What To Do If Your Car Gets Stolen


May 7, 2024
Team Pineapple

The unfortunate reality of being a motorist is that you unknowingly sign up to face various trials and tribulations.

Speeding tickets, drunk drivers, and road rage can scare even the bravest motorists out of the driver’s seat and entirely off the roads.

However, nothing brings you screeching to a halt, like when your car gets stolen.  

Not only does it disrupt your routine, leave you without transportation, and have you feeling distressed, but it also poses a heavy financial burden. 

Knowing which steps to take in the immediate aftermath can mean the difference between heaven and heartbreak.


And that’s why we’re here to help you cope with the loss and navigate the aftermath from a car insurance perspective.

Immediate Actions

It’s easy to fall into a tailspin once you realise you’ve become a victim of vehicle theft, but now more than ever’s when you need to keep your wits about you.

If you’re unlucky enough to fall victim to carjacking, panicking’s the last thing you want to do. 

Instead, take a breath, count to ten if you must and follow these next few steps:

  1. Ensure You Haven’t Made A Mistake: it may sound wild, but some people have forgotten where they parked their car and panic, assuming they’re the latest victim of car theft. Double-check if you haven’t parked in a different spot or if someone has towed the car. 

  1. Contact Your Tracking Company: if you have a tracking device installed in your car, contact the tracking company immediately. They’ll help locate the vehicle, leading to a quicker recovery and potentially apprehending the culprit. 

  1. Visit Your Nearest Police Station: once you’re 100% sure your vehicle is car-napped, file a report at the police station to have your vehicle flagged on their stolen vehicle database. Provide them with all the necessary details: car make, model, colour, Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and number plate. Also include unique identifiers like bumper stickers, dents, or other notable features that could help identify your vehicle.   

  1. Alert Your Insurance Provider Of The Theft: after the police, your next call should be to your insurer. Notify them of the theft, including the relevant police report, the case number, a copy of the car’s registration, a certified copy of your ID, and a form giving the insurer consent to access the police records and movements for your vehicle.  

It’s tough to stay levelheaded in a situation like this, but doing so is your best shot at getting the help and support you need from the police and your insurance provider.

Creating a paper trail plays a critical role in dealing with your insurance company and the overall theft recovery process for several reasons, namely establishing a timeline, legal documentation and investigation, protection against liability and because it’s an insurance requirement.


Contacting Your Insurance Provide

When your car goes missing in the neighbourhood, who ya gonna call? If you said, ‘my insurance provider,’ you’d be correct.

One of the first few calls you make should be to your insurer, specifically the claims department. Their contact information should be in your policy documents or the company's website.

You’ll have to provide them with detailed information about the incident – dates, time and location so they have a better understanding of what happened, how and where.

Your insurer will most probably require you to provide a police report for several reasons:

  • An official police report is required to file a theft claim with your insurance company. 

  • It serves as an official record that the theft occurred.

  • The details help the insurance company to verify the information you provide. 

  • The police report also aids in the recovery of the stolen vehicle.

  • Details like the condition and value of the vehicle before the theft can help the insurance company determine how much to pay out on the claim.

Each insurance company has its process for handling theft claims, so follow their instructions closely to ensure your claim progresses smoothly and you don’t skip any details.

It’s essential to keep a record of all communication with your insurer, including who you spoke with and what you discussed.

The insurer will use this information to investigate and validate your claim.

The vehicle’s payout will depend on your policy type; e.g. a comprehensive insurance policy would help cover the cost of replacing it up to the car’s depreciated market value. This is why it’s called ‘comprehensive’; it encompasses many risks beyond accidents.

Additionally, if your car’s not stolen but damaged during an attempted theft or the vehicle is recovered, but in bad condition after a robbery, comprehensive coverage can help cover the repair costs.

If the police can’t recover your vehicle before the time, the average waiting period for a claim is around 30 days.

This is for one of two reasons: investigation and recovery period.

Insurers use 30 days to investigate the claim. This might involve verifying the theft details, ensuring the claim is valid, and ensuring no signs of insurance fraud. At the same time, the recovery period allows law enforcement to try and recover the stolen vehicle. 

Navigating the Insurance Claim Process

After you’ve reported the theft, you’ll receive a lesson in patience because that will be needed as your insurance company investigates the validity of your claim.

As the investigation commences, your insurer might ask for additional details about the incident. 

They will inquire about the last time you saw the vehicle, who had access to it, and what personal belongings were inside it. They may also ask for a copy of the title for the car and any lease or loan documentation.

While we’re on documentation, you may have to provide a list of what personal items were in the car, a copy of the police report, and possibly any maintenance records to verify the car's condition before the theft.

When paying out, your insurer will consider numerous factors to determine your car’s value at the time of the claim settlement.

Generally, the process insurance companies use to determine a stolen car’s value is based on the Actual Cost Value (ACV), also known as market value, unless you’ve insured it for the Replacement Cash Value (RCV), a.k.a retail value.

The following factors can affect a car’s ACV:

  • Make, model and year.
  • Mileage.
  • Condition.
  • Features.
  • Location.

If you’re one of the unlucky few who can’t recover their vehicle, and your claim is approved, the most common outcome is your insurer will pay you out the car’s market value at the time of the loss.

If you find your car, but the cost to repair is more than its ACV, your insurer will declare it a total loss, and you might receive a partial payout.

