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How To Find A Stolen Car in 3 Steps

The process of recovering your car is often a lengthy and exhausting one, and if you don’t have protection in the form of a good car alarm or locking mechanism, you’re at much greater risk of becoming a victim.

There are means to track and recover your car, however. Read on to find out the essential 3 steps to take to find, report, and prevent your car from being stolen.

3 Pro Tips To Find Your Stolen Car

Unless you happen to be a certain bat-like vigilante, we strongly advise you not to go out hunting for a car you suspect is stolen, since this is a rather foolish way to endanger yourself. 

That being said, there are things you ought to do immediately that could quickly help you locate your car in the event that your car is stolen. We’ve broken it down into three simple steps.

1. Visually confirm your car is stolen

The initial panic when realizing that a car is missing can cause errors in judgment. It is often more likely that you are unable to locate your car than that it has been stolen. It is also possible that it has been towed. 

‘Remain calm’ advice that’s easier said than done, but approaching things in a logical and methodical way is necessary to avoid making errors of judgment and working yourself up unnecessarily. 

a man trying to forcibly unlock a car door

Firstly, you should thoroughly investigate the area where you parked, walking around and pressing the unlock button on your key. This will prompt the car’s lights to flash or for the car to make a sound, potentially alerting you to its location. 

Ask people in the immediate area (for example, staff in car parks, nearby cafes, stores or offices with a view of where your car was) if they noticed anything suspicious. It’s important to gather information from potential witnesses.

2. Check any tracking devices

Some cars have built-in tracking that connects to your phone and is accessible via GPS. If you have access to a security system like this, it’s wise to check it before proceeding. 

If your car doesn’t have a tracker, think about whether you left any personal equipment in the car before it was stolen. If it contained any devices such as mobiles, laptops or tablets, you may be able to track those instead.

Credit: KSDK News

Speaking of smartphones, both Google Maps and Apple Maps now have features that allow you to save the location of your parked car. Both apps function similarly: tap your location on the map (the blue pin).

Credit: Supreme Guru Tech

Select ‘save your parking’ on Google Maps and ‘Set as parking location’ on Apple Maps. The former app is slightly more useful, since it allows you to snap a picture of the surroundings and add notes.

This should allow you to avoid the issue of misplacing your parking place altogether; you’ll realize pretty quickly whether or not your car is gone if you know its exact last location.

3. Check cameras

Ask people in the immediate area, including staff at parking lots, if cars are ever towed in the area, and check whether you may have been in violation of any of the car park’s terms and conditions. Many car parks have attendants that monitor CCTV who will be able to confirm if your car has been stolen or not.

You do have the right to ask to see CCTV footage recorded on private premises, but, equally, shop owners and other public professionals have the right to refuse you. Still, it is worth trying. Most managers will be willing to oblige if you calmly explain the situation. 

Naturally, if you contact the police, they will be able to request CCTV footage be handed over. They will be able to request public footage without any delay.

One AlfredCamera customer reported that their car was stolen by a neighbor known to them, and they were able to report them to the police.

Camera is pointed right at my vehicle – when someone slashed my tires, I was able to confront them about it and press charges.

Reporting Your Stolen Car To The Police

Whether or not the previous three steps managed to unveil anything useful, once you’ve completed them and are satisfied that you haven’t simply forgotten your parking location, it’s time to report the vehicle as stolen.

Here’s how, in three easy steps.

Step 1. Gather as much information as possible

When reporting a stolen car to the police, the more information you can gather the better; has anyone nearby seen your car or anyone suspicious around it? Go into any buildings within the immediate vicinity of where you believe the vehicle to have last been, and politely ask for any information anyone inside may have. 

Most importantly, though, you will need your license plate number, and your VIN (Vehicle Insurance Number). You’ll also need to provide basic information on what the vehicle looks like; its make, color, size.

In the case that you are unaware of the license plate number or the VIN was left in the stolen car, call your insurer for the information.

You’ll have to provide secondary information, which includes the car make and model, color, year of manufacture, and any other cosmetic quirks that will help to identify the car, including significant scratches and aesthetic discrepancies.

Credit: CBC News

Step 2. Call the police and file a report

The good news is that car theft is usually much more traceable than other types of theft due to number plates being easily identified, and the amount of surveillance that monitors busy roads and car parks.

In other words, it is absolutely worth reporting your stolen car to the police. Leave the urge to be a lone vigilante to superhero movies.

