Every 45 seconds, a car goes missing from a parking lot, garage or driveway somewhere in the United States. Being a victim of a car theft is never a good feeling, but at least you can rely on your auto insurance provider to soften the blow with a cash settlement or brand-new vehicle. But what happens when your stolen ride suddenly turns up somewhere? It doesn't happen often, but you'll want to know how your insurance provider handles this scenario when it does happen.
Property of the Insurance Company
After going through the motions of the claims process, your auto insurance provider will settle your claim for your vehicle's current fair market value minus deductible. At this point, the insurance company will ask you or your lender or leasing company to sign over the stolen vehicle's title. This effectively puts the stolen vehicle in the possession of the insurance provider.
While most stolen cars are never seen by their owners again, just under half of the cars stolen in the U.S. are eventually recovered, usually by law enforcement agencies. In the event your car is recovered, your auto insurance provider will take possession of it and store it in a remote facility. From here, it's likely that the insurance company will likely auction the vehicle in an attempt to recoup its expenses.
What If You Want Your Old Car Back?
If you have a sentimental attachment to your old car or otherwise just want it back, you'll have to negotiate with your auto insurance provider. In most cases, the insurance company may be willing to sell the vehicle back to you for its current value. It's likely that your old car may be branded with a salvage title once it's been recovered, which may limit your insurance coverage options or even affect your ability to legally drive the vehicle once it's back in your possession.
If you had any personal belongings in the vehicle at the time it was stolen, then these belongings may also be considered property of the insurance company. If you don't want your old vehicle back but you want your personal belongings instead, you'll have to talk to your auto insurance provider and see if an arrangement can be made to take possession of those items.
It's important to inform your auto insurance provider in the event your stolen vehicle is recovered, since failing to do so could constitute auto insurance fraud.