What happens when your car is stolen and then found?

12 minute read Published on Oct 22, 2023 by BrokerLink Communications

Close-up shot of a man wearing a black shirt and black gloves trying to open a car door

Having your car stolen is a nightmare, but what happens if it’s found? While you might be relieved to know where your car has been located, you may be wondering how this impacts your car insurance claim, as well as what state your car will be in when it’s finally returned to you. This article seeks to answer these questions and more. Continue reading to find out what happens when your car is stolen, and then found.

What to do when your car is stolen

Before jumping ahead to your vehicle being found, let’s first dive into the topic of what to do when your car is stolen. Below is a step-by-step guide on what to do after you notice that your car is missing:

1. Report your missing car to the police

Similar to how you report a car accident to the police, you will report your missing car to the police by calling them. The owner of the missing car is the one who should report the vehicle stolen. This can typically be done over the phone. However, you can also go down to your local police station in person if you wish. Be prepared to answer several questions about reporting the theft.

The first step is for the owner of the stolen vehicle to report the theft to the police. This can typically be done either by phone, in person, or, in some jurisdictions, online. When you report a vehicle missing, you should be prepared to answer several questions about the vehicle in question, such as where and when it was last seen, the time frame you believe it to have gone missing in, your licence plate number, the make, model, colour, and year of the car, your vehicle identification number (VIN), and any identifying customizations, marks, or modifications on the car.

You can also inform the police if there were any items inside the vehicle at the time it was stolen, such as a wallet, as well as whether the car is equipped with any kind of anti-theft or GPS device.

2. Let your insurance company know what happened

The next step is to let your car insurance company know about your missing vehicle. You might think this isn’t necessary, especially since the police likely haven’t completed their investigation at this point, but it’s still a good idea. Just like how calling your insurance company after a minor car accident is important, so too is calling them after your vehicle has gone missing. Plus, the sooner you contact your provider, the smoother the claims process will go.

It is worth noting, however, that most insurance providers in Canada will invoke a waiting period usually around 30 days for stolen vehicle claims in case the car is found. If the car is located during this 30-day waiting period, you will notify your insurance company and they will assess the damage, basing the claim on any damage done to the stolen car. If the car is not recovered within the waiting period, the insurance company will proceed with the claim based on the assumption that the car will never be found.

When filing a claim for a stolen car, you should be prepared to provide the following pieces of information: the police report, eyewitness statements, photos, videos, your car title, the location of all keys before and after the vehicle went missing, the names and contact information of every person who had access to the car, a description of your car, the make, model, and year, as well as the mileage, upgrades, customizations, and service records, your insurance policy number, and the contact information of your financing or leasing company if applicable.

Along with this information, you will likely also need to fill out an insurance claims form sent by your provider. Nowadays, the insurance claims process is largely conducted online, meaning you should be able to electronically submit all documents and evidence on your insurance company’s website. After that, an insurance adjuster will be assigned to review your case and they will ultimately make a recommendation to the insurance company about whether your claim should be approved and if so, what the payout should be.

Lastly, if your car is leased or financed, you should also take care to contact your lender. As a borrower, you have an obligation to inform them if your car is stolen. You can also request that your loan payments be paused until the police investigation is complete.

For more information on how the car insurance claims process works or how many car insurance claims per year, contact BrokerLink.


3. The police will begin their investigation

After a police report for your stolen car has been filed, the police will begin the investigation. This usually involves visiting the alleged scene of the crime to gather any extra evidence they might find. They will then proceed to enter the information about the stolen vehicle into the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), which is a national database that all law enforcement agencies across Canada have access to. Listing your stolen vehicle here increases the odds of locating it since the search can be coordinated across jurisdictions.

As the police continue with their investigation, they will use various methods to try and locate and recover your vehicle. This may include reviewing surveillance footage, canvassing nearby neighbourhoods, interviewing locals, and following up on any leads.

