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Car theft is a driver’s worst nightmare – but, with car theft at an ‘all-time high’ whether due to the rise of keyless car technology or thieves targeting luxury cars, drivers need to be more aware of what to do if their car is stolen. 

So, what happens if your car gets stolen? The first thing is to remember that while the event can be shocking and traumatic, it’s best not to panic. Instead, there are several steps to take that can ensure you receive your insurance payout with as little stress as possible. 

All our temporary insurance policies are fully comp, so you will be covered for theft whether you’re a learner driver or a tradesman who needs their vehicle protected. Follow the advice here so you know what to do if your car is ever stolen.

Has Your Car Been Stolen?

If you cannot find your vehicle, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s been stolen! There are several other reasons you might be unable to find your vehicle, the first of which being that you’ve parked in an unfamiliar location – so make sure to check the surrounding area thoroughly before starting to panic. This can also be aided by screenshotting your location on a map, or utilising technology that pinpoints the location of your car.

If you share your car with other people you might want to check in with them before reporting it to the police. Someone might have required the vehicle for a short-term drive that they felt wasn’t necessary to mention. 

Unfortunately, another reason your vehicle might not be in the ‘correct’ spot is that it may have been towed or impounded. There are many reasons your car may be impounded including parking violations, meaning if you have parked illegally you could return to an empty space, thinking your car has been stolen..

To check if your car has been stolen or impounded, you can ring your local police station, who will be able to advise if your vehicle has recently been towed. If so, you’ll need to get your car out of an impound, using impound release insurance.  

While these events – someone borrowing the car, misplacing it, or having the vehicle be towed or impounded can occur, vehicle theft is still a real and pertinent problem, which is why we’ve put together the steps you can follow if your car is actually stolen.

Steps to Follow If Your Car Has Been Stolen

Contact Your Police Station

Once you’re confident that your vehicle has been stolen, your first step should always be to call the police. Ringing the non-emergency line on 101 will get you through to your local police station, where you’ll need to have your vehicle’s make, colour, model, and registration number to hand. As a result, saving these into a note on your phone is a great way to be prepared if your vehicle is stolen, especially as time could be of the essence. 

You’ll then be given a crime reference number, which you’ll need when you contact your car insurance company. 

If your car is stolen and it has a black box, be sure to let the police know as it could be very valuable information as it can be used to help track the car. Don’t attempt to locate the car yourself, as you could put yourself in danger.

How long it takes the police to find a stolen car is dependent on several factors, including how sophisticated the crime was, coverage of surveillance cameras, witnesses, details provided in your initial report, and the location of the crime.

Call Your Vehicle Insurance Company

After you’ve notified the police, you’ll need to call your car insurance company to begin the claims process. Try to remember everything that your stolen vehicle contained, as you may be asked this when you report the missing car.

Try to have your policy number to hand when you call your car insurer to make this step quicker. You may also have several questions at this time, including whether your car insurance covers theft or wondering if a stolen vehicle will make your insurance premium go up. Luckily, most car insurance policies will indeed cover you if your vehicle is stolen or broken into. 

Regarding whether your insurance premium will go up if your vehicle is stolen, this is dependent on several factors. These include how comprehensive your policy is, and whether it includes theft, in addition to claim history, the circumstances of the theft and if you’d consider features that might mitigate future theft, such as purchasing a Faraday Bag, steering wheel locks or installing a ‘smart’ car alarm.

Inform the DVLA once your insurance provider pays you out

If your insurance company pays out for your stolen car claim, you must notify the DVLA that it’s been bought by the company. Even if the car is never found, the insurance firm now owns your stolen vehicle, so the DVLA will have to update their car records. Wondering how to notify DVLA of your stolen car? The police should do so when you originally file a police report, but you can also contact the DVLA yourself.

Get A Vehicle Tax Refund.

Another reason you must notify the DVLA about your stolen car is to get a vehicle tax refund. This will be calculated from the date you provide them with your information, so contact them as soon as possible and request a V33 form, making sure to include your crime reference number. Your refund will usually be provided in four to six weeks. 

As soon as you inform the DVLA that you don’t own the vehicle anymore, they’ll cancel your vehicle tax. If you pay the surcharge through Direct Debit, this will be automatically cancelled.

What to Do if a Car With Private Number Plates Has Been Stolen?

While a private or personalised number plate will not count as a modification that increases or invalidates your insurance premium (in the majority of cases!), you do need to let your insurance provider know. This is partially because purchasing a private number plate can be expensive, resulting in a subsequent rise in the value of your vehicle. 

If your vehicle is stolen while you have personalised licence plates attached, it’s essential to follow the same steps as above. However, it’s also important to note that your vehicle’s tax refund won’t be processed automatically, and that you’ll actually have to request this. You’ll also need to prove the stolen car was taxed and MOT’d when it was taken, and after taking these steps, you’ll be able to ask for a tax refund.

