By Dez Duran-Lamanilao

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported that motor vehicle theft in the US increased by 3.1% from 2014 to 2015. In fact, a motor vehicle was stolen every 45 seconds in 2015. Whether your reason for buying a car is by necessity or luxury, it is every car owner’s responsibility to avoid getting it stolen.

Image source: Insurance Journal

But should you find yourself staring at an empty space where you are sure you last saw your car, here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind before you hit that panic button:

  1. If your car was parked on the road, there is a chance that you have parked it improperly and it may have been towed and impounded. Check the nearest impound lots to verify.
  2. Otherwise, call the police as soon as possible. Prepare the following information to make the police report as detailed as possible and increase the chances of vehicle recovery:
  • Every bit of information about the vehicle: vehicle identification number (VIN), make, model, color, year, license plate numbers, and distinguishing features or marks.
  • Photos of your car
  • Driver’s license
  1. Call your insurance company. Depending on the coverage of your policy, your insurer may ask for the following:
    • Proof of ownership
    • Location of all the keys of the vehicle
    • Names and contact details of everyone who has access to the vehicle
    • The same information your provided for the police report
    • A list of all valuables that were stolen along with the car
    • You also need to call your lender if the vehicle is financed or leased.
  2. If your vehicle has been recovered, do not forget to inform the police and your insurance company as well.

Some precautionary steps drivers take to avoid this unfortunate incident include parking in a secured area, not leaving valuables inside the car or keeping them out of sight from passersby, and yes, some people actually forget, locking the car.

While these measures have probably become second nature to you, there is always the risk of car theft. That is why your auto insurance company emphasizes these risks and even offers tips on how to avoid such scenario. Be sure that everything is explained to you when you purchase a policy and that you have understood the insurer’s terms and conditions.