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What to Do if Your Car Is Broken Into

Homes aren’t the only places where burglaries happen.

All of our content is written by humans, not robots. Learn More
Gabe Turner
Gabe Turner Chief Editor
Last Updated Jun 8, 2024

Your vehicle is an extension of your home, and just like homes, cars can be broken into. We discussed in a separate post what our security experts recommend doing if someone broke into your home. This time around, let’s talk about what you should do in the event of a vehicle break-in. The recourse for such is slightly different than that of a home break-in, but with the help of this guide, you’re sure to recover and get the most out of your auto insurance.

What to Do if Your Car Is Broken Into

Your first concern after a car break-in – or any kind of break-in, for that matter – is personal safety. Whether it happened in a public parking lot or your personal driveway, you must get to a safe place and check your surroundings. The perp might still be around and they might harm you if they see you approach the car they just stole from.

Vehicle Break-In In A Public Place

Car break-ins happen frequently in parking lots of large establishments such as malls. A parking lot becomes extra attractive to criminals if it’s dark, in a low-traffic area, or doesn’t have security cameras or security guards roaming around. That means the parking lot where the break-in happened is most likely not a very safe area in the first place.

Here’s what our security experts recommend doing:

  • Go back inside: While you might get the urge to check on your car and see what was stolen, it’s best to go back inside the establishment and find a safe, public place with high foot traffic.
  • Report to the management: Immediately contact the establishment’s management and ask for security personnel.
  • Call the police: At the same time, it’s also a good idea to have the police come on-site.

Vehicle Break-In At Home

Things are a little bit different – and likely more traumatic – if the break-in happened in your home while your car was parked in your driveway. In any case, you and your family’s safety is still the top priority. Here’s what you should do:

  • Go back inside your house: Again, you must find a safe place. In most cases, that’s your own house. So go back inside and lock all your doors. If you don’t feel safe at home because you’re alone, you can also go to a neighbor’s house.
  • Call for help: The next step is to call for help, that is, the police. If you live in a gated community with security guards, get them out there too. They most likely have a protocol in place for such situations.

The Next Steps

Okay, so now you’re safe and the police are on-site. You’ve successfully applied first-aid, so to speak. Now let’s talk long-term, more specifically, how you can recover from a vehicle break-in and prevent possible indirect damages in the future. This includes taking the necessary next steps for claiming auto insurance.

    1. Take pictures. You’ll need pictures of the damage for your insurance company.
    2. Take inventory. Make a list of everything that was stolen or damaged.
    3. Call the police and file a report. To file a police report, you’ll need the following:
        • Photos of damage
        • Your driver’s license
        • The vehicle registration number
        • Your insurance card/ policy declaration page
        • The approximate time of the incident
        • A list of what was stolen or damaged

      If your license plate was stolen, the process to report and replace it will look different state by state, but most likely, you’ll have to deal with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Count on providing the original police report, your vehicle registration documents, and proof of your insurance and identity when you meet with a police officer.

    4. Contact your bank. If any credit or debit cards were stolen, call your bank to freeze your accounts and cancel your cards.
    5. Place a fraud alert. If you had documents stolen that contained your personally identifiable information (PII), like a lost Social Security card, you may be at risk of identity theft. Before you check if your identity was stolen, place a fraud alert on your credit reports for all three bureaus; this will act as a red flag to potential lenders and creditors so you don’t get penalized for fraudulent activity.
      Credit-reporting bureau Requirements URL Phone number Mailing address
      Experian State issued ID, piece of mail as proof of address 888-397-3742 N/A
      TransUnion Name, address, and Social Security number 800-680-7289 TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance
      P.O. Box 2000
      Chester, PA 19016
      Equifax Photocopy of Social Security Card, pay stub with Social Security number, W-2 or 1099 and driver’s license or state ID card, rental lease agreement/house deed, pay stub with address or utility bill 888-836-6351 Equifax Information Services LLC
      P.O. Box 105069
      Atlanta, GA 30348

      Learn what to do after your identity is stolen.