4. The police recover your vehicle (maybe)

When your car is stolen, you probably have high hopes that it will be found. The reality is that many stolen cars are never located. However, when they are, the police will recover it on your behalf and notify you. They will then begin the process of returning it to you, though this can take some time if the police need to review it as evidence.

Please note that if the person who stole the vehicle has been identified, there may be legal proceedings that accompany the recovery of your vehicle. For instance, the person may be apprehended and charged with theft or possession of stolen property, among other crimes.

What happens when the police find your car

If the police find your car, you’re probably wondering what happens next. We go into detail about that process below:

1. The police will notify you that your vehicle has been recovered

First, the law enforcement agency that has been investigating your stolen car will contact you to let you know that they have recovered it. They will then provide details about the current location of the vehicle and its condition.

Specifically, they will mention if they believe that the car was involved in criminal activity. If this is the case, the vehicle will likely be held as evidence for some time, until the police complete their investigation.

2. The police release your vehicle back to you

Once your vehicle has been cleared for release, meaning the police have wrapped up their investigation, the car will be returned to you. In some cases, you might be able to drive the car right out of the police station. However, in other cases, the car might be damaged, which means you might need to have it towed to your home, an auto body shop, a car dealership, or another location of your choosing. Please note that you may be on the hook for the cost of the tow and any repairs. Contact BrokerLink to find out more about insurance coverage for towing or whether basic car insurance in Toronto covers these types of repairs.

3. Update your insurance company

By now you’ve already let your insurance company know that your car went missing. However, if it’s recovered, you then need to contact them again to notify them of its recovery. If the car is damaged, the insurance company will have the adjuster inspect the damage to determine the cost of repairs. If the cost of repairs is high, i.e. more than the value of your car, they may deem it a write-off. You would then be compensated according to the type of policy you have, whether it’s replacement cost or actual cash value coverage.

If the cost of repairs is minimal, they may issue a payout directly to you via your no-fault insurance plan. Whether the insurance company issues a payout to you or not ultimately depends on the type of coverage you have in your policy. If you do not have comprehensive coverage that covers theft, then the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle may fall entirely on you. Please note that if your car is stolen then found, you likely won’t need to cancel a car insurance claim. You simply need to inform your provider of the new information, i.e. that your car has been found.

4. Replace the damaged car or have it repaired

If the insurance company deems your car a write-off, then you will likely have no choice but to replace it. If it isn’t a write-off, then you can take the car in for repair. Car dealerships and auto body shops across Canada offer a range of repair services. Your insurance provider can also give you a list of mechanics they work with.

How insurance companies calculate payouts for stolen cars

When determining the payout for a stolen car, whether it is recovered or not, an insurance company is likely to consider the following factors:

The coverage in your policy

First, an insurance company will review your policy to see what types of coverage are included in it. The reality is that not all insurance policies cover you if your car is stolen, whether it is recovered or not. There is one main type of insurance that covers stolen cars and that’s comprehensive insurance. Other types of insurance, like gap insurance, rental car reimbursement coverage, and new car replacement coverage, may apply, but ultimately, comprehensive insurance is the type that you typically need to have. If you only have basic car insurance, that features liability coverage or accident benefits coverage, your stolen car won’t be covered.

Actual cash value

Next, an insurance company will consider the value of your car at the time it went missing. This is because, assuming your policy has actual cash value coverage, which most do, the insurance company will need to estimate your car’s value before it was stolen to determine how much of a payout you will receive. Actual cash value takes into account depreciation, so the insurance company is likely to assess your car’s age, condition, mileage, and more.

Your deductible amount

All insurance payouts are partially determined by the deductible you’ve selected for your policy. Since you are required to pay the deductible amount toward an insured loss, the payout you receive will factor in your deductible. So for example, if your car’s actual cash value is determined to be $20,000 at the time it was stolen or after it’s recovered, if the insurer deems it a write-off, and you have a $2,000 deductible, your insurance payout will be $18,000.

If the car is leased or you have any car loans

Finally, if the car is leased or you have outstanding car loans, this will also determine what your insurance payout will be. For instance, if the actual cash value calculated is less than the remaining balance on your car loan, you may end up still owing money. The exception to this is if you purchased gap insurance, which can help cover you in this exact circumstance.