Be sure to make an application to keep your personalised plate immediately after your car is stolen. This will ensure the number stays in your name so you can transfer it to another vehicle at a later date.

From 9th March 2015, the law was changed to reduce keeping a personalised number plate from £105 down to £80. This applies to online and paper transactions. 

This change has seen the £25 fee for renewing the retention of a personalised plate every year, being removed. The renewal has also been extended to 10 years.

Does Insurance Cover Car Theft?

The payout you receive will be highly dependent on your specific policy, in addition to the circumstances regarding the theft. For example, car theft is usually covered by the ‘comprehensive’ part of your policy, meaning an insurer is liable to compensate you for vehicle loss. However, there can be exclusions to this, including:

  • If the key was left in the vehicle (which may be considered negligence on the drivers behalf)
  • Fraudulent reporting 
  • Failure to report the theft in a timely manner
  • The location of the theft (for example, if you had driven outside of the country)
  • The model of the vehicle (as some luxury cars or old models are more likely to be stolen)
  • Any personal property left inside the vehicle at the time of the theft which would make theft more likely

Keep in mind that things can delay or even jeopardise your claim. For example, if your car is stolen and the key or keyless entry card was left near or in the car, some insurers may not cover it. This includes cars featuring advanced technology.

‘Connected’ cars can become victims of a theft known as ‘relay theft’. Car thieves use a special device to get a signal from the key fob to get into the car. This device can pick up a signal from more than 100 metres away from the car and can be bought very cheaply online.

Similarly, other things that could delay your claim include any suspicions of fraud, any lapses in coverage due to non-payment or the aforementioned exclusions, which may even lead to the breakdown of a payout altogether.

The Insurance Claim Process

Luckily, the process for claiming insurance when a car is stolen is usually quite simple. The first step is filing a police report and opening a claim with your insurance company, which will then be followed by an investigation from the insurance provider. Finally, your insurer will determine the value of your vehicle, which will be the basis for payout.

However, it is important to note that stolen car claims can take a while to complete, and many insurance firms have a 30 day waiting period before they’ll payout. However, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) says that insurance firms must either settle the claim or provide a reasonable offer within three months. 

You can also check our guides on what to keep in your carcar insurance guides and why car insurance is mandatory to help keep yourself protected from any risks of your car being stolen.

Tips for Protecting Your Car From Being Stolen?

Securing your car against theft is easier than you think! In addition, investing in proactive measures to prevent theft can not only help to prevent the risk of your vehicle being stolen – it can also lower your insurance premiums as an added bonus.

Protecting Your Vehicle Against Car Theft

One of the first things we recommend any vehicle owner to install is an alarm system. Doing so will ensure that anyone trying to break into your car is not only deterred by the loud noise, but these alarms can actively alert those in the nearby areas, meaning any nearby police might then be able to identify criminals and prevent future theft. 

Similarly, there are several anti-theft devices you can install with ease in your vehicle. These range from items as simple as a steering wheel lock or a lock that sits on your brake pedals, or more complex and expensive tools such as an immobiliser, which requires you to input a ‘key’ before the vehicle starts. While the former tools can be quite obvious to a thief, who might then remove them, ‘ghost’ immobilisers can be hidden in your vehicle, meaning that thieves will not only be unable to remove the technology, but these tools often contain trackers, meaning you’ll be able to locate your vehicle, even if stolen. 

In addition to these measures, there are several other ‘free’ preventative measures you should consider, such as always parking your vehicle in a secure and well-lit area whenever possible, or making sure to always remove your keys from the ignition and to keep them in places that are not immediately visible or accessible.

Factors That Contribute To Car Theft

While they may be obvious, there are a few ways that you can help to deter theft. The first of these is by always ensuring valuables are well-hidden or removed from your car, as a laptop or expensive phone left on the seat is likely to inspire a break-in. 

You should always make sure to never leave your car unlocked or running, even if you’re only planning on exiting the vehicle for a minute. All windows of opportunity, no matter how small, could end in disaster. 

Finally, for those with cars that rely on smart technology, you should always keep software updated to the latest version. With software continuously updated to plug any gaps that could make your car susceptible to theft, having the latest, most protected version is essential to protect your vehicle. 

Unfortunately, vehicle theft can happen to anyone, meaning every driver should know what to do if your car is stolen. However, there are ways of minimising the risk of it happening to you, including installing a GPS tracking system in the car and keeping it in a locked and secure place.

If you have your car stolen, it’s essential to keep calm and follow the steps outlined in this guide to recover your stolen car. Remember, the sooner you file a police report, the quicker you will find the vehicle. If you need to insure your vehicle for a short period of time, use our temporary insurance options to keep your car covered for theft always.

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