The Insurance Bulletin
Advertiser Disclosure

What Happens When Your Car Is Stolen, Then Found?

car being stolen

Editors Note: Our editors’ evaluations and opinions are not influenced by our advertising relationships. We may earn a commission when you click on our affiliate partners’ links. Many of the links to brands we link to may be affiliate links.

Catherine Hiles
Updated November 2, 2022
3 Min Read

If your car is stolen, your first calls will likely be to the police to make a report and to your insurance company to make a claim. If you are still making payments on your car, you’ll also need to notify the lender. But what happens if your car is found months later after you’ve already filed an insurance claim and received the payout?

This scenario isn’t as unusual as it may seem. According to Statista, 56.4% of vehicles were recovered in 2020. If you’re one of the owners whose car is recovered, you’ll need to work with your insurer to determine next steps, which will differ depending on where in the claims process you are.

What happens if insurance pays for your stolen car that is then found?

If your car is recovered after your insurance company has already paid your stolen vehicle claim, they become the owner of the vehicle. That means the car will be turned over to the insurance company rather than to you, the original owner. If the car is in good shape, the insurance company may try to sell it in order to recoup their costs.

However, it’s possible that the insurance company didn’t transfer the vehicle title to their name. In this case, you would still be considered the owner of the vehicle, and the police would contact you instead of your insurer if the car is found. If the insurer discovers that the car has been found, either because you try to put it back on your insurance or because you tell them it’s been found, they may require you to sign the car over to them as the owner of the vehicle. The best route to take in this case is to notify the insurer as soon as the car is found.

If the car is totaled when it’s found, it’ll end up in a junkyard. You might be able to buy it back with a salvage title, but this type of car is difficult to insure and you’d likely have to put a lot of work into it to make it roadworthy again.

What happens if my car is recovered during the claims process?

If your car is found during the insurance claims process, you’ll need to inform the insurer right away. Rather than a claim for a stolen car, you can file a claim to repair any damage that the car sustained when it was stolen through your comprehensive insurance policy. You would need to pay the deductible, and insurance would pay for the rest of the repair bill for any dents or body damage on the car.

In the case of a totaled car, the insurance company would pay you the actual cash value of the vehicle that you would then be able to put toward a down payment for a replacement vehicle.

Does a car lose value after being stolen?

It’s possible that a stolen car may lose value after being recovered, but that isn’t always the case. If the car is found within a timeframe specified by your insurer and is in the same condition it was in before being stolen, it’ll likely have a clean title and retain its value. However, if the car has sustained damage or is found outside the specified timeframe, it may lose value or even be totaled by the insurer once recovered. 

Generally, cars whose repair costs are higher than the car’s cash value will be declared totaled and receive a salvage title from the insurance company.

Who owns the items inside a recovered vehicle? 

Whether the vehicle is found before the stolen vehicle claim is finalized with your insurer or after your claim has been paid, you’re still the owner of the items inside your car. That’s because car insurance doesn’t cover personal items inside a car; rather, it covers the car itself.

If any items are missing, you may be able to file a claim through your renters or homeowners insurance via your personal property coverage to help replace the stolen items. Coverage for items that aren’t kept inside your home may be limited, so it’s important to check with your insurer to determine exactly what is covered and what is not.

Keep the police, your insurer, and your lender informed at every point if your car is stolen. If the car is found, it may either be returned to you or to your insurer depending on where you are in the claims process. Stay in touch with your insurer during the claims process, and let them know if the car is recovered, even after the claim has been paid out.