Suppose you find your car before the insurer settles your claim and in good condition; you'll get it back.  

But, if you find your car after receiving a payout, your insurance provider will typically retain ownership since they have effectively 'bought' it by reimbursing you for its value.

Post-Claim Scenario

If claiming for car theft is uncharted territory, and you’ve never had to wade these waters before, you’re probably wondering what comes next after your claim is settled.

“Will this recent event affect my premiums?” 

“Is purchasing a new vehicle in my immediate future?” 

“What should you consider in my new insurance policy?”

These and many other questions are probably racing through your mind at this very moment. And while we might not have all the answers, we have a few helpful suggestions.

There’s a strong possibility that your insurance premiums might go up after the theft claim. However, this largely depends on your insurance company, policy and claim history, and other factors like whether or not you had anti-theft measures.

As for buying another car, your insurer won't help you find a new one, but the payout you receive will. You can use the amount from your claim settlement to finance a new car purchase. 

In the aftermath of your claim, if you didn’t before, now’s the time to ensure you have comprehensive coverage that provides theft protection. 

Consider additional coverages, like car hire, when your vehicle is being repaired or replaced due to a covered claim event. 

Another aspect to assess is the excess; ensure it balances well with your premium payments. Although a lower excess amount will mean higher premiums, you'll pay less during claim time.

Lastly, you might also want to reflect on your claim journey. Were you satisfied with the service you received?

If not, it may be time to look for a new insurance provider to meet your needs and make claiming as stress-free as possible.

Preventive Measures

There’s no way to anticipate when and where crime will happen, but there are ways you can protect yourself.

And the best way to do this is with comprehensive coverage.

While the more basic liability insurance covers damages to others in case you're at fault in an accident, comprehensive coverage goes a bit further by protecting your car against collision and non-collision-related damages, including theft. 

A comprehensive policy also protects you from bearing the full brunt of the financial burden of a lost or stolen vehicle.

This can also be particularly crucial if you have a valuable vehicle or are still paying off a car loan. 

Long story short, comprehensive insurance provides financial protection that gives you peace of mind and can save you significant costs.

While insurance is essential to mitigate the financial impact of car theft, prevention is always better than cure.

So, here are some preventative measures you can take to protect your car:

  1. Always lock your car, even if you're quickly popping into a store for a moment. 

  1. Park in busy, well-lit areas. 

  1. Smartphones, laptops, and shopping bags can attract thieves, so never leave valuables in plain sight. 

  1. ​​Install an anti-theft system that can deter thieves and potentially reduce insurance premiums. 

  1. Consider using a tracking system. A tracking device can help law enforcement locate your car more quickly if it gets stolen. 


If you suspect your car’s been jacked, verifying it hasn't been towed or borrowed without your knowledge is crucial.

Once you've established that your car’s indeed gone, immediately contact your tracking company to aid in locating your vehicle. That’s assuming you have a tracking device installed in your car, which you really should.

Next, you’ll need to report the theft to the police promptly.

Even if you lack faith in our country’s authorities, the subsequent police report will be helpful. It serves as an official document that will be required when filing your insurance claim.

After notifying the police, your insurance provider should be next on your list of people to dial.

They will then guide you through the claim process, which involves investigating and determining your car's retail value based on age, mileage, condition, and other factors.

Results could vary depending on your insurer and your policy, but you could receive a reimbursement for the retail value of your car or a partial payout.

Once the dust has settled and the insurer settles the claim, reevaluating your insurance needs is a reasonable time.

This is the perfect time to consider opting for comprehensive coverage offering protection against theft. Although taking preventive measures to secure your vehicle is essential, comprehensive car insurance provides a financial safety net should you fall victim to car theft. 

Now that you know what you should do, here’s what you shouldn’t: wait for the unexpected to happen.

Take a moment to review your current car insurance policy and ensure your policy adequately covers vehicle theft. 

Why all the fuss? Because your car is worth it (and carjackers would agree).

Your car is more than just a mode of transport; it's an investment worth protecting. There’s no better time to act than here and now regarding your vehicle. 

After all, it's always better to be safe than sorry!

Choose the right coverage today for peace of mind tomorrow. 

And that coverage is closer than you think; click HERE to visit Pineapple’s website for a free car insurance quote and see just how Pineapple can keep your car and wallet safe.

Our quotes are quick (90 seconds to be exact), our premiums are affordable (at around *R19 p/m) and swift, and with 9 776  5-star ratings, it seems the public will agree.

*Premiums are risk-profile dependant.

Please Note: The information provided above is for informational purposes only; you should not construe any such information as legal or financial advice.

Pineapple (FSP 48650) is underwritten by Old Mutual Insure, a licensed FSP and non-life insurer. T&Cs apply. Premium is risk profile dependent.

Team Pineapple

Team Pineapple comprises our company’s top talents, who are dedicated to creating clear, high-quality content on essential vehicle insurance topics. This diverse group, including actuaries, accountants, data scientists, and insurance professionals across South Africa, collaborates to produce enlightening and empowering articles.

Each piece is thoroughly researched, factually accurate, and rigorously reviewed to ensure quality.

*We say they’re the finest because we want them to keep writing for us!

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Please Note: The information provided above is for informational purposes only; you should not construe any such information as legal or financial advice.

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