What Happens When Your Car is Stolen Then Found?

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David Lawrence

Greetings, readers. Today’s article centers around an unfortunate incident that one hopes never befalls anyone. Nevertheless, numerous individuals have encountered the unfortunate predicament of car theft, leaving them utterly bewildered regarding the subsequent steps to take once their vehicle is discovered missing.

What Happens When Your Car is Stolen Then Found

First of all, if your vehicle is stolen, you notify the police immediately and inform your insurer, lender, and state’s DMV.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, over 880,000 cars were stolen across the United States in 2020. About 56.1% of stolen cars were recovered. If you want to be one of those lucky fellows whose cars have been recovered, you should know what to do next.

If you are in that situation, you must have many questions: what happens when your car is stolen and then found? Who will pay for the damages to your car when it is not with you? What happens when you find your car after the settlement claim is approved? How likely will I get my stolen car in ideal condition? Does your car insurance cover stealing?

In general, when the authorities come across a stolen vehicle, they typically provide guidance on the prescribed protocol to be followed upon recovering such a car. Nonetheless, it is ill-advised to enter and commence driving if you happen to locate your stolen vehicle.

As long as you have not notified the police, the vehicle identification number (VIN) will remain registered as stolen in both the Statewide Stolen Vehicle System (SVS) and the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).

These databases are accessible to law enforcement agencies across the globe. When your stolen vehicle is found and retrieved, the involvement of your insurance company and the lender becomes crucial.

Let’s check out some steps you can take to make your car drivable again.

What Happens When Your Car is Stolen?

Confirming The Car is Stolen

When you leave your house or office and don’t see the car where it was parked, it most likely has been stolen.

You are baffled, losing your cool and muttering, “Someone stole my car; it was parked here. What the hell? This is impossible.

What if your car has been stolen? Or do you think it has been? Or there is something else happening here you don’t know.

Calm down, and check the area around your parking spot. Your car might have been towed due to illegal parking.

Reporting the Stolen car to the Police

Upon verifying the unfortunate circumstance of your car’s theft, immediately dial 911 to report the illicit act. The police report, a crucial document for subsequent procedures, will be necessitated. This report also empowers the police to initiate a search for your stolen vehicle. While filing this report, it is imperative to provide detailed information regarding your vehicle and its last known location.

Contact Your Insurance Company

Your next move should be to inform your car insurance company about the incident. To get your claim later (if necessary), ensure you provide the insurance company with the same information you gave to the police. There have been many cases where claims get rejected based on a technicality. You don’t want that to happen to you.

Below are the necessary to provide:

  • Date and time of the theft
  • Vehicle’s last whereabouts
  • Location of all keys to the car
  • Title to the car
  • Names and contact details of anyone who had access to the car.
  • Contact information for your financing company
  • Police report number

Contact Your Insurance Adjuster

If your vehicle is recovered, contact your insurance company’s adjuster to fasten the resolution of any claim.

If your Car is Financed, Contact Your Lender

Should your vehicle have been procured through financing, it is advisable to notify your lender promptly. Regrettably, despite the circumstances, your financial obligations persist. While it may seem unjust, the unfortunate reality is that, according to legal stipulations, theft does not alter your indebtedness to the bank.

This is precisely why lenders necessitate the procurement of comprehensive and collision coverage. Your commitment to repay the lender ceases only upon completion of the stipulated payments, irrespective of whether the car is physically present in your possession.

Look For Possible CCTV Recordings

In today’s world, security cameras are nearly ubiquitous, adorning the exteriors of many businesses. It’s conceivable that your vehicle was parked proximate to a hotel, restaurant, ATM, parking facility, or any such locale. Possession of security footage depicting the theft of your car significantly enhances the probability of its retrieval.

Thus, consulting with neighboring businesses for potential surveillance footage is entirely practical.

Try to locate Your Car With a Tracking Device

Nowadays, cars are loaded with advanced technologies for several tasks, including security. Your car is likely equipped with a LoJack system, which uses radiofrequency technology to help track and recover stolen cars. Law enforcement can send a radio signal to the tracking system to locate your car.

What Happens When I Report My Car Stolen?

What will happen next is based on two factors – Wheather your car is found or not.

What Happens If My Car is Stolen and Never Found?

Anticipating the sequence of events, upon contacting law enforcement, they will promptly arrive at your location, whereupon you will furnish a detailed account of your vehicle, including descriptors, the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), and license plate details. Consequently, the police will initiate a comprehensive investigation utilizing this pivotal information.

Thereafter, your vehicle’s particulars will be updated in nationwide databases such as the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and Stolen Vehicle System (SVS), thus complicating any potential attempts by the perpetrators to profit from your loss.

The pressing concern remains – will you ever regain possession of your car? To address this starkly, the probability of retrieving your stolen vehicle is modest. It may materialize, or it may not.

Statistically speaking, about half of all stolen vehicles are eventually recovered. Hence, you stand a fair 50% chance of being reunited with your car.

