A car is stolen every six minutes in Canada on average.
That’s according to Joanne Dalziel, an associate vice-president with insurance company Co-operators, who says car theft is a factor in rising insurance premiums. Équité Association, a not-for-profit organization that assists in insurance fraud and crime investigations, reported the insurance industry lost more than $1-billion in 2022, up from $700-million in 2021.
The number of vehicles stolen in Canada has also steadily risen in recent years. There were 83,288 cars stolen in 2021, the latest year with data available from Statistics Canada. That’s up from 78,198 in 2020.
So, what happens if your car is stolen, and what can you do to safely prevent being a victim of theft? Auto insurance experts explain the process below.
What happens once your car is stolen?
First things first, Ms. Dalziel says if you’re being intimidated or threatened by a thief attempting to steal your car, comply with their demands and put your own safety first.
Whether you’ve had your car stolen while parked or while you’re driving it, the next step is to call the police as soon as possible to file a police report.
Guillaume Lamy, a senior vice-president with Intact Financial Corporation says speed is of the essence once you realize your car has been stolen.
He says to tell police about any personal items in the car that need to be replaced or changed urgently, such as house keys or a garage door opener. Drivers should also have their vehicle’s VIN number and license plate number recorded, and notify police about any dents, marks or modifications that might help identify your car.
The next step is to get in contact with your insurer and provide the same details to them.
Daniel Ivans, an insurance expert with financial rates comparison site Ratesdotca, says it’s common for the only evidence related to the theft to be your police report, and that’s fine. But if you also have security footage or a vehicle tracker that could help with the recovery or valuation of your car, it’s helpful to provide that to both police and your insurer.
Depending on your coverage and the province you’re located in, you may be eligible for a rental car as police attempt to recover your car, or as insurance hashes out how you’ll be compensated for your stolen car.
For example, Ontario has built-in insurance coverage for up to $900 for a rental car. However, Ms. Dalziel says there can be a 72-hour waiting period before you’re eligible for those benefits unless you have supplemental coverage for rental cars.
In B.C., the provincial insurance provider ICBC will pay $40 per day to a maximum of $800 for alternate transport, which can be anything from public transport, cabs or rental cars. Like Ontario, transportation costs for the first 72 hours are at the driver’s expense, unless you have additional coverage.
From there, insurance companies will begin a process to determine how much money you may be eligible for. Depending on your level of coverage, you’ll be able to receive compensation for the value of the car (or repairs to the car if it is found with damage).
Ms. Dalziel says most comprehensive vehicle insurance plans cover theft, while any damaged or stolen goods inside the car can generally be covered by your home insurance.
When receiving payouts from your insurer, they will typically pay for the value of your car, not the cost of replacing your car, Ms. Dalziel said.
Avoiding theft and paying less for insurance
Every year, Equite Association releases a list of the 10 most commonly stolen cars in Canada. The most recent list released in 2022 included 2016-2021 Honda CR-V, 2016-2021 Lexus RX Series and 2015-2020 Ford F-150 Series as the top three stolen cars by volume.
Ms. Dalziel says having one of the cars on this list could affect your insurance costs, which could be a reason to steer clear of them.
Otherwise, there are multiple small actions you can take that’ll make a big difference in protecting your car.
Mr. Ivans says the goal is to make your car the least ideal target. That means parking your car indoors or in well-lit areas when leaving it on the street or in a parking lot.
You can also purchase a GPS tracking device or an aftermarket car alarm, the latter of which can sometimes reduce your insurance premiums, Mr. Ivans says.
Keyless entry cars have also become a target because thieves have developed methods of amplifying key fob radio signals to unlock and start cars. People worried about this issue can purchase pouches that block radio signals, where they can store their keys at home.
Lastly, Ms. Dalziel says Canadians should be wary of the common practice of running your car unattended to heat up the engine in the winter. This common practice makes your car an easy target. However, she said people who do have their car stolen this way wouldn’t have their coverage affected.