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HomeCar Insurance ResourcesStolen car investigation process in Canada

While laws and procedures may differ somewhat from province to province, the general process for a stolen car investigation in Canada is relatively uniform across jurisdictions. Note that this is a simplified description, and actual law enforcement procedures may vary and involve additional steps based on the specific circumstances of the case.

  1. Reporting the Theft: The first step is for the owner of the stolen vehicle to report the theft to the police. This can typically be done either by phone, in person, or, in some jurisdictions, online.
  2. Initial Investigation: After the theft is reported, the police will begin an initial investigation. This typically includes collecting information about the stolen vehicle (make, model, color, license plate number, VIN, any unique identifiers), as well as details about the circumstances of the theft (location, time frame, potential witnesses, etc.). They may also visit the scene of the theft to gather additional evidence.
  3. Entering Information into CPIC: Once the necessary information has been gathered, the police will enter the details of the stolen vehicle into the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database. This national database is accessible by law enforcement agencies across Canada, and it helps coordinate efforts to locate and recover stolen vehicles.
  4. Ongoing Investigation: Following the initial investigation, the police may continue to follow up on leads and conduct additional investigative work. This could involve reviewing surveillance footage, conducting interviews, canvassing neighborhoods, etc.
  5. Vehicle Recovery: If the stolen vehicle is located, the police will recover it and initiate the process of returning it to the owner. Depending on the circumstances, the vehicle may be processed for further evidence before it is returned.
  6. Legal Proceedings: If a suspect is identified and apprehended, legal proceedings may be initiated. This could involve charges of theft, possession of stolen property, and potentially other related offenses.

Each Canadian province has its own provincial police force (such as the Ontario Provincial Police or the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary), or contracts policing to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). While the general process described above is broadly applicable, there may be minor differences in procedures between provinces. If you’re interested in a specific province’s procedure, it would be best to consult the specific policies of the provincial police force or the RCMP division operating in that province.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that it’s also important for the vehicle owner to report the theft to their auto insurance provider. This is a separate process from the law enforcement investigation and is necessary for any insurance claims related to the theft.

How long does a stolen car investigation take?

The exact duration of a stolen car investigation can vary widely based on a range of factors including the details of the case, the resources available to law enforcement, and the specific policies and procedures of the relevant law enforcement agency. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to provide specific time frames for each province, as these factors can result in significant variation even within the same jurisdiction.

Generally, a stolen vehicle will be immediately entered into the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database once reported, and it will remain listed until it is recovered or deemed irrecoverable.

As per your request, here are general time frames and processes for each province. Please note that these are very rough approximations and should not be taken as definitive:

  • British Columbia: RCMP operates in most areas. Time frame can vary significantly based on specific case circumstances.
  • Alberta: Policing is provided by a mix of RCMP and municipal forces. Time frame varies and is case-specific.
  • Saskatchewan: Primarily policed by RCMP. Time frame is case-specific.
  • Manitoba: Primarily policed by RCMP, with Winnipeg having its own service. Time frame is case-specific.
  • Ontario: Policing is handled by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and municipal forces. Case resolution times can vary greatly.
  • Quebec: Policed by the Sûreté du Québec and municipal forces. Time frame is case-specific.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Royal Newfoundland Constabulary operates in major urban areas, RCMP elsewhere. Time frame varies based on case.
  • Prince Edward Island: Entirely policed by RCMP. Time frame is case-specific.
  • Nova Scotia: Policed by a combination of RCMP and municipal forces. Time frame is case-specific.
  • New Brunswick: Policed by RCMP with a few municipal forces. Time frame is case-specific.
  • Yukon: Policed by RCMP. Time frame varies and is case-specific.
  • Northwest Territories: Policed by RCMP. Time frame varies and is case-specific.
  • Nunavut: Policed by RCMP. Time frame varies and is case-specific.