    6. Contact your identity theft insurer. If you already have identity theft insurance through an identity theft protection service, see if you’re eligible for any reimbursements.
    7. File an insurance claim. Next, you’ll want to contact your insurance agent and, possibly, your homeowners or renters’ insurance agent for any damaged or stolen personal items.
      Insurance company Phone number URL
      Nationwide 800-421-3535
      Liberty Mutual N/A
      Allstate 800-255-7828
      Progressive 800-776-4737
      Geico N/A
      USAA N/A
      Amica 800-242-6422
      State Farm 800-732-5246
      Erie Insurance 800-367-3743
      MetLife 800-854-6011
      The Hartford 877-805-9918 for AARP customers; 800-243-5860 for non-AARP customers N/A
      Esurance 800-378-7262
      Travelers Insurance 800-252-4633
      Safeco N/A

      Be sure to have with you the following:

      • Date/time of the incident
      • Where damage is located
      • Where the vehicle was parked
      • The police report number
      • Your phone number
      • Contact info for lender/ vehicle leasing company, if any1
    8. Meet with claims adjuster. Next, you’ll meet with your insurance company’s claims adjuster to determine your coverage, which will differ based on what type of insurance you have, detailed below.
    9. Repair your car. You can get estimates of how much car repairs will cost from the Kelley Blue Book.2
    10. Replace stolen or damaged items. Finally, get things back to normal by replacing what was damaged or stolen.

What Is Auto Vandalism?

Auto vandalism is defined as any damage or destruction to a vehicle, which can include:

  • Damage or defacement to the body of the vehicle
  • Broken lights
  • Broken glass
  • Stolen or slashed tires3

Auto vandalism may or may not accompany car break-ins.

How Does Insurance Apply To Car Break-Ins?

If you have comprehensive insurance, then the car theft will be covered. If you don’t have comprehensive coverage, that’s another story. Check with your insurance agency to get insurance quotes, of course, but here’s what to expect.

What Comprehensive Auto Insurance Covers

  • Stolen cars
  • Stolen car parts
  • Car damage repairs from thefts/break-ins

What Comprehensive Auto Insurance Does Not Cover

  • Theft of personal belongings including phones, laptops, valuables, etc.4

What to Do if You Don’t Have Comprehensive Coverage

If you lack comprehensive auto coverage, still report the theft to your car insurer and to the police. That way, if the thief does damage to others with your car, you won’t be held liable. But, unfortunately, it’s unlikely that you’ll get any money back for the theft and/or damage. The only case in which you would be able to receive compensation would be if:

  1. The police find the car thief.
  2. The police convict them of stealing the vehicle.
  3. You sue the thief personally.
  4. You receive a judgment in your favor.
  5. The thief is able to repay you.

Even in this unlikely best-case scenario, you may still have to pay for storage, towing, and impound fees; it all depends on your state or locality’s laws5. However, there is one saving grace: If you have homeowners or renters insurance, it may cover items stolen from vehicles within limits that range from $15,000 to $500,000.

Tip: If you lack comprehensive auto insurance, you may be able to get reimbursed for stolen items from your renters or homeowners insurance.

What Is the Cost Of Full Coverage Insurance?

The average premium per insured car, which includes liability, comprehensive, and collision coverage, was $1,190 in 2018, when the National Association of Insurance Commissioners last collected this data. That was an increase of about five percent from 2017. For the comprehensive coverage specifically, the deductible tends to be from $50 to $1,0006.

How to Prevent Further Car Break-Ins

Now that you’ve dealt with the aftermath of your car break-in, it’s time to prevent break-ins from happening in the first place.

