Though modern cars have sophisticated security systems that are designed to prevent theft, you can be sure that thieves are always thinking of ways to seize vehicles that are not theirs.
Usually, comprehensive car insurance policies cover you for the theft of your car, as do third party, fire and theft policies. If your car is found but needs repairing, the insurance company will pay for this. If the car is not recovered, you will be compensated as per the terms of your policy. There will almost certainly be an excess to pay depending on the type of policy you have.
As well as theft cover, comprehensive insurance covers vandalism and may cover personal possessions in the car.
Reporting the theft to the police
Once you have established that your car has been stolen, and that you have not simply forgotten where you parked it, you need to report the theft to the police. The Police National Computer (PNC) will then be updated with a record of your vehicle. If a car is stopped by the police for any reason, they may check with the PNC to see whether it has been stolen. Some number plate recognition systems can also check a car against the list of stolen ones.
The police will give you a crime reference number. After you have received this, report the theft to your insurance company with the reference number.
What happens if your car is found?
If your car is found, it is unlikely that you can just go to its location and drive it. This is for safety reasons. The suspension, tyres, steering or other important components and systems could be damaged, making it unfit to drive. The car needs to be inspected to see if there is any damage, and your insurance company will pay for the cost of any repairs that are needed.
The police can arrange for a company to transport the car back to you. You will be charged a fee for this. Alternatively, if you are a member of a recovery service like the RAC or AA, your insurance company may allow this service to recover the vehicle.
If your car has been involved in a major crime, the police may need to spend some time forensically examining it before you get it back.
Settling a vehicle theft claim
If damage to the vehicle is minor, the insurance company should be able to settle the claim quickly. If the damage is major, it may take longer, though the insurance company is required to offer a settlement within three months. If repairs cost more than the car is worth, you will be given the market value of the car.
Your claim could be rejected if you left your keys in the car, the windows were down or an immobiliser or alarm system was not active. There have been cases where cars have been left running unattended on driveways to defrost them and opportunist thieves have stolen the car by simply driving away with the keys in the ignition.
If a claim is rejected by your insurer, you can appeal to the Financial Ombudsmen Service.
What about personal possessions
Some insurance policies will cover you if any possessions left in your car have been stolen by a thief. Alternatively, you may be able to claim on your home contents insurance. Many car insurance policies do not cover you for credit card, debit card or cash left in the car. Business items such as tools or samples may not be covered either.
In most cases, it’s advisable not to leave valuables in your car at all. Most policies require personal possessions to be out of site, in a glovebox or concealed in the boot. A claim for a wallet or laptop left in clear view on the back seat may be rejected.