Auto Thefts and Break-Ins Are on the Rise: What Can You Do?

Vehicles are being broken into or stolen at an increasing rate since the start of the pandemic. Does your fleet insurance policy cover them?

Someone steals a vehicle every 36 seconds in the US, according to a report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). Nationwide theft data shows a marked increase in auto crime since 2019, with the pandemic, supply chain issues, and economic conditions cited as contributing factors.

Western states are getting hit particularly hard, with Washington seeing an 88% increase in vehicle thefts in the first three months of this year. The rest of the nation hasn’t been spared, however; for example, New Jersey saw an increase of 31% in the same period.

Line of cars parked on city street as sun shines in distance

Break-ins are also on the rise. In San Francisco, vehicle break-ins have increased 200% since last year, with recent police reports revealing 74 car break-ins per day.

Catalytic converter thefts represent even more startling statistics. The NICB reports that it had an average of 108 catalytic converter thefts per month in 2018. By January 2020, that number had jumped to 652 cases per month, and then it soared to 2,347 in December of that year. While experts know catalytic converter thefts are still on the rise, current numbers are hard to pin down because many drivers do not report these thefts.

What can you do to mitigate your chances of being the victim of a vehicle crime? And how can the right insurance coverage help? This article will provide an overview of vehicle insurance coverage and offer some crime prevention tips and steps to take if your vehicle is broken into or stolen.

Are You Covered for Auto Theft or Break-In?

As the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic has eased, business travel, leisure travel, and office employees returning to in-person work have increased. Unfortunately, a rise in car thefts and break-ins is accompanying these renewed activities.

Today’s savvy criminals can download apps to track electronic devices left unattended in vehicles. They are also using smart keys to steal cars and changing vehicle identification numbers (VIN) to avoid getting caught.

Damages after a break-in or to a recovered vehicle can include broken windows, windshields, and locks, and loss of business and personal property. As a result, one auto break-in can lead to three or four different claims. Having several claims for one event can increase insurance policy premiums, not to mention all the stress from dealing with multiple claims.

If you are the victim of a vehicle crime, areas of frustration may also include:

  • Lost time
  • Deductibles to pay
  • Cost of a rental vehicle
  • Lack of parts or labor to repair your vehicle

If your car is stolen, your first step is to contact the police. You will need to provide the following information:

  • Year, make, model, and color of the vehicle
  • License plate number
  • VIN

Next, you will need to report your stolen vehicle to your insurance company. What you can expect in terms of coverage depends on the type of policy you have.

For damages from a theft or break-in, here is a rundown of typical conditions that must be met and common policy terms:

Auto Policy

  • Physical damage must be present.
  • The auto must have comprehensive coverage.
  • If it is a rental vehicle, your business auto policy must have comprehensive coverage.
  • The auto policy does not cover business property or personal property.
  • Auto policies provide coverage for the damages to the vehicle minus a comprehensive deductible.

Property Policy

  • The property policy will cover business personal property.
  • The property policy will rarely cover an employee’s personal property.
  • An employee must rely on their own Homeowner’s or Renter’s policy, subject to a deductible.

Transit Policy

If products were in transit and meet insuring conditions, the transit or cargo policy may cover business personal property.

Cyber Policy

Cyber coverage may be triggered if laptops, phones, or other electronic devices were stolen and not encrypted. Provide immediate notice to your IT department if business electronics were stolen, as minutes can be critical to wipe a device clean.

If you rent a car for business use and experience vehicle crime, the credit card company you use may provide some protection to cover out-of-pocket expenses. Be sure to read the details of this coverage carefully, as the “Other Insurance” will be triggered.

How to Lower Your Chances of Vehicle Crime

Here are some tips to discourage vehicle thieves:

  1. Do not leave any belongings inside your vehicle. Anything visible can attract a thief’s attention—even loose change, clothing, phone chargers, or garage door openers.
  2. If you must leave bags, packages, electronics, wallets, or other valuables in your vehicle, place them in a locked trunk before arriving at your destination. Before stowing electronics, be sure to disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and power them off.
  3. Park in a busy, well-lit area.
  4. Close all windows completely.
  5. Remove all keys from the vehicle.
  6. Lock the vehicle, making sure the alarm is activated if you have one.
  7. Trust your instincts when you park your car. If you notice an individual or a group loitering around the area, park somewhere else if you can.

Also, some car thieves place cash under windshield wipers and lay in wait nearby, hoping you will step out of your vehicle to examine it. When you step out, they rush over to take control of your vehicle. If you see money under your wiper, it’s best to leave it there, drive away, and then notify the police.

Timing Is Everything When Reporting a Vehicle Crime

No one wants to experience the stress and sense of violation that comes with an auto theft or break-in, but you can lessen the impact of the crime with prompt action. Here is why:

  • If the local police agency has a lead on criminal activity in the area, minutes can matter. Prompt reporting can aid them in recovering your vehicle or stolen property from a break-in.
  • When notified quickly, your IT department may be able to disable electronics, thereby avoiding a cyber situation.
  • When you inform your insurance broker promptly, your claim can be addressed in a timely and efficient manner.

Here is the information you will need to report an insurance claim:

  • Year, make, model, and VIN of personal vehicle
  • Contract for rental vehicle
  • Police agency and police report number
  • Details on vehicle damages (providing photos will help)
  • List of all stolen items (indicating which items are personal vs. business property)

If you have any additional questions or concerns about how your policies will respond to vehicle thefts or break-ins, please contact your Woodruff Sawyer claims consultant. We will be happy to assist you throughout the claims process and advocate for coverage on your behalf.



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