Finding out that your car has been stolen can be an overwhelming feeling, it’s like someone violated a sanctuary of yours. There are a few immediate steps that you can take to increase the chances of finding your car.
In this guide, we list a few tips on how to find your stolen car and what are the first things you should do once you notice that your car has been stolen. By following this guide, you may be able to find the car or help the police investigate the cases better.
How to Find My Stolen Car
Make sure your car is actually stolen
Before you start to do something to locate your stolen car, you must ensure that it is actually stolen. It may happen that you’re spatially confused or disoriented and you don’t remember where you parked your car. So, follow the below suggestion to do a stolen car check.
Check the parking lot. Remember where you parked the car and try to follow your trail, where did you go, which store you hit, which way you walked, did you park close to some “parking landmark”, etc. Just trace back your movements and see if you can locate the car.
It’s easy to get confused if you have a lot of things in your mind and the parking lot is big. Many people park without paying attention to the details. It can happen to you as well.
Use the car key to unlock the doors and try to hear the beeping sound coming from the car. Walk all around the perimeter and keep pressing the key.
If you use car tracking apps, check it on your phone and see if you get any signal or if you can locate it on the map. Many new cars come with tracking apps that let you know where the car is parked.
Check with the towing companies. Maybe you parked illegally and your car was towed. Inspect the parking lot violation signs to learn which towing company covers the parking lot. Call them before reporting the car stolen. In many cases, people freak out and directly call the police without realizing that the car was actually towed away.
Use the VIN number to track your car. By doing a VIN check you get a history report of the car including accidents, service records, towing records, etc.
If you did all of these and you’re sure that your car is unfortunately stolen, then don’t waste time and move to the next section.
How to Find my Stolen Car
In this section, we’ve listed all the possible ways you can track your stolen car. Follow the steps one by one to increase the chance of finding your stolen vehicle.
File a “Car Stolen” Report to the Local Police
The first thing you should do is file a car stolen report at your local police station. Make sure to provide as many details and information as possible. A vehicle stolen report typically includes:
- The license plate. The police can run it on their database and possibly locate it.
- The VIN. This is a unique number that can be found on your insurance form, vehicle purchase information, car inspection paperwork, it’s even stamped somewhere on the dashboard.
- Your identification.
- Your car’s brand, model, color, any noticeable marks.
- The location where you last saw your car
The more details you provide on the report, the higher chances that the police can help you retrieve your stolen car. Don’t forget to keep a copy of the report since you’ll need it for the insurance claim.
If your car is stolen and is later impounded by the police, bring your ID card, driving license, and other supporting documents to prove the ownership of the vehicle.
Usually, the police may impound the stolen car when checking for traffic violations or improper parking. If you can prove that the car is yours, you can get it back pretty fast.
Contact Your Insurance Company
When you conclude that your car is stolen, contact your insurance company and let them know about the situation, usually, you’ll need to fill out a report. Depending on the insurance coverage, you may use the car stolen insurance payout which means the insurance company buys your missing car.
If the car is recovered after you file the insurance claim, call again the insurance company and notify them. Technically the car belongs to the insurance company, you can’t use it anymore, but usually, there’s a clause on the contract that allows you to re-buy your (now found) car.
Use GPS Tracking Device to Locate Your Stolen Car
Many people use GPS tracking systems on their cars. If you’re one of them, track the car’s route using the GPS device. In some cases, you may be able to even turn off the car remotely.
Generally speaking, we’d recommend using tracking devices for your vehicle. That way no matter where your car is stolen, you can track its location easily. If you find it, notify the police, never confront the burglar yourself. It may be dangerous, let the police handle it.
Check the Stolen Car via Security Camera Systems
It’s a good idea to check the moment that your car was stolen via nearby security camera systems. Nowadays most of the stores use security cameras, even parking lots or busy streets are equipped with cameras.
Check around and see if there are security cameras monitoring the sport where you parked the car. Maybe there was a public camera there, a front store, etc. If you find any, inquire with the owners and see if you can playback the footage.
If your car was stolen in your home, then check the cameras on the garage, driveway, yard, anything you may have. Playback and take a screenshot from the screen.
Find your Stolen Car using VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)
Another way to locate your stolen car is by using the VIN number. The Vehicle Identification Number is a unique serial number used by vehicle manufacturers to identify individual motor vehicles, towed vehicles, motorcycles, scooters, and mopeds.
You can find this number in any paperwork related to the car such as registration, inspection, insurance, proof of purchase, service reports, etc. Additionally, it is stamped on the dashboard, close to where the inspection sticker is placed.
So, if your car is stolen, you can track the car online using the VIN number. Let’s say the car was stolen and made its way back to the market, they’ll leave some trace online via the VIN since that number is always required.
How to find the stolen car using the VIN number (quick guide):
Step 1. There are many websites that provide car history reports. One of them is AutoCheck.com, go there and enter the information of your car. Then purchase your vehicle’s history report, usually, it costs around $40 but it’s worth it.
Step 2. The report will provide a chronological history of the places where your car was registered, inspected, titled, and serviced. If you don’t recognize the last entries, it means the car was handled by someone else (the thief) and not you. Using it you can narrow down the search.
Step 3. Contact the police and provide them with the new information.
