Coping with car theft can be an incredibly stressful experience. Sadly, it’s not an uncommon one.
Without adequate protection, the risk of a car being stolen is significantly higher.
Read on to find out the steps to find a stolen car and tips to prevent a car from being stolen in future.
Is There a Way to Track a Stolen Car?
There are different ways to track a stolen car:
- Report the license plate to the police.
- Check its VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) maintenance log.
- Find the location using a pre-installed Bluetooth tracking system.
- Locate the car using a pre-installed GPS tracker.
Tracking systems are usually available on a monthly subscription. To install a tracker, it needs to be fitted to the car and synced to a mobile device. The car’s movements, speed, and whereabouts are tracked and recorded for a set period.
How to Locate a Stolen Car By VIN
If a thief has maintenance work or repairs done legitimately on a stolen car, they will have to provide the vehicle’s VIN. Obtaining the car’s VIN history to reveal any activity relating to the thief, and pass this information on to the police.
How to Locate a Stolen Car By License Plate Number
When a car is reported as stolen, the police will request the vehicle’s make, model, and license plate number. It’s flagged to local patrol cars and surveillance cameras it passes.
How to Track a Stolen Car With Bluetooth
If a car connects to a phone via Bluetooth, try connecting to the car to see if it is in range. If it doesn’t connect, Bluetooth may be switched off, or the car is not in range.
How to Locate a Stolen Car With a GPS Tracker
Modern cars have built-in GPS tracking connected to a satellite. Paired with a smart device, a car’s whereabouts is trackable via the corresponding app.
Cars without pre-installed GPS trackers can have one fitted. Aftermarket GPS trackers can be fitted to the underside of the vehicle or hidden in the trunk. Like built-in GPS trackers, they connect to an app.
How do I know if my car has a GPS tracker?
New cars have a GPS tracker built-in with almost no exceptions. However, if you’re unsure if your car has a GPS tracker, or if you suspect you’re being followed, try the following:
· Check the head unit/touchscreen display for a maps app (if there is one, and it is enabled, the car has a GPS tracker).
· Use a flashlight to inspect the underside and wheels, including the rims.
· Look under the hood, particularly near the battery.
· Search the interior, including under all seats and inside the trunk.
· Feel around any USB or data ports in the car for unfamiliar devices.
How to Locate a Stolen Car With an Airtag
Airtags are not designed to locate a stolen car, and should only be used to find keys, airpods, bags, and other valuables. They can indicate the location of a stolen car, however, if the item it is connected to is left inside the vehicle at the time of the theft.
An Airtag typically only has a range of around 100 meters. Airtags are also not designed to track fast-moving objects, like cars, so the location may be unreliable. It takes time for the location to update itself on a mobile device.
How to Find a Stolen Car Without a Tracker
Finding a stolen car that doesn’t have any pre-installed tracking devices should be left to the police to investigate. Here are several things you can do to locate a stolen car without a tracker:
- Report the theft to the local police department
- Provide as much information as possible about the vehicle and its last known whereabouts
- Search the VIN number online to check if it’s been serviced since the theft
- Put up posters about the vehicle asking for information
- Post the car/license plate on social media asking for information
- Offer a cash reward to anyone with information
How fast can a stolen car be found?
Joyrides are usually resolved quickly, as are amateur thefts or thefts committed under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, some cars are never found.
Generally, if a stolen car is not found within 30 days of being reported, it’s unlikely to be found at all. Thieves will often change license plates illegally before selling the car on, making it impossible to trace.
How to Find a Stolen Car: 3 Steps to Follow
1. Confirm car is stolen
When a car goes missing, it’s easy to assume that it’s been stolen. But it could be parked somewhere unexpected, taken out by a family member with access to the keys, or even towed if it’s blocking someone’s driveway.
2. Check tracking devices
3. Check cameras
Many car parks have attendants that monitor CCTV who will be able to confirm if a car has been stolen or towed.
You do have the right to see CCTV footage recorded on private premises, but you can ask shop owners and other businesses with surveillance cameras to see the footage. They have the right to refuse your request, but some managers will be willing to help if the situation is explained.
Naturally, the police will be able to request CCTV footage without delay.
Car Theft: Your Questions Answered
We asked you what you wanted to know most about all things car theft and car security. Below, we address the most common questions about car theft (head to the FAQ for more).
1. How do thieves track cars?
Thieves track cars informally by noting the number plate. Cosmetic quirks also make a vehicle stick out, but they’re less likely to be targeted if damaged.
GPS trackers are a more sophisticated way to track a car, so check the entirety of the interior and exterior, including under the vehicle and under the hood, if suspicious.
2. Do car thieves put trackers on cars?
3. What cars are stolen the most on a tracker?
Expensive and/or desirable cars are the only vehicles likely to be tracked by car thieves. This includes vintage cars as well as new luxury vehicles, like cars from Land Rover and Mercedes-Benz. Tracking them makes them easier to ship overseas.
4. What do car thieves usually take?
Rather than taking the whole vehicle, car thieves often steal parts from new car models. The precious metals used in the parts make them valuable, and they can be stolen quickly in broad daylight.
Opportunists will take any vehicle that’s easy to take, so the most commonly stolen vehicles are generally pretty ordinary: hybrid family cars from Toyota, Hyundai, Honda.
For more seasoned car thieves, luxury SUVs from brands like Land Rover are prime targets.
5. What do thieves do with stolen cars?
Opportunist thieves steal cars for entertainment before dumping them or selling them illegally for quick cash.
Cars stolen for reselling internationally are stolen by more experienced thieves. They will target specific models carefully and may place a tracker to monitor its location, particularly if it’s to be shipped overseas.
It will be modified at an illegal dealership before resale, making it difficult to trace.
Car theft is no one’s idea of a good time. It can be incredibly distressing.