Once you have notified the police and satisfied any of their requests for information, descriptions, and alibis, it’s simply a matter of waiting. As violating as the experience can feel, we know how annoying this can be.

two police officers standing side by side on a street

In the meantime, you’ll want to contact your insurer (this can be a lengthy process, so it’s worth getting the ball rolling on it sooner rather than later). The police will give you a reference number for the official police report, which you will need to make an insurance claim. 

Step 3. Contact your Insurer

If your vehicle insurance was bought within the last five to ten years, there’s a high chance that the terms of that contract are somewhere in your email inbox. We’d recommend having a quick look over its terms if you are able to find it; try simple searches in your inbox, like ‘car insurance’.

In most cases, you’ll either have to fill out a claim online or over the phone. Once you provide your insurance company with the incident reference number obtained from the police, they will typically offer a stolen car payout. They will then obtain ownership of the stolen car.

A man stands by a car on a deserted road

If your car is subsequently recovered, the insurance company will receive it and give you the option to buy it back from them. Be sure to contact your insurer within 24 hours of the theft, as policie often require the claim to be made within this window. 

Awkward loopholes like this are precisely why it is worth quickly debriefing on the terms of your insurance if you can before making the claim. A lawyer won’t be necessary at this point, but if you feel you are being unreasonably rejected from making a claim, seek professional legal counsel.

Preventing It From Happening Again 

Whether or not your car is returned to you, understanding how you can minimize the risk of being a victim to a repeat offense is important moving forward. Even if you are fortunate enough to have not experienced a vehicle theft, taking the following precautions can be the different between 

1. Invest in a surveillance system 

Three ways to use AlfredCamera to set up your old phones as security cameras

In the event of a car theft, you can identify the thief and hand the footage over to the police to aid them in their investigation. Being able to monitor your car 24/7 should also bring peace of mind, with alerts sent to your phone when motion detection is triggered. 

Time is of the essence; motion detection alerts allow you to notify the police almost immediately, and you’ll be able to see the initial direction the vehicle took leaving the space. This can be extremely helpful to police.

2. Install an alarm or siren

Car alarms usually come installed at the time of purchase. However, if you are driving an older car, it can be difficult to guarantee the alarm is functioning properly, or even if there is an alarm installed at all. 

I use Alfred as a basic entrance way view into my home, it’s nice to have total peace of mind while not at home. I also use Alfred as a live car alarm, I love it, it’s better than having a car alarm.

You can get a car alarm installed by the car’s manufacturer or by an approved mechanic. The former is advisable since you can rest assured that your vehicle is in expert hands. They will also be able to give you a clear answer on whether installing an alarm violates any warranties or insurance you have with the manufacturer itself.

In all likelihood (it’s unlikely that it will if you are going directly to the manufacturer).

Unless you have a degree in engineering under your belt, attempting to DIY a car alarm install is ill-advised; it’s an extremely complicated process that is guaranteed to void any warranties or insurance policies you have on the vehicle.

Always check your insurance policy and vehicle warranties before attempting to make significant modifications of any kind, be it aesthetic or practical.

If you unintentionally void your warranty or insurance policy, you might not be covered financially in the event of a theft.

3. Consider a car/dash cam

Though perhaps the least advisable of the options, there is no denying that in the event of a theft, a camera installed inside your car is a virtually failsafe way to locate it based on the surroundings the camera picks up.

That being said, you must never attempt to locate and reclaim a vehicle by yourself. Inform the police of where you suspect it is located based on your camera’s observations. If your camera connects to a screen device, forward any screenshots and video recorded to the police.

a man is installing a car dash cam in the car

Dash cams are the most advantageous type of security camera to install in a car, as they essentially hit two birds with one stone: they are just as useful in a theft as they are in an accident, since they can record, stream, and upload exactly what happens in both incidents.


How do I locate a stolen car by VIN?

If a thief has any maintenance work or repairs carried out on your car, they will have to provide the vehicle’s VIN. If you obtain your car’s VIN history, any activity relating to the thief will show up, and you can pass this information on to the police.

How do I locate a stolen car using bluetooth?

Is it possible to find a stolen car by license plate?

Your license plate number is the most important piece of information in attempting to find your car. It is how the police will identify it in their search. You could also offer a reward to anyone in the local area who can offer information on its whereabouts based on the license plate number. 

Is there an app to locate your car?

The AlfredCamera app can provide a live feed of your car, so that you are constantly aware of its whereabouts. Some customers position their device through the window of their home so that it views the car.


Car theft is no one’s idea of a good time, and it can be incredibly distressing. It’s a violation of one’s property and privacy.. But dealing with it doesn’t have to be such a nightmare. By following simple steps you can recover stolen vehicles and prevent them from happening again.