Check the City’s for Parking Violation Reports
It’s a good idea to track your stolen car by checking your city’s parking violation reports. Sometimes the stolen car is abandoned or incorrectly parked somewhere and then abandoned, after a while, it may have been fined.
All the car tickets are logged on the parking violation database which can be checked online. Follow the steps below to do a stolen car lookup.
- Go to your city’s (town, village) website and locate the parking violation section.
- Enter your license plate and other required information to see if your car indeed shows up there.
- If you get a hit, contact the police or the city to get the exact spot where the car was ticketed. Maybe you’ll find it there. If you have already reported the car stolen, let the police handle the search, don’t confront anyone who might be in the car’s possession.
Check for your Stolen Car’s Parts that are Being Sold Online
Sometimes the stolen cars are cannibalized and stolen online for parts. But the major car parts already have the VIN number stamped on them. If your car is being sold for parts, it’s a good idea to check online where these parts are being traded.
There are automated checking websites that can help you automatically scan the main trade platform to see if there’s a match of your VIN. If you get a hit, call the police and let them handle the issue of getting your stolen car back. Sometimes the car thieves are quite dangerous and unstable.
Inform the Company if your Rented Car is Stolen
If your stolen car is rented, contact the leasing company immediately after you notice that your car is missing. Tell them that you’ve called the piece and ask their representative for the car’s identification number (VIN).
Additionally, file the incident report with the leasing company and review the liability contract to see if the insurance will cover it. Depending on the coverage and terms, the stolen car may be fully covered by the insurance.
Common Questions When a Car Is Stolen
In this section, we’ve listed the most common questions regarding a stolen car.
Does Insurance Cover Stolen Cars?
It depends on the type of insurance that you have and the contract. If you have comprehensive insurance for your car, you can get full coverage that provides financial compensation.
Usually, you need to buy both collision and comprehensive coverage to have your damages compensated in case your car is stolen, vandalized, damaged, scratched, etc.
How Long Does it take for the Insurance Company to Pay Out your Stolen Car?
If you have full coverage of your car including when it gets stolen, then you should file a claim right away. Usually, the insurance company takes a while to investigate the case before paying out the compensation.
The waiting period is typically 30-45 days before they’ll payout for a stolen car. They wait to see if the car will be located and they’ll perform an investigation.
If your car is recovered but is actually damaged, the insurance company will evaluate whether the car can be repaired or is a total loss. If it is determined to be a total loss (beyond repair), they’ll pay out the cash value of your car.
Let’s say you got the financial compensation for your stolen car, but a few weeks later the car is recovered. What happens now? Well, the insurance company has the ownership of the car, so you either can buy it back from them or just keep the compensation and start looking for a new car.
How Long does it take for the Police to Find a Stolen Car?
This one depends on the area that your car is stolen, whether there are any clues such as CCTV videos of your car getting snatched, the efficiency of your local police, the crime rate in the area, etc. Additionally, if your car was randomly stolen and then abandoned somewhere, then it’s easier to find it.
The general rule is that if any stolen car is not found within 60 days, the chances of recovering it becomes very low. Most likely it has been cannibalized or made its way to a scrapyard.
Do you still owe Payments on your Stolen Car?
If your car is stolen and you had it financed, you still have to continue paying the monthly installment while you lodge a claim against your insurance company. Technically the car is still yours, it’s under your name and you have to pay the installments timely.
Not paying for the financed cars means your credit score will get hurt and your interest may increase as well. Be careful, otherwise, your future car loans may be received at a higher interest rate. In case your stolen car can not be recovered, pay the balance using the compensation money from the insurance company.
What happens when your Stolen Car is Recovered?
If your stolen car is found or recovered, call the police and let them know. The police should remove your vehicle from the stolen car alarm list. Don’t use your car or apply for plates until you’ve been notified that the alarm has been canceled. Otherwise, you may end up getting arrested in possession of a stolen vehicle.
If your car was damaged or totaled, inform your insurance company and file a claim. Don’t apply for plates until the matter has been resolved.
If your car was recovered but without the plates, go to your local DMV to apply for new plates. Check their website for the paperwork that you need to bring in.
What percentage of Stolen Cars are Recovered?
According to Geico and Progressive Insurance, the US average rate of stolen cars that are recovered is 20% but this figure varies among the states and specific areas. The higher the crime rate in an area, the lower the chances of the car getting returned to the owner.
About 1 in 5 vehicles is eventually recovered, and early a third (30%) of drivers get their cars back with an average of $1500 worth of damage.
The most frequently stolen vehicles in the US are Honda Accord and Civic, followed by Ford and Chevrolet Pickups, then Toyota, etc. The older the car, the easier it is to be stolen. While the newer makes offer more options for recovery such a GPS tracking.
Any car that is left unattended can be stolen or burglarized. If it happens to you, try the suggestions listed in this guide to increase the chances of recovering it. Try not to panic, it’s not the end of the world.
File the car theft report to your local police department, inform the insurance company, inspect the area for any security cameras that may have captured the theft, search online using the car’s VIN, check the violation database of your city. Hopefully, you’ll get a hit and recover the car.
Once the stolen car is recovered, notify the police and make sure the matter is resolved with your insurance company. Don’t drive the car and don’t apply for plates until all the legal obstacles are cleared.
We hope you don’t ever go through the experience of having your car stolen. If you have any other suggestions, let us know in the comment box below.