If the valuation of your car is more than your loan, then part of your payout would go directly to your lender, and then once any outstanding debts are settled, the rest would go to you.

Stolen car investigations in Canada

Stolen car investigations will vary, depending on where you live and what police force is handling the case. That said, the process will likely be similar to that outlined above. Further, how long the investigation takes can also differ, as it depends on so many factors like the details of the case, the resources that the local police force has available to them, and the procedures of the law enforcement agency.

If you want to check if your vehicle or another vehicle has been stolen in Canada, you can do so using the nationwide Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) or similar provincial databases. For example, in Ontario, residents can also check the Used Vehicle Information Package (UVIP), and in Quebec, they can check the SAAQ (Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec), which has a Register of personal and movable real rights (RPMRR).

Contact BrokerLink for more information on what happens if your car is stolen then found

If you still have questions about what happens when a stolen car is recovered, contact BrokerLink today. We can explain how a recovered car impacts the police investigation process, as well as how it can impact your car insurance policy. For instance, a BrokerLink auto insurance specialist can provide insight into which types of car insurance cover theft and how the insurance claims process works.

Beyond this, we can give you tips on 5 ways to save on your car insurance, as well as safe driving tips to help you keep premiums low. Contact BrokerLink today and request a free car insurance quote. We can provide one in minutes, whether you request your quote over the phone, in person, or on the BrokerLink website using our online quote tool.

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FAQs on stolen and recovered cars

Does a car lose value if it is stolen and then found?

It can, though it depends on the circumstances of the theft. If the theft involves damage to the car, then chances are it will reduce its value. This is especially the case if the car is deemed a total loss by your insurance company upon recovery. Cars that are deemed write-offs tend to be worth 20% to 40% less than other cars. Another circumstance other than damage that can devalue your car is the mileage. If the person who stole your car significantly increases the mileage, your car will be of a lower value than it was previously.

Mileage has a major impact on depreciation, which is why driving less is so important if you want to save money on car insurance. Plus, low mileage car insurance is usually much cheaper than regular car insurance.

Who owns the items inside a car that is stolen and then found?

If your car was found after the insurance claim had been filed and after the waiting period had passed, the insurance company may now have ownership of your car. Thankfully, even if this is the case, the personal items inside the car will still belong to you. Ownership of them does not transfer to your insurance company, simply because they were in the car.

Does insurance cover items stolen from a car?

No, most insurance policies, including comprehensive coverage, do not cover personal items stolen from a car. The only items that comprehensive insurance may cover are permanent fixtures in a car, like a steering wheel, built-in stereo, or catalytic converter. Other personal belongings, like jewellery, cash, electronics, etc. will not be covered, so you will not be able to file an insurance claim to help you pay to repair or replace any of these items. That said, you should check your home insurance policy in case it provides coverage for personal items stolen from a vehicle.

What happens once the police recover your stolen car?

When the police recover a stolen car, they will notify the owner of the car as soon as possible. From there, they will input the vehicle identification number and licence plate number into the Canadian Police Information Centre. Once the relevant data has been inputted and the car has been cleared as evidence, they will arrange a pickup time with the owner.

Is it worth keeping my car if it is recovered?

This ultimately depends on the state and condition of your car at the time of recovery. It also depends on your insurance company, as if they deem it a write-off, you may not have the option of keeping it even if you wanted to. Further, if the insurance claim has yet to go through, then ownership of the car is still yours, allowing you to choose what you want to do with it. However, if the claim already went through and you received your payout from the insurance company, then the company now has ownership over the car, which means they get to decide what happens to it.

What happens if my car is found years after it was stolen?

Though rare, it is possible for your stolen car to be located several years after it went missing. If this happens to you, then by this time, the insurance claims process would be complete which means the insurance company owns your car. Thus, it is up to the insurance company to decide what to do with it. In some cases, they may sell it if it’s in good enough condition.

If you have any questions, contact one of our local branches.