    1. Get security sensors and cameras. There are security systems and security cameras designed for use in vehicles specifically. While they’re not on the market yet, Ring has announced three items that will allow users to protect their cars remotely, including the following:
      • Ring Car Alarm: This sensor detects towaways, bumps, and break-ins, notifying the user through the Ring Always Home app. You can even activate the siren remotely if you sense a theft or check your car’s last-known location.
      • Ring Car Connect: Many cars nowadays are designed with built-in cameras. The Ring Car Connect will allow users to see their footage and recorded video over either Wi-Fi or LTE.

        Note: The Ring Car Connect will only work with Tesla models 3, S, X and Y.

      • Ring Car Cam: If your car lacks cameras or you want to add more, these HD cameras work with the Ring Car Alarm to show you what’s happening in real time over Wi-Fi or an LTE plan.7We’re excited about Ring’s new foray into vehicle security, but in the meantime, there are tons of similar products on the market designed to protect your car.
    2. Don’t hide spare keys. It may seem obvious, but don’t hide your spare key anywhere in or on your vehicle.
    3. Don’t keep anything in your car. Nothing should be visible in your car, especially valuable items. Instead, put them in your trunk where they can’t be seen or bring them with you.
    4. Hide electronic accessories. Even something as seemingly innocuous as a power cord could indicate that more electronic items are in the car, so it’s best to hide everything.
    5. Lock doors and windows. Did you know that nearly one-quarter of vehicle theft is from unlocked cars? By locking your car and rolling up your window, you’ve reduced your chances of vehicle theft greatly.
    6. Park in well-lit areas. If it’s available, choose an area that’s clearly visible and isn’t blocked by other cars, bushes, or trees. The best place to park is in a parking lot with video surveillance, which, at this point, comprises the majority of retail parking lots.
    7. Take your keys with you. Even if you’re parked in a garage, don’t leave your keys in the car; if it’s a home garage, leave your garage door opener out of sight. Learn more about how smart garages work.
    8. Use a steering wheel locking device. A steering wheel lock is a metal and plastic rod that goes across your steering wheel and requires a key to unlock. While they’re not foolproof, steering wheel locks certainly make vehicle theft less appealing to thieves.


While a car break-in can feel violating, if you have the right insurance, you can recover without any financial losses. And for the future, a few simple steps reduce the likelihood of vehicle theft; these steps include locking your doors, parking in garages and hiding valuables. But if you still have questions about car theft, keep reading below.

Frequently Asked Questions

In the world of security and safety, vehicle safety tends to take a backseat to home safety, but we’ve got it covered.

  • Does insurance cover you if your car is broken into?

    Auto insurance with comprehensive coverage does cover car break-ins. However, it won’t be covered if your auto insurance isn’t comprehensive, although homeowners and renters insurance can cover reimbursements for items stolen or damaged in cars.

  • Which type of insurance covers the items in your car if it gets broken into?

    The types of insurance that cover items in your car if it gets broken into include auto, homeowners and renters insurance. Life insurance does not cover vehicle theft.

  • Does car insurance cover vandalism?

    Car insurance with comprehensive coverage covers vandalism. However, if your auto insurance lacks comprehensive coverage, then vandalism isn’t covered, and you won’t be eligible for reimbursement.

  • What happens if your car gets vandalized?

    If your car gets vandalized:

    1. Take pictures.
    2. Connect with your auto insurer to file a claim. If you have comprehensive coverage, you should be able to get reimbursed for the repairs.
    3. File a police report.
    4. Repair your car.
  1. Nationwide. (2021). Vehicle vandalism insurance claims.

  2. Kelley Blue Book. (2021). Check Auto Repair Prices & Get an Estimate.

  3. Bankrate. (2021). Does car insurance cover vandalism?

  4. Allstate. (2019). Does Car Insurance Cover Theft?

  5. Nasdaq. (2012). What can I do if car is stolen without comprehensive coverage?

  6. Progressive. (2021). Does renters insurance cover theft?

  7. NAIC. (2018). Auto Insurance Database Report.

  8. Ring. (2021). A sneak peek at what’s new in the neighborhood.

  9. Lane County. (2021). Preventing Car Break-Ins and Car Theft.