theft. But in most states, you should report vehicle theft to the DMV as soon as you can. Be prepared to submit a lot of paperwork, including police reports and insurance documents to prove that you are temporarily not in ownership of the vehicle.
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