Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 10, 2020

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The least you need to know…

  • Only comprehensive insurance will reimburse you if your car is stolen
  • Notifying your auto insurance company is still important to avoid being held responsible for damage caused by the thief.
  • Your stolen car will be reimbursed based on the Actual Cash Value (ACV), which is replacement cost minus depreciation.

What do you do if someone steals your car?

You will need to act immediately to report the incident to the police and contact your insurance company to begin the process of filing a car insurance claim.  Receiving car insurance for a stolen car requires significant time, attention, paperwork, and interaction with your insurance carrier.  

Before contacting the insurance company, make sure there are no alternative explanations to the absence of your vehicle – such as having the car towed or repossessed. 

As you work through the process of recovering insurance money for your stolen car, be prepared to work with an adjuster to get the fair value of your stolen vehicle.

If you find yourself at an impasse with your insurance company, seeking assistance from a car insurance attorney could help. You can put your ZIP code into the search tool above to begin your search for a car insurance lawyer near you.

Does car insurance cover a stolen car?

Stolen cars are covered by the comprehensive coverage section of your car insurance policy, and when you call your agent you should confirm that you have comprehensive coverage and that it is adequate to cover the loss of your car. 

If you do not have comprehensive coverage, or your coverage limits are low, than your car insurance may not cover a stolen car.   Your auto insurance policy is the only source of coverage for your vehicle – a home insurance plan will not cover the theft of a vehicle even if the car is stolen from a driveway or garage.

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What does insurance cover if your car is stolen?

If your car is stolen, your comprehensive policy will pay only the value of your car at the time it was stolen.

Does car insurance cover stolen items in a car?

Unfortunately, car insurance will not cover anything left inside the car at the time it’s stolen. Any after-market improvements made to your car should be accounted for by your insurance company when determining value, but nothing inside the car will be paid for by your car insurance company.

How do insurance companies investigate stolen cars?

Car insurance companies typically treat all stolen car insurance claim investigations as potential fraud. Because car theft fraud is so common, many automatically assign all such investigations to the fraud department. 

An investigator will typically be assigned and will try to confirm that you had no connection to or motivation for the theft of the vehicle. These investigations can be lengthy and probing.

Does insurance cover a stolen car if the keys were left inside?

There is good news and bad news if you leave your keys in the car and it gets stolen.

Typically, comprehensive coverage will pay a claim on your stolen car even if it was stolen because you left the keys inside. However, you may be liable for damage caused by the thief while driving your car. You could be subject to a negligence suit for that damage under the theory that your negligence in leaving your keys in the car led to the harm.

How long does it take the police to find a stolen car?

In many cases, the police never recover stolen cars, and in many others, the vehicle is recovered almost immediately. To a large extent, it will depend on why the car was stolen. An impulsive thief or a joyrider is more likely to abandon a car quickly, for example.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, more than 700,000 cars are stolen each year. The National Highway Transportation Safety Board reports that only about 60 percent of stolen vehicles are recovered each year. 

What happens when your car is stolen and recovered?

If your car is recovered before the insurance company has settled the claim and the car is replaced, you can elect to simply continue coverage. If your car has been replaced, however, it will often be written off by the insurer, given a salvage title, and returned to you.

Though you cannot drive a car with only a salvage title, you should be able to get the vehicle inspected and change the title to a “re-built” title, which will allow it to be operated legally.

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What happens when your car is stolen without insurance?

If your car was stolen without insurance, you won’t be able to get reimbursed. You should still notify the police and the local DMV, though, to avoid the potential for being held responsible for damage caused by the thief.

The only way you would recover anything is if the stolen car is recovered, unfortunately.

What happens if your car is stolen and you still owe money?

If your car is stolen while you’re still paying for it, you need to notify the lien-holder right after you notify the police and your insurer. Typically, you are required to carry comprehensive insurance on a car you still owe on, so your car should be covered for the theft claim.

You should put the lien-holder in touch with your insurance company, and you should be able to focus on simply aiding the investigation and figuring out how to get around without your vehicle.

Car Insurance for a Stolen Car

When you file a car insurance claim for a stolen car, prepare for a long and detailed process required by your carrier.  Keep a few things in mind so you know what to expect:

  • Insurance companies will typically require a minimum waiting period before stolen car claims can be finalized in order to see if the vehicle is recovered.  Usually this period is thirty days starting from the day the vehicle was stolen.  Ask your carrier what time frame is required before finalizing your stolen car claim, and be sure to pursue the matter as soon as the company allows.
  • Stolen car insurance claims are investigated thoroughly by adjusters.  Conversations are likely to be recorded as part of standard procedure, and the adjuster will ask for very specific details about the vehicle and the theft.  Be prepared with details about your car and the circumstances of its theft.
  • Until the matter is settled with your insurance carrier, you should contact your lender to see if you still need to make car payments during the claim investigation. 
  • After the insurance company finalizes your claim, you will need to sign over the title and ownership of the vehicle to the insurer.  If the car is found after you collect a claim, it belongs to the insurance company.
  • If the vehicle is recovered before the claim is finalized, your comprehensive coverage will pay for any damages that the car incurred during the theft.

As you work with your insurance adjuster on your stolen car insurance claim, keep in mind that you do can consult an attorney if you feel that your claim is not being treated fairly. 

Car Insurance Payout for a Stolen Car

Does a stolen car lose value?

When an insurance company pays a stolen car claim, it will pay the actual cash value (ACV) of the vehicle at the time of the theft.  Actual cash value is determined by the cost of the vehicle minus diminished value due to accidents, depreciation, age, and wear and tear. 

Your stolen car insurance payout from GEICO, Progressive, or any other insurer will be based on these factors.

 As you work with your insurance company, make sure you prepare yourself by researching the car’s value at an online site such as Kelly Blue Book.  Doing so will give you an accurate value that you can compare to the insurance company’s payment offer.  

Although personal items left in the car are not covered, as mentioned above, you should take permanent enhancements such as CD player or stereo into account when valuing the vehicle.

If the car insurance company makes you an offer that does not match the value of your car, you can attempt to negotiate a better settlement by explaining how you valued the vehicle.  

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Wrapping It Up

If your car is stolen, you will only be reimbursed by insurance if you have comprehensive coverage. If you only have liability and/or collision coverage, you cannot be reimbursed by your insurer.

Your insurance company will investigate your claim and, if they accept your claim, will pay you the actual cash value of your car.

Did we answer all your questions about car insurance for stolen cars?

Remember, if you have specific questions or have been made an offer you feel is unfair for the value of your stolen car, consult a car insurance attorney for assistance. You can start your search for an experienced car insurance lawyer by putting your ZIP code into the search tool below.

References:

  1. https://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-auto-theft
  2. https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/vehicle-theft-prevention
  3. https://www.kbb.com/