Reporting A Stolen Car

Written by J. Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

It's distressing to realize that your car isn't where you left it. It happens hundreds of thousands of times across America on a yearly basis. The first thing you'll need to do is report the theft to the police.

Contacting the Police

You can call 911 if you are stranded and feel that your life is in danger. Otherwise, it's best to contact the police through non-emergency channels. Depending upon the practices of the law enforcement agency you contact, they may take the report over the phone. Some agencies require that the report be taken in person whether that means the police come to you or that you must go to the station.

Establish Proof of Ownership

You must demonstrate to the police that you are the rightful owner. This can usually be done with DMV records, a vehicle title or a bill of sale. The police will also want to see your driver's license in order to verify your identity.

All About the Car

Be prepared to tell the police all the information you can about your car. This includes basic data like the make, model and year the car was manufactured. Details about the color and any body damage or scratches may also be helpful in identifying the vehicle. The VIN and license plate number will be similarly indispensable. Also, be certain to report any personal items that may have been in the vehicle at the time it was stolen. This may make it easier to claim these items if your car is found and the items are still intact.

Contact Your Insurance Provider

After the formal police report is filed, you'll want to notify your insurance company about the theft of the car. The insurance provider will often want to know information from the police report. In fact, many insurers cannot process the report of a stolen car if the theft has not already been reported to the police. Provide them with all the data they need, as this will make it easier to make a claim for damages if your car should be recovered.

Keep in mind that the police often won't get involved in a car theft between spouses, ex-spouses or in other domestic situations. They focus on genuine criminal theft of vehicles, so attempting to report as stolen a car that is in use by an estranged partner is likely a waste of time.

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