This article has been updated from a previous version.
A few years ago, two people entered my boyfriend’s car and stole everything inside.
The theft took place in the driveway of my suburban home, where we have security cameras installed. But having all this information on hand does not mean any of the stolen items will be recovered.
Unfortunately, theft happens. Often.
Canada has seen a major spike in auto theft, with a car reported stolen every six minutes, according to a report from the Canadian Finance & Leasing Association. And theft of property from a car is common, too — according to the latest available numbers from Statistics Canada, there were 150,151 instances of theft under $5,000 from a motor vehicle, a rate of 393 per 100,000 people. That number is expected to rise substantially as more and more people emerge from their homes from the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you’re ever the victim of a crime where your personal property is stolen from your car, here’s what you need to know and what you need to do.
Keep calm and call the police
Even if no one was hurt and your car was left intact, the theft of items from your car is still a crime. Report it. Especially if you intend on making a claim with your insurance provider. The incident needs to be on record.
So, the first step after discovering a theft from your car is to call the police immediately and, if safe and possible, do so from the scene of the crime.
John Bordignon, a spokesperson and communications strategist for Desjardins Insurance, says time is of the essence when it comes to property theft.
“Call the police and report [the theft] as soon as possible,” Bordignon advises. “And then let your insurance company know about the situation and your loss of property. You can then begin the claims process immediately, if you choose to.”
Here’s what you can expect to happen after you contact the police:
You’ll be asked to state the reason for your call and provide some basic info: where the theft occurred, where your car was parked, etc.
A police officer may come to collect a detailed in-person statement. Expect to be asked the following:
When did the theft occur?
What was stolen?
What is the approximate value of the stolen items?
Can any of the stolen items be tracked? (ex. Your iPhone via the Find iPhone app)
Was there damage to the car and was the car locked?
Do you have footage of the theft and can this footage be viewed by the police?
A detective may contact you to follow up. In my boyfriend’s case, a detective followed up a week later to get a copy of the camera footage.
It takes a home insurance policy to protect your property
Once you’ve called the police, you can contact your insurance provider. But you’ll be claiming under your home insurance policy, not your car insurance policy.
As Bordignon explains, only the items “essential to the operation of the vehicle or physically attached to it, like the wheels, a bicycle rack, or stereo” are protected by your car insurance.
Everything else — like your gym bag, laptop, headphones, and whatever else you normally throw in the backseat or trunk of your car — brings your potential claim to home insurance territory.
“Most personal property items stolen from your car would fall under a normal home insurance claim,” says Bordignon. “But [you] may be subject to monetary limits, a deductible, and other conditions as outlined in your policy.”
In other words, it’s not always worth it to submit a claim. Especially if there’s no guarantee that you’ll get any money back, but there is a high possibility that your annual home insurance premium will increase because you filed a claim.
That’s why Bordignon urges Canadians to do their research when they buy home insurance.
“It’s a good idea to read your policy and ask your insurance provider questions about your coverage, deductible, and limits,” he says.
Should you file a claim?
Now that you know the steps to take if someone steals property from your car, you have to decide if submitting a claim to your insurance provider is actually worth it. You’ll need to be highly organized and confident in your claim. Keep the following things in mind.
It’s going to be a lot easier to claim for your stolen property if your home and auto policy are already with the same provider. If they’re not, bundling is something you should think about for the future. Sidenote: bundling also nets you an insurance discount.
It’s not guaranteed that your insurance provider will pay out your claim. As Bordignon cautions, “Each situation is unique and looked upon under its own merits, but generally speaking, if your property is stolen from your car that is obviously a crime.”
Your insurance provider will ask for receipts and photos of everything you lost in order to back up your claim. If you don’t already have an up-to-date inventory of basically everything you own, it’s time to get very, very organized.
Whether you ultimately decide to file a claim for your stolen property or not, it’s important to know what you’re in for if property theft strikes.
In the meantime, there are easy measures you can take to prevent theft of property and auto theft: Never leave valuable items in your car unattended, always keep your doors and windows closed and locked whenever you’re not in your car, and keep your keys in a signal-blocking box when you’re at home.