Technology is getting the upper hand on car thieves. Thanks to GPS and sophisticated anti theft systems, car thefts have been on the decline for most of the 21st century but they still happen and if you’re one of the 1.1 million people who become a victim of auto theft, you’ll need to know what to do next.
Your role in the recovery effort will be to deal primarily with your auto insurance company. How you handle each step of the process determines how much of a financial impact you’ll take from the theft. Here’s what you need to do to gain the best result.
Just like your homeowners insurance, the amount of documentation you keep determines how much you get in the end. If you “pimped out” your car with custom wheels, neon, chrome, and other upgrades, take pictures and save your receipts. If you keep a laptop in the car for business, take a picture of the computer and the identification sticker that matches the receipt. Anything you expect your insurance company to reimburse has to have an overwhelming amount of documentation.
As soon as you find that your car was stolen, contact the police. No insurance company will reimburse you for any loss that doesn’t have a police report. After that, contact your insurance company immediately. Some companies allow you to report the theft online or you may have to call and speak to an agent. Document the date, time, and name of the person you speak to regarding your claim. Anybody, you speak to throughout the entire claims process should be included on your call log. Save all e-mails and phone messages until the dispute is resolved.
Insurance company Geico  recommends compiling the following documentation: The title if you have one, the location of all keys both now and prior to the theft, and the names of anybody who has access to the vehicle. Additionally, now is the time to find all of the documents that you have saved through the life of the vehicle. This might include mileage and service records, receipts for upgrades, and a list of all personal property stolen from your vehicle.
Each state has different laws that govern the recovery of personal items that were lost due to an auto theft. Sometimes homeowners insurance will cover property stolen from your car. Some insurance professional advise against contacting your homeowners insurance company until you know if your auto policy will cover the loss of the items inside your car.
What if you Lease?
If you lease or finance your car, contact the company holding the loan or lease and tell them about the auto theft. Give them your insurance company’s information and advise them to speak directly to the insurance company regarding the payoff of the loan or lease.
What if the Vehicle is Recovered?
If the police later recover your vehicle, alert your insurance company. They will determine if the car is repairable or a total loss. At that point, you can start making decisions about what you want to do next.
Being pleasant and respectable to the claims adjuster will help you to get a better result in the end but understand that the insurance company wants to pay the least amount possible where you want to be paid the most. If an offer sounds unfair, present them with reasons why it is wrong and ask them to reconsider. Remind them of the documentation you sent and how it supports the amount you feel is reasonable.
In the end, you will most likely not be made fully whole. You may have to purchase a new car that will cost more than the money you received from the insurance company and many of your personal belongings in the car may not be reimbursed. You shouldn’t have to pay a large amount of money out of pocket but being reasonable and getting the process finished quickly so you can move on is worth the compromise.
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