Car Break-In? What to Do, Who to Call and What to Expect

by Paul Konrardy

Car broken into?  Here’s a topline list of what to do. Then read our Car Break-In: What To Do for more information.


  1. Be safe, be smart.
  2. Get to a safe place. Call the police.
  3. They will ask for a description of what is missing from your car. (Remember your trunk, glove compartment, anywhere else you kept items.)

Download and print out our Car Inventory Checklist. It can be useful to refer to when talking to the police; you can use it as a checklist for figuring out what is missing. Keep a copy for yourself — it may help you in the replacement process of the stolen items.

WHN TIP – Advice from Experts: Listen to this podcast for tips on how to describe a suspect.

  1. The police will give you a case number.
    • Keep this with you at all times.
    • Make a copy of the case number, as well as the officer’s contact info, below, for home and work in case you need to reference it.
  2. Get the officer’s name(s) and badge number(s) as well as a phone number in case you have questions or remember other items in your car.
    • Officer #1 Name
    • Badge Number
    • Phone Number
    • Officer #2 Name
    • Badge Number
    • Phone Number

WHN TIP – Wallet / Purse Theft: Read our Wallet / Purse Theft — What to Do article for handling purse/wallet theft.

WHN TIP – Public Transit: If there is a public transit system near you, call their customer service line. Operators are trained to answer questions.

Have Insurance?

  1. Insured for car break-in? Call your insurance agent.
  2. Have your car insurance policy number.
  3. Have the police case number.
  4. Explain what happened (know that this may increase your rates).
  5. Go through the list of stolen items — this is the same list you gave the police — some may be covered, depending on your coverage and riders.
  6. If your policy includes coverage for a rental car, coordinate this with your agent. If your policy does not cover this, consider another mode of transportation.
  7. Ask your agent:
    • What is covered if the car was damaged?
    • What is the timeline for compensation?
    • How will this affect insurance rates? When will this change kick in?
    • What is covered if the contents are recovered but are damaged?
    • What is covered if the contents are never recovered?
    • Are there items that were stolen that aren’t covered under the insurance
      policy? Check your homeowner’s policy to learn if there is other coverage.
    • Will this affect
      homeowner’s rates? When will this change kick in?

WHN TIP – Timelines: While it varies by provider, insurance companies usually begin the claim process 7–15 days after the theft.

Not Insured?

  1. Keep the police case number with you at all times.
  2. Consider another mode of transportation if your car has been rendered inoperable due to the break-in.

 Next Steps

  1. After a few days, contact the police to check on the status of your case. Have your case number ready.
    • Ask to speak with the detective who is assigned to your case.
    • Introduce yourself, state your case number and when the theft took place.
    • Ask the detective about your case. Is it open or closed?
    • If it’s open, ask if there are any suspects.
    • Have there been more car break-ins in the neighborhood?
    • Is there is anything else you can provide to help?
    • Request a copy of the police report for your records.
    • The police do their best to follow up on the theft. However, it may not be possible to track down stolen goods. Be patient.

If Items Are Recovered

  1. If some or all of your items are recovered, the police will contact you. You will need to identify your belongings. Ask what identification to bring.
    • If your ID was stolen, ask what alternative identification you can use.
  2. Contact your insurance agent with the news.
  3. If your items are damaged, they must be assessed by your insurance company before you can repair/replace them.

WHN TIP – Repairs: Do not go ahead with car or content repair until you know how much money you are getting from the insurance agency.

If Items Aren’t Recovered

  1. After two weeks, be sure your agent is processing the paperwork so you can begin replacing items that are insured.
  2. The amount of money you get from your insurance agency depends on your coverage.

If Your Car Is Damaged

  1. If your car is damaged, drive or tow it to your garage for a check-up and/or repair estimate.
  2. Decide whether repairs are worth it – consult the Kelley Blue Book for an estimate of your car’s value.

Remember …

The information provided here is not meant to be a substitute for professional legal advice. These tips are from first responders, lawyers, insurance agents and people who have shared real-life advice; always check with a lawyer or appropriate professional you trust before making any legal decisions.

Thank You …

A special thank you to the industry professionals, lawyers, insurance agents, first responders and people who gave us their time, insight and real-life advice.

Photo Credit: nile