5 Things We Learned When Our Car Was Stolen

by Sarah Winfrey on 20 January 2011 7 comments
Photo: izusek

My family just moved cross-country. Moving is always crazy, but ours was further complicated by the fact that one of our cars, loaded down with stuff, was stolen from a hotel parking lot in Las Vegas. Over the last several weeks, we’ve waded through paperwork and spent quite a bit of time on the phone. At this point, we’re experts in having a car stolen. While we wouldn’t have chosen that particular field of expertise, at least we can pass what we've learned on to all of you. Here’s what we learned.

1. Video Cameras Don’t Necessarily Equal Safety

We purposely parked in a lot with video monitoring — rather prominent video monitoring, might I add. However, those cameras didn’t deter the thieves, and they didn’t help the police catch them. We might have felt safer with them there, but the cameras actually didn’t add anything to the overall safety of our stuff.

As it turns out, avoiding video cameras is fairly easy, especially for experienced thieves. It’s much better to park in a lot where an attendant is present (if possible) or at least one that can be seen from a front desk or other manned station.

2. Having a Car Stolen Is Stressful

This might go without saying, but we found that the stress affected us more than we thought it would and continues to do so for longer than we thought it would.

Not only is having a car stolen violating and frustrating, but life continues to remind you of what you lost. Because we were moving, we still run across things that we realize must have been in the car that was taken, since we can’t find them anywhere else. Every time that happens, we feel the stress of the situation all over again.

We’ve found it helpful to work on all of the paperwork, etc., that comes along with a stolen vehicle in chunks, and then to forget about it until the next time we focus on it. That way, we get a break, and we don’t have to worry about it all the time.

3. Police Don’t Always Take Stolen Cars Very Seriously

While having our car stolen was a big deal for us, it wasn’t for the police. They didn’t even send a regular officer, just a cadet who gave us misleading information about how soon our car would probably be found.

On the one hand, you can’t really blame the police for this attitude. Especially in places like Vegas, cars get stolen all the time. It’s nothing new to them, and so it’s hard for them to get excited about it. On the other hand, it was a very big deal for us to lose that vehicle, and it only made things more stressful to realize the police weren’t going to go out of their way to help us. If we’d known this ahead of time, the whole process would have been much easier.

4. A Car’s Value Isn’t Just How Much You Could Get for It

We didn’t carry comprehensive insurance on the car that got stolen because the numbers didn’t work out. The car didn’t have enough monetary value to justify how much we’d have spent on the coverage.

However, we’ve realized that the car’s value to us went beyond its Blue Book value. For us, it was a way to get us from here to there. It represented freedom and ease of transportation, which are hard to assign a dollar value to.

While we still think we made the right decision in not carrying more coverage on the car, we will think about such things differently in the future. If a car like that one is our only vehicle, for instance, we very well might carry comprehensive on it in the future while we wouldn’t have in the past.

5. Property Insurance Is a Lifesaver

Whether you have homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance, or some other type of property coverage, that’s what pays for any items inside your car if it gets stolen. This was lucky for us, because we had renter’s coverage even though we didn’t carry comprehensive on the car. Thus, we’ll be getting something for the items that were stolen even though the insurance won’t pay to replace the vehicle.

Getting our insurance to pay, though, has been a hassle. They’re not being difficult, but they need information about the stuff in the car that we don’t readily have available. Moving forward, we’ll keep better track of when we purchase large items and how much we pay for them, so we have that at our fingertips if something like this happens again.

I hope that you never have a vehicle stolen. However, if you do, I hope you remember these tips and they help make your situation easier. And if you’ve had a vehicle stolen and have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment.

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Guest's picture
Guest

I can totally empathize...we had a house robbery last December and everything you describe is exactly what we experienced, including how the police reacted. Here we're in mid January and I'm still dealing with things pertaining what was stolen.

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Nate

I've never had a vehicle stolen, but I have had one broken into. A couple of years ago my old, beat up, exceptionally average truck had a brick thrown through the window. Of course this happened the night before I was scheduled to hop on a plane and leave town for a couple of days. Luckily I had nothing of value in the truck, but the hassle and stress of trying to make a flight and deal with vandalism like this was enormous.

I couldn't image how much more stressful having a car full of your personal items stolen must be. Kudos to you for having personal property insurance. That is something I've always held when I was renting. Luckily I never had to use it, but stories like this show just how important insurance can be.

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Guest

We had a vehicle stolen several years ago (from a bank parking lot and facing the entrance of a Catholic church). No one saw a thing. For about three years afterward, the local police department would sent us a notice a couple of times a year asking if we had located our vehicle. I usually sent their notice back to them with a note saying, "No, we haven't located our vehicle. Have you?" Eventually, they quit sending the notices. . . I'm assuming since they hadn't found it and neither had we.

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Guest

You couldn't be more correct about #3. The police rarely tak anything seriously. I had a neighbor steal checks from my mail and write checks all over the neighborhood. It was easily proven and a simple case. The police wouldn't do anything about it. Police contribute to overall safety, just don't expect any help with theft or fraud.

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Mike31

Another important thing to learn from this would be not to leave a bunch of stuff in your car. Cars with valuable looking things inside are a much more attractive target to thieves than ones with nothing inside. It's likely the thieves would have left it alone if there wasn't anything inside.

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Laura

Keep copies of all your receipts at someone else's house/in the cloud. Receipts fade, copies don't. Your box of receipts will be used by the thieves to carry out your items, your receipts in your computer will be stolen because they will take the computer, the fire/water damage will destroy your computer/your receipts. You will still be expected to produce your receipts if these things happen! The dog ate my homework will not suffice here.

Guest's picture

Sarah,

My apologies for your loss. What a frustrating thing to deal with.

I can identify because I used to work as an insurance adjuster. Insurance companies will only pay so much and the client is already frustrated with the situation. Everything you've felt and experienced here is what I've seen from those who have losses.

Good luck during this tough time. I hope some silver lining comes out of it somewhere.