In most cases, investigations remain open until the vehicle is recovered, or it is deemed unlikely to be recovered. It’s important to note that these times can vary significantly based on the circumstances of the theft, the available evidence, and many other factors. It’s also important to note that the recovery of the stolen vehicle does not necessarily mean the end of the investigation, particularly if there are ongoing efforts to identify and prosecute the individual(s) responsible for the theft.

How do police investigate a stolen car?

Investigating a stolen car involves several steps, and while the specifics may vary from case to case and by jurisdiction, the general process is similar across Canada:

  1. Reporting the Theft: The process begins when the owner of the vehicle reports the theft to the police. They should provide as much information as possible about the vehicle, including make, model, color, license plate number, vehicle identification number (VIN), and any distinguishing features. Information about the circumstances surrounding the theft can also be useful.
  2. Initial Investigation: Once the theft is reported, police begin their initial investigation. This could include visiting the scene of the theft to collect potential evidence, such as surveillance video or witness statements.
  3. Entry into CPIC: After gathering necessary information, police enter the stolen vehicle’s details into the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database. This nationwide database is accessible by all law enforcement agencies across the country and aids in coordinating efforts to locate and recover the vehicle.
  4. Patrols and Checkpoints: Police officers on patrol and at checkpoints keep an eye out for the stolen vehicle based on the information provided. Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) systems may also be used to identify stolen vehicles on the road.
  5. Ongoing Investigation: Depending on the case, further investigative work may be necessary. This could include following up on leads, re-interviewing the owner and potential witnesses, reviewing more extensive surveillance footage, and collaborating with other jurisdictions or departments.
  6. Vehicle Recovery: If the stolen vehicle is located, police will recover it. Depending on the circumstances, the vehicle might be held for a period to collect further evidence before it’s returned to the owner.
  7. Legal Proceedings: If a suspect is apprehended, they could face legal proceedings, including charges of theft, possession of stolen property, and potentially other related crimes.

Keep in mind that this process is not linear – multiple steps could be happening simultaneously, and the police may loop back to earlier steps as new information comes to light. Also, it’s important to remember that the police are dealing with many cases at once, and the time it takes to investigate a stolen car can vary widely based on the specifics of the case and the resources available to the department.

How do you check if a vehicle is stolen in Canada?

In Canada, there’s a general process to check if a vehicle is stolen that applies to all provinces. The Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database is accessible nationwide and provides information on stolen vehicles.

Here are the province-by-province details:

  1. British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut: You can check if a vehicle is stolen by accessing the Canadian Police Information Centre’s (CPIC) online database. The online database allows you to enter the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) or the plate number to see if it’s been reported stolen. The database is available at However, if you’re considering purchasing a used vehicle, it’s also a good idea to conduct a lien check and obtain a vehicle history report.
  2. Ontario: In addition to the CPIC, Ontario also offers the Used Vehicle Information Package (UVIP) when you buy or sell a used car. This package includes a description of the vehicle, the registration history in Ontario, odometer information, outstanding debts on the vehicle, wholesale/retail values based on its condition, year, and model, and information about the vehicle’s lien status.
  3. Quebec: In Quebec, you can also use the CPIC database to check if a vehicle is stolen. Additionally, Quebec’s automobile insurance agency, the SAAQ (Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec), provides a service called “Register of personal and movable real rights” (RPMRR) that allows you to check if there are any outstanding liens or debts on a vehicle.

Remember, you should also consider obtaining a full vehicle history report, and a pre-purchase inspection by a trusted mechanic is always a good idea when buying a used car. These additional steps can help you avoid potential issues beyond theft, such as undisclosed damage or mechanical issues.

What happens when your car is stolen then found

If your stolen car is located and recovered by law enforcement, several things can happen, depending on the circumstances and condition of the vehicle.

