How Does an Insurance Claim Work if Your Car Is Stolen?

by Craig Berman
If thieves drive off with your car, your insurance company needs to know.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, an estimated 717,373 vehicles were stolen in 2011. If your car becomes a statistic, you’ll understandably be eager to be back on the road as soon as possible. If you have comprehensive coverage, your insurance company likely will reimburse you for any damage caused by the theft, or for the car's value if it is not recovered.

Check Your Coverage

Having auto insurance doesn’t necessarily mean your insurance company will reimburse you for a stolen vehicle. If you have comprehensive coverage, your insurers likely will pay some or all of the cost of purchasing a replacement, but this coverage often is optional. If you’re financing your car, odds are good that the finance company you’re using requires this, so you probably have it. Otherwise, the coverage is not required. If you only have liability coverage or augment that with collision coverage rather than comprehensive, you’re likely out of luck.

The Police

Before you call your insurance company, call the police and inform them of the theft. Your insurance company will need information from that report when it processes your claim and won't process a stolen car claim without a police report confirming the crime took place.

Filing a Claim

Let your insurance company know the car has been stolen. Calling the company is one way of doing so, and some companies also let you do it online or via a smartphone app. You’ll need to have your vehicle identification number, the make and model of the car, and a theft affidavit or similar proof that the vehicle has been reported stolen and the police notified. Even if you don't have comprehensive coverage, it's still important to report the theft, as this will protect you in case whoever stole your vehicle damages other property or causes injuries with the vehicle. Also note whether you had any valuables in the car when it was stolen – some policies reimburse for those items, while others will not.

Wait for Police

Stolen cars often are recovered, so because your vehicle has gone missing does not mean it is gone for good. If your policy provides for rental car coverage, the claims agent will likely arrange that at this time. Many vehicles reported stolen are subsequently recovered, whether they are abandoned by the thieves or were towed to an impound lot. Your car may be found and deemed repairable, in which case the process proceeds much as it would for any other claim. It may be found and assessed as a total loss, or it may never be found, in which case the settlement process begins.

If Your Car Isn't Recovered

If the police never find your car and you have comprehensive coverage, the insurance company declares the vehicle a total loss and writes you a check according to what the car is worth and what your policy specifies. You’ll need to provide the insurance company with any remaining keys and also the vehicle title and other proof of ownership. You're effectively signing over the vehicle to the insurance company, so if the car is later found totaled, the company will be entitled to any salvage value it may have.

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