What happens when your car is stolen and then found in Canada?

By Arthur Dubois | Published on 02 Sep 2023

stolen car insurance
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    Imagine the sinking feeling of stepping out of a store, only to find that your car has gone missing. No car owner wants to experience this scenario but it happens more and more often. 

    Unfortunately, vehicle theft has become a global issue, affecting countless individuals and communities worldwide. In this article, we will explore the journey of a stolen car, specifically when it is found in Canada. From understanding the prevalence of car theft to the legal and car insurance implications, let’s delve into this captivating topic.

    Vehicle theft inconveniences drivers, ties up police resources and costs insurers if the car doesn’t get recovered. For example, if you drive a Honda CR-V, Lexus RX Series or Ford F-150, you may pay higher insurance premiums. Costs to insure these popularly stolen vehicles have risen by 25 to 50 percent between 2020 and 2022.

    The Growing Trend of Stolen Cars in Canada

    Every six minutes, a vehicle gets stolen in Canada. This crime creates an enormous financial and social burden, costing society a billion dollars per year in Canada. In 2022 alone, Toronto Police Service reported 9,606 vehicle thefts, three times the level in 2015. In each of the seven years in between, vehicle theft rates in Toronto grew progressively higher.

    Meanwhile, 17 other cities in Canada reported higher per capita vehicle theft rates than Toronto in 2019. These days, only half of stolen cars get recovered compared to 90 percent in 1990.

    Vehicle theft often arises as a crime of opportunity and can take less than 30 seconds. A driver could leave a car running in a driveway on a cold winter morning. On the other hand, they could have their electronic key fob copied, overriding the vehicle’s onboard diagnostic system. Once a car gets stolen, criminals can chop them into parts, assign new vehicle identification numbers or sell them to unsuspecting buyers. 

    After theft rates peaked in the early 2000s, car makers installed anti-theft systems, making it harder to steal vehicles. Soon, police reassigned their resources just as criminals figured out how to overcome anti-theft devices.  

    Naturally, unrecovered vehicles do not simply vanish. Sometimes, they get exported to another country beyond the reach of their owner. However, cars stolen for joyriding, getaway vehicles or other transportation tend to turn up. 

    What Happens When Your Stolen Car is Found in Canada?

    The moment of truth arrives when your stolen car is recovered in Canada. Let’s explore the role of Canadian law enforcement in restoring your vehicle to you.

    In the event of a theft, file a report with local police that includes the make, model and license plate number. Also, tell them where and when the theft occurred so police can check any nearby surveillance videos.

    Drivers can help police find stolen vehicles by planning ahead. In many cases, owners have GPS systems that help police track the location of their vehicle in real time. Many vehicles. If this occurs, let police take care of the recovery so you don’t put yourself in danger. After all, 40 people die and 65 people get injured during auto thefts every year.

    Once a stolen vehicle gets recovered, you must go through a legal process to prove its ownership so it will be returned to you. Police will document its condition, the recovery date and location and any obvious damage. Next, they will impound your vehicle to preserve any evidence.

    Of course, they will investigate who stole the vehicle by interviewing witnesses, analyzing clues left behind and watching surveillance video. If they identify a suspect, the case may go through the court system, which could take months. 

    Once the case is resolved, you must prove ownership and pay any impound or storage fees before claiming the vehicle. Unfortunately, you will be responsible for any repairs or maintenance required to restore the vehicle to its original condition.

    Insurance Implications

    Most insurance companies have a waiting period to see if a vehicle turns up before offering a settlement. They will only do so if you have comprehensive car insurance coverage. In this case, you can repair a vehicle that has been stolen and recovered or receive fair market value for one that disappears forever. 

    If the car is recovered before your claim is settled, however, you can still go through the process of making a claim to repair the damages. Read your policy to see if your insurer will reimburse the cost of renting a vehicle while you go without your usual wheels. 

    Also, a good home insurance policy could cover any lost contents from inside the vehicle. This may include the actual cash value of any add-ons, like tires, spoilers or a roof rack. Talk with your insurance company to see how these claims will impact your premiums before proceeding. You may wish to add extra coverage after this experience.

    Preventing car theft in Canada

    To try to curtail this type of theft, some insurance companies offer the incentive of reduced rates for the installation of theft-deterrent devices. This aims to lessen the impact of deterrent devices on the cost of vehicle theft to insurers, vehicle owners and society.

    To further protect yourself, take these steps:

    • Store vehicle fobs in signal-blocking containers so criminals cannot copy their codes
    • Never leave a car running unattended, even for short times
    • Use locking systems on and steering wheels
    • Place a locking system on onboard diagnostic ports to prevent reprogramming

    As a car owner, the prospect of your vehicle being stolen is undoubtedly unsettling. However, it helps to understand the process of reporting a stolen car and the subsequent legal and insurance implications. With this knowledge, you can navigate this challenging situation with greater clarity and confidence.

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    Arthur Dubois is a personal finance writer at Hardbacon. Since relocating to Canada, he has successfully built his credit score from scratch and begun investing in the stock market. In addition to his work at Hardbacon, Arthur has contributed to Metro newspaper and several other publications