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It’s a sad and infuriating event; you walk out to your car to discover someone has stolen it. Well, even if the authorities recover your missing vehicle, there could be a downside. Sadly, stolen vehicles could get branded or salvage titles and lose value if they’re recovered at all. 

Can a salvage title mean a vehicle was stolen?

Some stolen cars may get a branded or salvage title depending on the vehicle’s condition when authorities recover it and the state where the car is registered. For instance, AutoSavvy says that stolen vehicles in New York, Arizona, Florida, or New Jersey will automatically get a branded title. 

A car thief breaks into a vehicle. Once stolen, a car could get a branded or salvage title.
A car thief breaks into a vehicle | Andia via Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Unfortunately, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports that an estimated 1,001,967 cars were stolen in 2022, over 200,000 more than in 2019. Thefts are increasing in frequency and, in some cases, could be unavoidable. Moreover, the news is even more sobering in states that give every stolen vehicle a branded title. For instance, the NICB says that 28,292 vehicle thefts happened in New York last year, meaning any of those models that authorities recovered would get branded titles.  

Does a recovered stolen car lose value?

Anytime a theft shows up on a vehicle’s history report, it will likely lose value. Of course, any branded or salvage title car will be worth less than a clean title. Specifically, a branded title could decrease a vehicle’s value by around 20 to 40%, per Investopedia.

What do thieves usually do with stolen cars?

Unfortunately, many criminals will use stolen vehicles to commit other crimes. As a result, the vehicle’s state could be poor by the time authorities recover it. Moreover, if the car was instrumental in a crime, it will likely be involved in an investigation. 

A sign reminds patrons to lock their vehicles to defend against stolen cars and property that could lead to branded or salvage titles.
A sign reminds motorists to lock their vehicles | Jeffrey Greenberg, Universal Images Group via Getty Images

What should you do if someone steals your car?

If a car thief gets your vehicle, you should immediately notify the police and cooperate with authorities. Also, if you have any means of tracking your vehicle, share it with the police. 

There are a few measures you can take to make car theft more difficult for criminals

One of the best ways to discourage thieves from stealing your vehicle is to make it more difficult. For instance, storing your vehicle in a locking garage and using a factory or aftermarket alarm can make your car a much more difficult target. 

Moreover, you can invest in a GPS tracker to keep track of your vehicle. It’s a smart move when you have another driver using your car, like a teenager. Better yet, a tracker can help authorities recover your stolen property more quickly and effectively. Of course, the circumstances of the recovery could still lead to a completed claim and your vehicle heading to auction.


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