How to Recover Your Stolen Vehicle

Quick action on your part may help you get your vehicle back.

You step outside of your home and immediately notice that there is an empty spot where your car was last parked. You are the only one who holds the keys and you also know you did not lend your vehicle to a friend.

Likely, your car has been stolen and your chances of recovery may hinge on what you do next. Increase those chances by taking the following steps.

2017 Lincoln Continental.
2017 Lincoln Continental.

1. Notify the Police

Contact your police department the moment you confirm your car has been stolen. The police may not ultimately recover your vehicle, but your chances of stolen vehicle recovery may increase by giving the authorities your vehicle information including the make, model, model year, license plate number, and a vehicle description. Your description should include details that set your car apart from the pack such as unique striping, a bumper sticker, or custom wheels.

Once information is shared with the police it is added to a stolen vehicle system database. Some police departments utilize an automated license plate recognition system with cameras mounted on police cars that scan license plates as they drive by. When a “hit” is returned, the police can react and hopefully apprehend the driver and complete the stolen vehicle recovery with a happy ending.

If your car is equipped with LoJack or is OnStar enabled, make certain that these services have been notified as well. File a report with your insurance company too.

2. Check Surveillance Cameras

Check the footage of your security camera if you have one. It may reveal the face of the person who stole your car. Look for another vehicle that may have been involved in the theft.

For instance, a flatbed tow truck may have pulled up and loaded your vehicle. Markings on the truck can reveal the name of the company or its license plate. Forward your findings to the police.

Ask your police department to review their camera system as well. In many urban areas, cameras are fixed on top of light posts and other public areas. In other places, red-light cameras photograph cars as they drive by and may reveal your car. You can also ask your neighbors to check their own security camera footage to aid your stolen vehicle recovery effort.

2016 Honda HR-V
2016 Honda HR-V.

3. Spread the Word

Tell everyone you know that your car has been stolen. Your neighbors, friends and family should be alerted, with a description of the vehicle shared. Notify local retailers, cab companies, package delivery companies, and anyone else who does business in your area.

Make use of social media to help you spread the word. Post a description of the vehicle on Facebook, setting up an album with photographs of your car. Ask your online friends to share your post with their friends — the more eyes that see your post, the better the chances for stolen vehicle recovery.

Share your information on Twitter, Google Plus, and Instagram as well. If it is a classic car, reach out to Hagerty’s and ask them to spread the word.

4. Keep an Eye Out Online

Set up a Google Alerts to monitor the web for information about your vehicle. Google’s vast Internet web presence can aid you in stolen vehicle recovery if the person who stole your car attempts to sell it online.

With Google Alerts, set up an alert for your car’s make and model as the search query. Then, choose “everything” as the result type. Follow that up by selecting “as-it-happens” to get instant updates to your smartphone. Select “all results” to ensure that no information is filtered.

Establish other alerts for unique descriptors such as the engine size, the type of transmission, and body style.

2015 Chrysler 300
2015 Chrysler 300.

Stolen Vehicle Recovery Done Right

No stolen vehicle recovery effort can possibly succeed apart from diligence on your part. You need to orchestrate the process by working with the police and your community to help locate your vehicle.

Your best chance of recovering your vehicle is within the first 72 hours after it was stolen. After that, your chances of recovery fall sharply possibly leaving you with negotiating with your insurance company for a settlement.


See AlsoHot Wheels: Is Your Car More Likely to be Stolen?

Photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine. All rights reserved.

Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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