How to report a stolen car

After a theft, you should report your stolen car to the police, your insurance company, and your car’s lender or lessor.

Anna SwartzAndrew Hurst

By

Anna Swartz

Anna Swartz

Senior Managing Editor & Auto Insurance Expert

Anna Swartz is a senior managing editor and auto insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our car insurance coverage. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic.com, as well as an associate writer at The Dodo.

&Andrew Hurst

Andrew Hurst

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

Andrew Hurst is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, Mic, Insurance Business Magazine, ValuePenguin, and Property Casualty 360.

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If your vehicle is stolen, you’ll have to report your stolen car to a few different parties. First, contact law enforcement so you can file a police report, you’ll need that in order to file a claim. Then report the stolen car to your insurance company and your vehicle’s leasing or financing company.

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Your auto insurance coverage will pay to replace your stolen car (as long as you have a full-coverage policy). If you don’t have comprehensive coverage — or you don’t have car insurance at all — you’ll have to replace your car yourself.

Key takeaways

  • You report a stolen car to at least three other parties: law enforcement, your insurance company, and your car’s financing company or lessor.

  • To file a police report for a stolen car, you should have information about your car’s make and model, plate number, and vehicle identification number (VIN).

  • Car insurance covers the cost of replacing a stolen car as long as you have comprehensive coverage, a part of a full-coverage policy.

How do you report a stolen car?

From 2011 to 2020 there were 2.3 million incidents of stolen vehicles, and the rate of stolen cars rose by about 3% during this period. [1]  

If your vehicle becomes one of the hundreds of thousands stolen each year, here’s what you need to do to report your stolen car:

  1. Notify law enforcement and file a police report

  2. Report your stolen car to your insurance provider

  3. Let your vehicle’s lienholder know about the stolen car

Depending on the details of your car insurance policy, theft may be covered. Comprehensive coverage, which is part of every full-coverage policy, is what covers things like theft and vandalism. 

As long as you have the necessary coverage, you can work with your insurance company to make a claim on the stolen vehicle and pay your lienholder (if you have one).

File a stolen car report with the police

You should contact the police as soon as you suspect your car has been stolen. Insurance companies require a police report before you can make a claim for the stolen car. Contacting authorities quickly also increases the chance of you getting your car back.

You should have several pieces of information on hand when you make a police report for a stolen car. You should know your car’s:

  • Make and model

  • License plate number

  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)

  • GPS or tracking system information

You should also be prepared to give authorities as much information as you can about where you parked your car before it was stolen and when you last saw it, including any photos that show where the car was parked, or names and contact information for any potential witnesses. 

More details could help authorities locate the car using security cameras in the area.

Report a stolen car to your insurance company

After you’ve contacted the police about your vehicle, you should report your stolen car to your car insurance company. Your insurance provider will be able to tell you whether your policy covers theft, if you’re unsure.

Not every car insurance policy will cover a stolen car. Your insurance company will only cover a stolen car if you have comprehensive coverage, which is what covers damage that’s not caused by a collision, like fire, weather, animal damage, vandalism, and theft.

Even if you know you don’t have comprehensive coverage, you should still contact your insurance company and let them know your car was stolen. That way you can make sure you won’t be liable for any damage the car thief causes with your vehicle.

Does car insurance cover lost property that was in your stolen car?

Most of the time your car insurance coverage won’t pay for items that were in your stolen vehicle when it was taken. Unless you have a personal belongings endorsement, you’ll have to make a home or renters insurance claim for whatever property was in your car.

What happens when your car is stolen without insurance?

Since theft is only covered if you have full-coverage auto insurance, some drivers who report their stolen cars to their insurance companies will find out their policy doesn’t cover them.

You’ll have to pay out of pocket to replace your vehicle if you don’t have comprehensive insurance (or any insurance coverage). 

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How to report a stolen car to your lender

You’ll also have to report your stolen vehicle to your car’s lender or financer after it’s taken. Since your car’s lienholder has a legal claim to the car, it can contact your insurance company and speed up the claims process for you.

Any claim you get for your stolen car will also go to the lienholder so their stake in the car can be settled. This is why lienholders require drivers to have comprehensive and collision coverages.

→ Read more about how your how having a leinholder affects your insurance

Do you report a stolen car to the DMV?

You may also have to report your stolen car to the DMV, but the laws vary by state. You might have to fill out a loss form at your DMV — but this type of form will be different from the police report you file with law enforcement.

Because each state’s Department of Motor Vehicles has different procedures after a car theft, you should check with your local DMV if your car is stolen. They’ll tell you about any forms you’ll have to fill out or processes you must follow afterwards.

When your car is missing but not actually stolen

Before you report your car stolen, double check to make sure you’re actually in the right place. There are smartphone apps you can install that pair with your car and help you track it down if you think you may have forgotten where you parked it.

If you parked illegally, or if you owe money on parking tickets or other violations, it’s also possible that your car was towed

Depending on where you are, your city may have a hotline or an online tool that will let you look up a towed vehicle if you have the license plate number, and give you instructions to retrieve it.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you report your car stolen?

When you realize that your car has been stolen, you should contact law enforcement immediately in order to file a police report. Then let your insurance company and your car’s lender or lienholder know about the theft.

When can you report a stolen car?

You can report a stolen car as soon as possible. It’s best to try and file a police report when you know the car has been stolen, as insurance companies won’t let you file a claim beforehand. Your chances of getting the car back also improve if you contact law enforcement early.

What number do you call to report your car stolen?

When you find out that your car has been stolen, you can call 911. A dispatcher will connect your call to the right authorities, who will help you file a police report and start the process of recovering your vehicle.

References

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Policygenius uses external sources, including government data, industry studies, and reputable news organizations to supplement proprietary marketplace data and internal expertise. Learn more about how we use and vet external sources as part of our

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  1. Federal Bureau of Investigation

    . "

    Crime Data Explorer

    ." Accessed June 13, 2022.

Authors

Senior Managing Editor & Auto Insurance Expert

Anna Swartz

Senior Managing Editor & Auto Insurance Expert

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Anna Swartz is a senior managing editor and auto insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our car insurance coverage. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic.com, as well as an associate writer at The Dodo.

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

Andrew Hurst

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

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Andrew Hurst is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, Mic, Insurance Business Magazine, ValuePenguin, and Property Casualty 360.

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