What do I do when my car is stolen?

If you’re ever unfortunate enough to have your car stolen, it can be a deeply unsettling experience, and you may not immediately know what to do. This handy checklist can help you give the Gardaí the best chance of recovering your beloved motor.

Driving | crime prevention

Think it over

It’s totally understandable that, for a lot of people, finding a gap where they were expecting to find their car, can really throw them. That’s why, if you ever find yourself in a similar position, it’s really important to take a deep breath, have a think, and run through what might have happened in your head before you call the Gardaí. You’d be amazed at the number of people who’ve reported their car stolen only to discover:

  • It was towed
  • They’d parked elsewhere
  • It was repossessed
  • It was impounded
  • Someone legitimately borrowed it.

Call the Guards

Once you’re certain your car has actually been stolen, call the Gardaí to report it as soon as possible. Be sure to get a reference number from them as your car insurance company may ask you for it.

If possible, when making a report you should have:

  • Your driver licence details
  • Contact details
  • Address where the theft took place
  • Licence number, make model and colour of your car
  • A photograph of your car if you have one handy
  • Logbook details and VIN number (chassis number)

It’s also a good idea to take a photograph of where your car was parked to show to both the Gardaí and the insurance company.

Old man looking out window on the phone

Tracking your car

These days, many cars come equipped with sophisticated electronic tracking devices that can be used by the Gardaí to find stolen vehicles. If your car comes fitted with one and you’re sure it’s been stolen, you should give the Guards access to your tracking information.

Contact your insurance company by email or telephone

Once you’ve talked to the Gardaí and reported the theft, it’s important to contact your insurance company next. They will want to know the following information:

  • The incident reference number given to you by the Gardaí
  • Details of where your car was stolen- with a photograph if possible
  • A description of the car - with a photograph if possible
  • The location of all your keys
  • A list of any personal property in the car
  • Whether your car is leased or owned

Please also make sure to get an insurance reference number when you report the theft to your insurance company. You’ll need this if you have to fill out any further documents.

In fact, it may be a good idea to get a folder or plastic wallet to keep all of your claim information together in one place and to hand.

Also, be sure to check whether your insurance includes a replacement car for while you’re without.

House security

Sometimes, it isn’t just about the car. If by any chance your house keys were in your car when it was stolen, you may also need to change your locks, as thieves may be able to locate your house and could break in. This should be done immediately, because apart from the safety and property considerations, you may not be insured by your insurer for a home break-in as a result of having house keys stolen from your car.

Fitting a new door lock

Phone security

Remember: if you had a mobile phone taken with the car, you’ll need to contact your mobile provider to avoid running up a large bill. Also, these days, many smart phones allow you to track or download data from a lost phone online. It may also be possible to switch off or wipe your phone’s memory from a computer.

If there is an outstanding debt on your car, you should also contact the lending company to let them know your car has been stolen.

Preventing car theft

Far better than knowing what to do if ever your car is stolen, get to know what to do to avoid it being taken in the first place. In fact, America’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates between 40-50% of all car theft is preventable.

Here are some simple ways to avoid having your car stolen:

  • Don’t leave your keys in the ignition if you’re not with your car
  • Never leave your car doors open
  • Keep your car locked
  • Don’t defrost or heat your car with the engine running if you’re not with your car
Locking car door with car keys

Buying a car - checking it’s not stolen

Another great way to cut down on car theft in general is to be aware of stolen cars for sale. If there isn’t a market for them, people won’t steal them. So, if you’re buying a car privately, do a stolen vehicle check to make sure it’s not registered as stolen. Remember, it’s illegal to receive stolen goods and if you don’t check in advance, you’re personally liable. The car could be seized and you’ll be down whatever you paid for it.

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