  1. Notification: The first step is that law enforcement will notify you, the owner, that the vehicle has been located. They’ll provide information about the current status and location of the vehicle.
  2. Investigation: If the car is found in a condition that suggests criminal activity (such as signs of burglary tools, contraband, etc.), the vehicle might be held for a while as evidence for ongoing investigation or for potential criminal proceedings against the person(s) who stole it. This could involve forensic examination for fingerprints, DNA, or other evidence.
  3. Release of the Vehicle: Once the police have completed any necessary investigations, the car will be released. In some cases, the car may be immediately driveable and you can pick it up yourself. In other cases, if the car is damaged or inoperable, it may be towed to a secure location or directly to a repair shop. Be aware that you might have to pay the towing and storage fees, although these might be recoverable from your insurance company, depending on your policy.
  4. Insurance Claim: You should contact your insurance company as soon as possible after the theft, and then update them when the car is recovered. If the car is damaged, your insurance company will likely need to inspect the damage to determine the extent of your coverage. If the car is repairable, your insurance may cover the cost of repairs. If it’s a total loss (i.e., the cost of repairs exceeds the value of the car), you may receive a payout for the value of the car.
  5. Repairs: If the vehicle is damaged, you’ll need to have it repaired. If your insurance covers it, they may dictate where and how the repairs are done. If the vehicle isn’t insured for theft, you’ll be responsible for the cost of repairs.

Remember, every situation is unique, so this is a general guide and the specifics may vary depending on circumstances, local laws, and the specifics of your insurance policy. Always consult with the police and your insurance company for information tailored to your situation.

Does insurance pay for stolen car if key is in it?

In general, comprehensive auto insurance in Canada should cover the theft of a vehicle, even if the keys were left in it at the time of the theft. However, it is crucial to understand that the specifics can vary depending on the individual insurance company, your specific policy, and the circumstances of the theft.

Insurers will conduct an investigation into the claim, which may include questioning the circumstances of the theft and whether reasonable precautions were taken to secure the vehicle. Leaving keys in the car may be considered a failure to protect the vehicle adequately, and the insurance company could potentially deny the claim on this basis. This would be especially true if the keys were left in the car in a visible and inviting manner.

However, the Insurance Bureau of Canada advises that whether the keys were left in the vehicle does not determine the assessment of the claim, as the policy covers theft of the vehicle. Still, the policyholder must exercise due care.

Remember, the best source of information about coverage specifics is always your insurance policy documentation and your insurance company or broker. If you’re unsure about the details of your coverage, it’s always a good idea to ask your insurance provider directly. Also, note that it’s generally a good practice not to leave your keys in your car unattended to help prevent theft in the first place.

How stolen car insurance payout calculator works

Here are some factors that an insurance company typically considers when determining the payout for a stolen car:

  1. The Coverage: If you have comprehensive coverage, theft should be included. If you only have liability coverage, theft would not be covered.
  2. Actual Cash Value (ACV): This is the value of your car at the time it was stolen, taking into account factors like its age, mileage, condition, and any upgrades or modifications. This is typically what your insurer would pay out for a stolen car, minus your deductible.
  3. Deductible: This is the amount you’ve agreed to pay out of pocket before your insurance coverage kicks in. For instance, if your car’s ACV was $15,000 at the time it was stolen and your deductible is $1,000, you’d receive $14,000 from your insurer.
  4. Depreciation: This is the decrease in your car’s value over time due to wear and tear, age, etc. It’s a factor in determining the ACV.
  5. Leases or Loans: If you have a car loan or lease, the insurance payout would first go towards paying off the remainder of your loan or lease. If the ACV is less than what you owe, you could be left still owing money unless you have gap insurance.

Remember, the specifics can vary between different insurance companies and individual policies. Always check your insurance policy documents or contact your insurance provider directly for information about how a claim would be handled and how a payout would be calculated.

Additionally, most insurers in Canada will require a waiting period (usually 30 days) to see if the vehicle can be recovered before they process a claim for a stolen car. If your car is found during this period, your insurer would then assess any damage to determine the appropriate payout. If your car isn’t found within the waiting period, your insurer would proceed based on the assumption that the car won’t be recovered.

About the Author: Valerie D. Hahn

Valerie is an insurance editor, journalist, and business professional at RateLab. She has more than 15 years of experience in personal financial products. She strives to educate readers and ensure that they are properly protected.

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