What to do if someone breaks into your car

You decide to stop at the grocery store for some milk and eggs on your way home from work. You’re gone for maybe ten minutes, but by the time you wander out of the store and into the parking lot something terrible has happened. You squint as you approach your car—something looks funny about that window…

And just like that, your day, which has been great so far, isn’t very great anymore. Your car has been broken into. And you’re not alone, either. According to the Insurance Information Institute, almost 710,000 vehicles were reported stolen in 2015, and CNN reports that 1.85 million car thefts (break-ins) occur every year.

If this ever happens to you, there are a few things that you can do that will help the police and your insurance company help you. We’ve created a list of seven tips.

1. Leave the car as-is.

Your gut reaction may be to dive into the car and see what’s been taken. Resist this urge. Try not to touch anything. You risk disturbing evidence by entering the car or moving anything left behind. If you leave the car as it is, it’ll be easier for the police to do their job. They might even be able to dust for prints if you can identify specific items (especially CDs) that are out of place. It’s best to wait for the police to come and assess the scene—and their report will be important to your insurance company.

2. Get the police involved.

It’s important to call 911 and have them assess the scene and the damage done to your car. You should also file a police report, as this is necessary for your insurance company when they’re evaluating your claim (if you choose to file one.) When you go to make your report, have your driver’s license, registration, auto insurance, and a list of damages ready.

Most police departments will send someone to you, but if they ask you to come to the station instead, don’t take your vandalized car. Ask a friend or family for a ride to the police station. Remember, you don’t want to disturb the scene of the theft.

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3. Take pictures.

Take photos of the damage done  from the car break-in. Walk around the vehicle and get pictures at different angles of anything that the thief broke, scratched, or otherwise destroyed. Don’t be afraid of having too many pictures. In this case, more is better. Your insurance company will appreciate having as much information as possible.

4. Make a list.

It can also be helpful to write down a list of the belongings that were stolen during the car break-in. It’s best to get detailed with your list, as this will also be helpful to your insurance company.  

5. Cancel credit cards.

If you suspect that any of your cards, whether debit or credit, have been taken, get on the phone with your credit card company as soon as possible. Have them cancel the cards that have been taken. You don’t want to make your situation worse by falling prey to identity theft.

6. Get in touch with your insurance company.

When you do your own “evaluation” of the damage to your car and the value of the items stolen, take note of whether this amount is higher than your insurance deductible. If it is, you’ll probably want to file an insurance claim. Now, keep in mind that you may be dealing with both your auto insurance and your homeowners insurance. Your auto insurance will cover the damages done to your car if you have comprehensive insurance, but probably not the personal belongings that were stolen. That’ll be up to your homeowners insurance.

The bottom line is to give your insurance company the information they need about the car break-in, such as the police report number, and ask them for advice as far as getting the car repaired.

car break-in

7. Minimize risk of future car break-ins.

There are preventative measures that you can take that will help to protect you from another car break-in.

A few tips are:

  • Hide valuables out of sight. This includes stashing adaptors and cords.
  • Always lock your doors.
  • Keep your car tidy.
  • Park in well-lit, well-travelled areas.
  • If the thief broke a window, get it repaired as soon as you can. An open or covered window makes you a target for déjà vu.

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 Being a victim of car theft is no fun. But with these tips, you’ll be more prepared if it ever happens to you. Learn more about how InsuranceHub can help protect your car or get an auto insurance quote.