Jessica Sautter has a Bachelor’s Degree from Eastern Michigan University in Elementary Education with a Major in Reading and a Minor in Mathematics.

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Written by Jessica Sautter
Content Writer Jessica Sautter

Natasha McLachlan is a writer who currently lives in Southern California. She is an alumna of California College of the Arts, where she obtained her B.A. in Writing and Literature. Her current work revolves around auto insurance guides and informational articles. She truly enjoys helping others learn more about everyday, practical matters through her work.

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Reviewed by Natasha McLachlan
Content Writer Natasha McLachlan

UPDATED: Apr 29, 2020

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When people buy vehicles, they do so to benefit themselves personally and/or professionally. The last thing anyone wants to imagine is having their car taken away from them. If you are unfortunate enough to be in this situation, the claims process can be an absolute nightmare, especially if you have no idea what to expect.

Here is some information that will help you navigate this process without losing your mind.

Insurance Coverage

Auto insurance policies vary greatly depending on the insurer and the level of coverage that was purchased. This means that everyone with a policy will not be able to recover damages in the event their vehicle is stolen.

Does insurance cover stolen car?

The only policyholders that have the option of filing a claim for a stolen car are those who have comprehensive coverage. This is a type of insurance that is intended to reimburse you for any vehicle loss or damage that is not associated with a collision.

Keep in mind that this type of coverage is not automatic; you will have to opt-in. While this means your monthly premiums will be higher, it also means that you will be covered in the event a thief decides to take possession of your car.

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Personal Possessions

If your vehicle is stolen, it is more likely than not you had some personal items inside. You may be thinking that this is a loss you will have to bear since insurance is certain to cover just the vehicle itself, but that is not exactly how things go.

Are items stolen from your car covered by insurance?

To be frank, auto insurance companies are only going to cover loss or damage to your vehicle. They will not replace anything personal items you loss as a result. This means that mobile phones, clothing, sports equipment and anything else you had in there will not be covered.

Before you start panicking, you should know that these items can be claimed on a renter’s or homeowner’s policy. Yes. If you have one of these policies and it covers theft, it will cover any possessions you had in your stolen vehicle. While it may sound like the most inconvenient thing in the world, this does mean that you will have to file claims with more than one company and navigate this entire process with them.

Filing A Claim – Gradual Process

Man Touching His Hair Due to Depression
Don’t Be Depressed As You Now Will Know How to Make A Claim!

There are a number of steps that need to be taken in order to file a claim. Pay close attention to the following information since leaving anything out can stall your claim or lead to it being denied.

– The first thing you need to do is file a police report. There is no way that any insurance company will take you seriously if this step is skipped. The time you call is as important as the call itself. You should contact law enforcement within 24 hours of the incident. Many insurers require this as part of the process.

The police will ask for lots of information, including the VIN and license numbers, the time and date of the occurrence, the location of the car at the time of the theft and a description of the vehicle, which should include any identifiers, like dents and bumper stickers.

– Once you have filed a police report, you should call your insurance company right away. They will ask for additional information, so prepare yourself. Things they will request include, the names of all people you know with access to your car, a list of items that were in the vehicle (while they will not cover this, having them take note of this will assist when it comes to filing a stolen property claim), a description of your car and contact information for any financing or leasing companies you have done business with in relation to the vehicle in question.

– After this, you MUST call any leasing or financing companies ASAP to let them know of the incident. Make them aware of your police report and the claim you filed with your insurance company.

The Investigation Process & Actions

Once you file a claim, your insurer will begin an investigation into the incident. Some companies automatically assign all auto theft cases to a fraud unit, so you should not become alarmed if this happens to you. There are several steps associated with this part of the process, including the following:

  • They may conduct a review of your financial standing.
  • Your credit may be checked in an attempt to see if there are any problems that would give you the motive to have your vehicle stolen.
  • Sometimes social media accounts are viewed to see if there are clues to the likelihood of your being involved in the theft.

While this is a typical part of the process, this does not mean that you have to subject yourself to what you believe may be an invasion of your privacy. If you are asked to provide any information that you feel is not directly related to your claim, you have the right to refuse.

How long does usually it take the insurance company to investigate auto theft?

Keep in mind that these investigations generally last a minimum of 30 days. This is a waiting period that is designated in order to see if the car will be recovered by the police.

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Calculating Stolen Car Insurance Payout

How much is the payout?Here is a brief overview of how claims are generally calculated (with example calculations):

1. The original purchase price is considered $25,000

2. The value minus the amount of wear and tear $15,000

3. The Actual Cash Value designated by a claims adjuster $14,000 (You can appeal this figure and negotiate better terms)

4. The amount of your deductible $1,000

5. The amount you will receive $13,000

Your values will be different, but these were offered to give you an idea of how payouts are calculated.

What If The Vehicle Is Recovered?

In the United States, around 46% (in 2016) of stolen vehicles are found.

