What to Do if Your Car Is Broken Into

Take pictures of the damage, file a police report and decide whether to get your insurance company involved.
Lacie Glover
By Lacie Glover 
Edited by Amy Danise

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Discovering that your car has been broken into is the pits, but don’t panic. Follow these steps.

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1. Document the scene

Take pictures of the damage if you can and make a list of any items stolen right away.

2. File a police report

Your insurance company likely will require a police report if you file a claim for a car break-in. If a police officer is sent over, don’t move the vehicle until the officer comes. Or, you may have to file a report at the police station; you can ask when you call.

Have these handy to file a police report:

  • Your driver’s license.

  • Vehicle registration.

  • Car insurance ID card.

  • Photos of the damage.

  • List of stolen items.

3. Place a fraud alert on your credit record, if necessary

If any items stolen have your address and birthdate, you can place a 90-day fraud alert on your credit record by contacting one of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. Whichever credit reporting company you call will contact the other two, so you won’t have to call all three. Here’s more from the Federal Trade Commission on placing a fraud alert.

4. Call your banks to freeze your accounts, if necessary

If any credit or debit cards were taken, contact the card issuers or bank immediately to block access to the accounts and get replacement cards.

5. Consider whether to file an insurance claim

Insurance for a car break-in can fall under two coverage types:

  • Renters or homeowners insurance will cover belongings stolen from the car as long as they aren't permanently affixed. For example, it will cover your smartphone but not the car stereo.

  • If you added comprehensive coverage to your auto insurance policy, it will pay for the damage to your car.

Before you file a claim, remember:

  • Your insurance rates might go up at renewal time after you file a claim.

  • If your deductible is higher than the cost of the damage or theft, you won’t get any money. For example, if your car costs $700 to repair and your comprehensive coverage deductible is $1,000, making an insurance claim won’t do you any good.

6. Get your car fixed

Get any damage repaired right away so your vehicle isn't vulnerable to another theft.

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Theft and insurance

No matter how diligent you are, break-ins are always possible. Comprehensive insurance pays for the damage, but it's optional unless you have a loan or lease. Choosing a higher deductible can lower the cost to add the coverage, but if your deductible is too high, this insurance won’t pay out for small amounts of damage.

Ways to deter theft

Some tips to prevent theft:

  • Always lock your car doors.

  • If you have an alarm system, activate it every time you leave the vehicle.

  • Don’t leave valuables in your car. Take items such as your smartphone with you, even if you’re just running into the supermarket for a short time. Put any items you must leave behind in the trunk or glove compartment or under a seat.

  • Report suspicious activity such as someone peering into vehicles.

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