Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com.

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Jan 6, 2022

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The Lowdown

  • Most companies will have a waiting period of about one month to determine if your car is recovered before issuing any compensation
  • If someone attempts to sell the vehicle or apply for a new title, the car will be flagged as stolen
  • If you want to keep your stolen and recovered vehicle, you will need to have it examined by a claims adjuster

If you’ve ever been a victim of car theft, you’re not alone. Over 700,000 vehicles are stolen in the U.S. every year, collectively costing drivers billions of dollars.

However, having your vehicle stolen does not mean it’s gone forever. In 2019, the total value of vehicles reported stolen was over $6 billion. 56% of that value (about $3.4 billion) was recovered by law enforcement agencies and vehicle owners. In other words, it’s very common for drivers who are victims of car theft to get their vehicles back.

But what do you do if you get your car back and you no longer want it? Perhaps it has been damaged — or maybe time has passed since the theft and you’ve already bought a new car. Read on to learn more about your options and how your auto insurance might respond in the event that your stolen car is recovered.

No matter what you’re driving, you need insurance. To find the best auto insurance rates near you, enter your ZIP code into our free search tool.

What Do I Do When My Car is Recovered?

According to the NHTSA, when your car is stolen, your first step is probably contacting the police, then your insurer. This establishes a record of the theft, along with identifying characteristics that could be used to find your car (even after damage, repainting, or other changes to its appearance). Those include:

  • License plate number
  • Make, model, and color
  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • Other identifying physical characteristics

Filing the appropriate reports ensures that your vehicle is entered into national and state auto theft reporting systems. The event of the theft is also recorded on the vehicle’s title record. That way, if someone attempts to sell the vehicle or apply for a new title, the car will be flagged as stolen. Law enforcement should know how to locate a stolen car by VIN to help them recover it.

If your car is recovered, the best way to proceed depends on who found it.

  • Recovered cars are usually either found by the registered owner or law enforcement. If the police found your vehicle, they should advise you on how to proceed.
  • If you’re the one who located your stolen vehicle, you should immediately contact both the police and your insurance carrier. You should not attempt to drive the vehicle right away. There are multiple reasons for this:
  • You won’t know if there is any vehicle damage that could make it dangerous to drive.
  • If your car is still registered as stolen with the police, you risk being pulled over for driving a stolen vehicle.
  • Moving the vehicle could destroy potential evidence that could be used in a criminal investigation.

Contacting the authorities will ensure the stolen vehicle alert for your car is canceled and the recovery is noted on your title record. Check out our guide on what percentage of stolen cars are recovered.

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Can I Reject My Stolen Recovered Car?

Once all parties have been informed, the next step is figuring out what to do with your vehicle.

In some cases, you won’t actually want to recoup the car (nor forfeit the potential insurance benefits associated with its theft). So, can you reject it?

The answer to this question isn’t a simple yes or no. Your insurance provider is responsible for determining how you’re compensated for your stolen car.

They may consider a variety of factors when determining how to proceed with your car insurance claim and whether your stolen car is covered:

  • The length of time that has passed since the car was reported stolen
  • When you opened a claim
  • The coverage on your auto insurance policy
  • Whether the car is damaged or stripped of parts

Most insurance companies will have a waiting period, sometimes around one month, to see if your car is recovered before they issue any compensation. If your car is recovered within this window or soon after you file an insurance claim, you will likely not be able to reject the car without also forfeiting any benefits that would have been afforded to you with the claim.

Per Car and Driver, if you have already been paid out for the claim by the time it is recovered, the car may simply become the property of the insurance company. So, you may not always be able to choose to reject the car, but sometimes the option will be chosen for you by the insurer.

What If I Want to Keep My Car?

If you want to keep your stolen and recovered vehicle, you will need to have it examined by a claims adjuster. A claims adjuster is an insurance specialist who will determine if any damage occurred to the vehicle while it was out of your possession, what the cost of that damage is, and how that damage affects the overall value of the car.

If you have comprehensive insurance coverage, you won’t be liable for the damage that occurred. Depending on your plan and the adjuster’s assessment, you will receive a payout that can help cover the damage or the insurance company will provide other options to help you repair the vehicle.

Protect Your Investment

Whether you’ll receive any benefits for your stolen vehicle depends on your insurance policy.

Whether you find yourself back behind the wheel of your recovered vehicle or purchase a new model, be sure to cover it with a new policy. You never know when unexpected and costly events will threaten to take away your main mode of transportation. That’s why comprehensive auto insurance is so important.

We provide up-to-date information on all of the top car insurance providers. Using our easy comparison tools, you can find the cheapest rates with the best coverage to fit your individual wants and needs. We help you find the best rates on the market without having to bother with individual quotes or deal with upselling from the agencies themselves.

Take the guesswork out of car insurance and get started with a free quote comparison today with our comparison tool.