With that said, you are probably wondering what happens if your car is found after you have already received a payout. There are generally two outcomes that may occur if you are in this predicament:

1. The vehicle becomes the property of the insurance company and they can do with it as they see fit. Typically, they are auctioned off in order to recover some of the money given to you for payout.

2. You may be asked to return the amount you received and have your vehicle returned to your possession.

Which one of these options you have will depend on your particular provider and your case; you will have to discuss all of the specifics with them directly.

Mistakes To Avoid Along The Way

Can you imagine losing your vehicle, filing a claim and having it denied? This is probably one of the worst things that can happen. The great thing is that denials are usually avoidable. Here are common mistakes that can lead to your claim being rejected:

  • You exaggerated on your claim

In this case, honesty is certainly the best policy. If there is any indication you have been less than truthful, your claim may be sent to the trash pile. This means that you should not be dishonest about where you were when the vehicle was stolen, the personal items that were in there or anything else. One small white lie means you may not receive ANYTHING, so be totally honest.

  • You waited too long to file a claim

If your car was stolen on a Friday night, waiting until the following Wednesday means that you claim is likely to be denied. The sooner the better. As you were told above, many insurers require a claim to be filed within a day of the theft. Anything longer than that means a “no.”

  • You are behind on payments

Even if you are only a little late, your insurance company can use this as a reason not to pay on your claim. Missing one payment means that your entire policy can be suspended. For this reason, it is essential that you keep up with payments. Remit the premium amount on time every time – period.

  • Your policy is not comprehensive

Trying to save a few dollars can really come back to bite you in the rear. When you sign up for coverage, you will be given the option of paying for some combination of liability coverage, collision coverage and comprehensive. If you decide not to pay for the latter, your claim will be automatically denied. This may seem harsh, but it is exactly why you should read the fine print and understand what will be covered before you sign on the dotted line.

As long as you avoid making any of those errors while you are navigating this process, you should avoid hitting any snags.

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This may seem like an overwhelming amount of information, but it is important that you digest all of this and use it if you are ever unfortunate enough to be in this situation. From calling the police the minute you realize your vehicle is gone to talking to insurance adjusters and figuring out the value of your vehicle, you are now prepared for everything that comes your way during the claims process.

Let’s complete the article with some car theft protection tips that everyone should follow.

10 Ways To Avoid Being A Victim Of Car Theft

Imagine parking your car and heading into an establishment. Now visualize coming out and it is gone. While there are many reasons for a thief to make off with your car, many of these incidences are preventable. Here are 10 tips to prevent your car from being stolen.

1. Mark Your Territory

Consider etching the VIN number on several parts of the vehicle, including the windows and doors. Make it small enough that it is not overly intrusive, but large enough thieves will see it. Knowing they will need to replace all of these parts will deter them.

2. Keep Your Car Locked

There are still people who run into stores really quickly or stop to talk to a friend for a moment without locking their vehicles. This is a definite no-no. This rule even applies when there is someone inside the vehicle; in the backseat or the passenger’s side.

3. Hide Electronics

This includes GPS units, smartphones, and media players. These can catch the eye of thieves and give them incentives to steal. You do not want to give your car more attention than necessary. So tuck these things away.

4. Sign Up For Security Service

There are companies out there that can be notified in the event that someone tries to enter your vehicle. The moment you call and let them know it has been taken, they can remotely disable it. This doesn’t technically stop it from being stolen, but it will certainly lead to a speedy recovery.

In case you have any doubts, note the fact that one of the most common services of this type has more than 7 million members worldwide.

5. Park In A Visible Place

It can be really tempting to snag the first spot you see on a busy street but think of it in relation to where you are going. It would be safest if you parked your vehicle someplace where you can see it from your target destination.

6. Don’t Leave It Running

This is pretty common in places where the temperature is brisk. Many drivers turn the engine on so the car can heat up before they leave the house. Unfortunately, this makes it easier for someone to hop in and drive away.

7. Roll Up The Windows

Even if it is a blistering hot day, roll your windows up completely if you are exiting your car. There is no point in locking your car for security if you are giving things another method of entry.

8. Buy A Cruciform Lock

Many people do not like these because they are often big, bulky and considered an eyesore, but ignore all that and get one. When a thief sees one of these on the steering wheel, they tend to leave you alone and figure it is not worth the hassle.

9. Install An Alarm

Even with all of these other methods mentioned here, you should still invest in a solid alarm system. Keep in mind that this tip applies to owners of all kinds of vehicles, including those which are vintage. Don’t focus on the beauty of an older car so much that you avoid adding an alarm since it is a modern amenity; you may end up regretting this decision.

10. Don’t Stash A Spare Key On The Vehicle

Back in the day, people used to place an extra key in the wheel well in case they lost the original. This is an old trick and thieves caught on long ago. Putting a key there would be akin to placing it directly in their hand.

It is easy to blame a thief if your car is stolen, but sometimes one of the main culprits is you. Do your part as a responsible vehicle owner and focus on reducing the chances of becoming a target.