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July 4, 2023

Auto theft is on the rise: What to do if your car is stolen

3 min read


Auto theft continues to increase across the country with a recent report from the Canadian Finance and Leasing Association saying that a vehicle is stolen every six minutes in Canada.

In 2022, Canadian insurers paid out more than $1 billion in claims related to stolen cars, which is the highest amount the industry has ever paid for vehicle theft in a year. This directly impacts all Canadians and results in higher premiums for everyone.

All provinces are seeing year-over-year increases in car thefts. According to Équité Association, Quebec is leading the way with a 50% increase between 2021 and 2022 followed closely by Ontario which saw its numbers rise by 48.3%.

In Ontario, 61% of the vehicles stolen in 2022 were made in 2017 or newer. But anyone can be a victim of automobile theft, regardless of what they drive.

Discovering an empty spot where your car once stood can be an overwhelming experience. Your head has a tendency to start racing, and important things can be forgotten. Before assuming that your vehicle has been stolen, take a deep breath and make sure you haven’t parked in a tow-away zone, or that a family member hasn’t unexpectedly borrowed your car for the day.

If you still believe that your vehicle has been stolen, here are the steps to take.

My car has been stolen – what should I do?

1 – Contact the police immediately. You will need to file a police report before you can move forward with the next steps. Call your local police station to do this, not 911. To make the report go as smooth as possible, it is best to have the following information on hand:

  • The make, model, year and colour of the vehicle
  • The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • The license plate number
  • The last location of the vehicle
  • A list of valuables that were in the vehicle at the time
  • Any specific or unique details about the vehicle

Once the report has been filed, remember to request a copy for yourself as you’ll need to share it with your insurance company.

2 – Call your broker or your auto insurer’s 24-hour claims line. As soon as you get off the phone with the police, contact your insurance company. Not only will this start the claims process, but it will also help protect you should the thief damage property or injure others while driving your vehicle. In addition to the information you gave to the police, have your policy number handy as well.

Remember: Your car insurance policy must include specified perils, comprehensive, or all perils to be covered for theft. You can check your policy or talk with your broker if you’re unsure about what type of coverage you have.

3 – Alert your bank and change any important passwords. If any electronic devices or official documents were in the car, thieves can use these to commit identity theft, so it is very important to make sure that your accounts are secure as soon as possible.

4 – Let your vehicle’s financing or leasing company know. If you are financing or leasing your car, you must report the theft to the relevant company. If the vehicle is never recovered, your insurer will work out the amount of the reimbursement based on the terms outlined in your policy.

5 – Call your home insurance company. If you had any personal belongings or other valuables in the vehicle at the time of the theft, you will have to contact your home insurance provider as well (if it’s different than your auto insurer) as these items are not covered by your car insurance policy.

6 – Check if you’re covered for a rental. The cost of a rental vehicle could be covered by your insurance policy, though some limitations may apply. For example there is a 72-hour waiting period after the theft has been reported to the police or your insurance company. A car rental might also be available through your car’s extended warranty, so remember to ask your insurance provider or your lender about your options.

7 – Be patient. All told, insurance investigations can take up to 30 days. If your vehicle is found, it may be damaged or missing essential parts. If the car is no longer fit for the road, isn’t cost effective to repair or is never recovered, it may be considered a total loss and your insurer will offer you a settlement. But this process will likely take a bit of time.

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What is the best way to protect your vehicle against car theft?

In order to help reduce the chance of your car being stolen, Équité Association recommends using a layered approach.

Layer One has to do with everyday, simple precautions. This includes things like keeping the doors locked at all times and ensuring the windows are completely closed. It also means parking in well-lit areas and never leaving the keys in the ignition or starting your car remotely (even on cold days when it’s going to need time to warm up).

Layer Two involves installing anti-theft devices, such as alarms, steering column collars, brake pedal locks, window etchings and on-board diagnostic port locks.

Layer Three includes installing vehicle immobilisers, for example smart keys or starter, ignition and fuel disablers.

Layer Four involves investing in a tracking system. These can alert you or a monitoring service that your car has been stolen, and may be able to track the vehicle remotely as well.

We’re here to help

Want to make sure you have the right coverage to protect you if your vehicle is ever stolen? Reach out to us, and our insurance specialists can review your policy and discuss options with you. If you’re a Mitch client and are a victim of car theft, call us so that we can assist with your claim and support you throughout the entire process.

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