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stay safe on the road

Any number of things can happen while you or a loved one is driving. This MasterKit will guard you against many of them. With a little planning, you'll learn the best ways to build a car emergency kit, talk to your family about road safety, and keep your cool after an accident.
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Article / 3 MINS

My Car Was Just Stolen. Now What?

Having your car stolen probably isn't something you worry about too much — until it happens. Then you understand what a violation of your privacy and security it truly is. Here's how to recover quickly from the loss.

If you head out to your driveway or parking spot only to realize your car has been stolen, it can be a big emotional shock — after all, car theft is a violation of your security as well as a major inconvenience. But you have to act quickly, and there are some things you might not think of in the heat of the moment. These do's and don'ts can help you handle the situation calmly and keep you in control.

DO Report the Theft Immediately

After you've taken a few moments to be sure your car wasn't towed (or that you didn't simply forget where you parked), call the police. They will want to know where your car was stolen from and when you last saw it. They'll also need to know your car's make, model, year, color, license plate number, and information about your GPS or tracking system, if you have one. That way they can immediately begin tracking your car.

DON'T Expect the Car to Be Returned

About 700,000 vehicles are stolen in the United States each year, and of those, just over half are recovered.1 Stolen cars are often chopped up for parts, or used by thieves to commit other crimes and then they abandon them, so even if your car is found and returned to you, it could be in poor condition. If that's the case in your situation, your auto insurance company might compensate you for repairs, or it might be a total loss. Three of the five most stolen cars in 2015 were late model and likely targeted for their parts, including the 1996 Honda Accord, 1998 Honda Civic, and 2004 Chevrolet Pickup.2

Car theft is on the decline, but thieves are more sophisticated than ever. Here's what to do if your car goes missing.
DO Keep Backup Copies of Your Information

Do you know your license plate number or your car's VIN off the top of your head? If your car is stolen, and you have to go digging for that information, it'll slow down the investigation process quite a bit. Keep copies of these numbers, along with a copy of your registration and insurance policy, in a secure but easily accessible place. The police and your insurance company will be asking for a lot of material, and you can make things easier on yourself by having it ready ahead of time.

Pro Tip: If your car is vandalized (rather than stolen), your insurance company will probably want proof that the damage is recent. It's always a good idea to take a few dated "before" photos of your car every now and then, just in case you need them, to submit along with the "after" photos.

DON'T Ignore the Insurance Company's Requests

Submit a claim with your insurance company within 24 hours of the theft, or as soon as possible after you've filed the police report. If your insurance company contacts you requesting additional information, get it as quickly as possible so your claim goes smoothly.

DO Make a List of Items That Were in Your Car

Any personal belongings in a stolen car are also considered stolen, and your car insurance company might compensate you for them, depending on your policy. While you're gathering information, make a list of any valuable items that were in your car, such as a laptop or other electronic equipment, workout gear, textbooks or tools. Be prepared to provide receipts for items that you're including in your insurance claim.

Pro Tip: If there's anything unique about your car, such as custom body- or interior-work, share this information with the police (and if you have pictures, that's even better). Even if your car is discovered long after it is stolen, these details might help the police tie different crimes together and break a case.

DON'T Drive a Returned Vehicle Without Inspecting It

On the off-chance you get your car back in drivable condition, pull on a pair of rubber gloves, grab a flashlight and give it a very thorough overview. You don’t know who drove your car or where it's been, so take a look for anything that isn't yours, especially for dangerous items such as weapons, drugs or even drug paraphernalia. If you find anything, notify the police and have your report number handy. You don't want anyone in your car to get hurt, and you certainly don't want to get pulled over with contraband in your car.

DO Consider Anti-Theft Measures

Whether or not your car is recovered, now is the time to consider taking new measures to deter would-be thieves from touching your car again. Consider a new alarm system or maybe a GPS tracking device, which will help the police locate your vehicle. A tracking device might even lead the police to more stolen cars, or even better, the car thieves themselves.

Pro Tip: In nine states, insurance companies are required to offer discounts to owners who use anti-theft devices, and many other insurance companies offer this perk, even if they're not required to.3 Check with your insurance agent to see if an alarm or GPS tracking system yields a discount on your premiums.

While unfortunately there are no sure tips to definitely getting your car back once it's stolen, these will get you started in getting the police on the case. And if the cops don't locate your vehicle, at least you'll know how to best work with your insurance company to help get you back on the road in a new car.
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