There are the minor inconveniences that make a morning tough — insufficient caffeine consumption, overflowing inbox, etc. — and then there are the major, stomach-churning situations that derail more than just your day. A prime example? Walking out to your car, only to find an empty spot.
Vehicle theft sucks, and unfortunately, it’s on the rise: As Metromile reported in June, 5.9 billion dollars were lost to motor vehicle theft in 2016, according to the FBI. That equates to 765,484 total vehicle thefts in the U.S., 60,000 of which happened in the L.A. area alone. And while recovering a stolen vehicle is possible, it only happens 42% of the time.
The silver lining here (seriously, there is one) is that while having your car stolen is a violating, unpleasant experience, knowing what to do when it happens and how to avoid it in the first place can significantly cut down on the emotional turmoil and post-theft logistical headaches.
Avoiding Car Theft In The First Place
The best strategy for sidestepping any theft-related unpleasantness is, of course, to avoid the theft altogether. And while you can’t guarantee a theft-proof future for your vehicle, you can take important steps to minimize the risk.
- If you’re on the market for a car, it’s worth knowing which makes and models are most likely to be stolen. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s 2017 Hot Wheels Report, the 1998 Honda Civic, 1997 Honda Accord, and 2006 Ford Pickup are the three most likely to be taken. Check out the top 10 list to see which vehicles you might want to avoid if you can help it.
- This may seem obvious, but don’t — seriously, don’t — leave your car running while you hop out for a quick errand. It takes a split second for a thief to take advantage of an easy situation, so always turn your car off and always take the keys with you (and lock up!).
- Never leave personal belongings on the seat or in plain sight.
- Try your best to always park in well-lit, populated areas.
- Consider investing in an anti-theft device — in some states, Metromile offers a discount for having an anti-theft or recovery device installed.
- If that’s not enough of a reason for you to switch to Metromile, consider this: the Smart Driving app and the Pulse device helps customers track down their vehicles in the unfortunate event that their car is stolen.
What To Do If Your Car Is Stolen
The most important thing you can do if your car is stolen is to act quickly — the longer you wait to take action, the less likely it is that your car will ever find its way back to you. Here’s your to-do list:
- Contact the police right away. You won’t be able to file an insurance claim until you file a police report, so talk to law enforcement ASAP. Be prepared to share some key info, including the make, model, year, and color of your car, the license plate number, any distinctive features, and the vehicle identification number (VIN).
- Contact your insurance company. You’ll also want to do this quickly — preferably within 24 hours of the theft. Depending on the type of coverage you have, you may be able to receive payment for your stolen vehicle. But even if you don’t have comprehensive coverage, you’ll need to notify your carrier so that you’re protected in case the thieves hurt someone or damage something with your vehicle.
- Contact the DMV — since the agency keeps a database of stolen vehicles, they may be helpful in the search.
If The Car Is Gone For Good, Are You Covered?
No one wants to face the fact that their property may just be lost for good, but if enough time has passed and it looks like your car is long gone, never to return, it’s time to take stock of your losses.
The only form of insurance that totally reimburses the cost of a stolen car is comprehensive coverage— this is the type of plan that will also cover your vehicle in the case of a natural disaster, or a fluke accident, like a fallen tree.
So what happens if you don’t have comprehensive coverage? If you’re dealing with a stolen car, then you have a “total loss,” meaning the lost value, or repair cost of your vehicle exceeds its insured value. Metromile customers who experience a total loss will still need to have insurance to cover a rental car, but won’t be charged for any mileage while shopping for a replacement vehicle.
As for the items that were taken along with your stolen car, there’s good news and bad news. First, the bad: car insurance doesn’t typically cover the cost of stolen personal items. However, if you have renter’s or homeowner’s insurance, you may be able to get some help covering the costs.
What To Do If/When You Get Your Car Back
So you got your car back — congrats! Now what? Do a happy dance and then take a look around to see if any personal items were stolen. It’s also a good idea to assess any damage to the interior or exterior and check with your insurance provider to see what is/isn’t covered under your plan.