Most insurance providers adhere to a 30-day waiting period before deeming the vehicle irretrievable. Following this period, your insurer will propose a settlement based on the “fair market value” of your car – an amount commensurate with the value of an identical vehicle in the current market.

However, this is not a rigid figure and is open to negotiation should you perceive the initial offer as not being equitable.

What Happens When My Stolen Car is Recovered?

Celebrate the moment, for your purloined vehicle has been reclaimed, and you can finally breathe a sigh of relief. However, while relief should be your automatic response, be aware that the situation can take unexpected turns before you even comprehend it.

Contemplate the scenario where you’ve filed a comprehensive claim for your stolen vehicle, received the insurance payout, and your vehicle is located.

Should your stolen vehicle be recovered, you must notify your insurance provider promptly. Deducting the deductible, they will compensate you for the remainder of the culprits who have inflicted damage on your vehicle.

Regrettably, personal possessions of value that were left within the vehicle and remain unrecovered, such as mobile phones or laptops, are typically not encompassed in auto insurance policies.

However, your existing renters or homeowners insurance may provide coverage. Consider the instance where your vehicle is recovered after settling the insurance claim. In such a case, legal ownership of the vehicle defaults to the insurance company.

Can You Refuse To Take Back Your Stolen Car?

Whether you can turn down to take back your stolen car depends on the scenario.

A Totaled Car

If a stolen car is damaged, adhering to your insurance policy, you refuse to take it. Of course, the insurer cannot force a salvaged car on you. However, if the car has minor damages, the adjuster will inform the same to insurance company, and they will refuse to give you a new car.

You Got Your Insurance Claims

If the insurer pays your claims, the car is your property no more. Police may inform you about the recovered vehicle with jacked-up storage fees in your name. Just notify the insurer of the same. It is possible that the insurance did not transfer the owner into their name and may have written it off their books.

The Police and Tow operator Fiasco

The police will have the tow operator take custody of your recovered vehicle. If you don’t show up to claim the vehicle, you are liable for the storage fees.

The Entire Process of Vehicle Recovery 

Typically, a BOLO (be on the lookout) alert will be disseminated to law enforcement officials near the theft. Should the vehicle be spotted in motion, the officers will endeavor to intercept it.

Apprehending a stolen vehicle constitutes a severe offense, and all occupants will be extracted under armed supervision.

Upon locating your vehicle, it’s paramount to notify the local law enforcement agency and allow them to dictate the subsequent process for reclaiming your car.

The authorities will cross-reference the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and license plate number against entries in the Stolen Vehicle System (SVS) and National Crime Information Center (NCIC).

Following this, they will attempt to liaise with the registered owner, who will be invited to come and reclaim the vehicle.

In cases where the owner cannot be contacted or resides remotely, a tow service will be organized, resulting in the vehicle’s impoundment. Regrettably, the costs associated with towing and storage fall upon the owner.

Processing of Evidence 

If the vehicle is discovered parked or forsaken in an obscure location, law enforcement agencies will meticulously comb the vehicle for evidence, aiming to identify the culprit. The police will endeavor to lift fingerprints from the car and search for the owner’s possessions, which could potentially serve as evidence.

Any theft of items within the vehicle will be meticulously documented in the police report. When the vehicle has been decimated or stripped of parts, it will be towed and consequently impounded.

The owner will then be tasked with liaising with both the insurance provider and the towing and impounding company to reconcile the fees imposed.


Below are some frequently asked questions on what happens when your car is stolen then found. Let’s understand some nuanced aspects of it.

Does a car lose value after being stolen?

Your car may lose value after being stolen, and I used the word “may” because there are a lot of ifs and buts involved in it. Your car may also remain at its original value, but certain conditions need to meet. If your car is received within the time specified by the insurance company (usually 30 days), there is nothing to worry about. However, things can be a bit more problematic if it takes longer.

How do insurance companies value your car if stolen?

Insurance companies, for determining the value of a stolen car, consider a few factors, like depreciated value based on age, mileage, or any previous damage to the car. They will also look at the amount you receive minus any possible deductible for your comprehensive coverage.

What usually happens to a stolen car?

A stolen car is mostly taken to a chop shop where the mechanic will take the car apart and discard anything with the vehicle identification number (VIN), such as the engine or transmission. This usually happens because the parts are often more valuable than the car.

Do car insurance claims go to court?

Most car insurance claim cases will never be in court, but exceptions sometimes exist. They are usually cases that fall into one of four categories – complex cases, unresponsive defendants or insurers, cases whereby the defendant denies liability, and cases where claimants seek interim payments.

Final Thoughts 

That is all I wanted to say about what happens when your car is stolen then found? In conclusion, the ordeal of having one’s vehicle stolen, followed by its recovery, is multifaceted.

While it involves interacting with law enforcement, insurance providers, and potentially local businesses for surveillance footage, the cooperative synergy of these entities enhances the likelihood of a successful outcome.

Despite the associated challenges, the experience underscores the value of comprehensive insurance and the importance of meticulous record-keeping for vehicle details.

Thanks for Reading. Have a lovely day.

About the author
David Lawrence

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