February 6, 2010 8:49 PM   Subscribe

My car was stolen. What else should I be doing that I haven't done yet?

I had my car, a 2007 Toyota Matrix (purchased new in October 2006 and now has about 32K miles on it) on Tuesday evening when I came home from work. I didn't go out again that night, so the next time I needed it was Wednesday morning. 7:30 that morning was when I first noticed the car was missing.

Everything from my car that had my name on it--receipts, bank statements, pay stubs, the binder containing all the Toyota manuals and such--were on the sidewalk where my car had been parked.

NOT left on the sidewalk: an amp I use with my band, and my work-issued laptop. I know.

There was no broken glass.

I filed a police report. They don't want me to call them for updates.

I filed an insurance claim. My insurance company sent me paperwork to fill out, and I mailed that back with my car keys. Judging from all the paperwork I had to fill out, it seems my insurance company needs convincing that I'm not committing insurance fraud.

I let Toyota, who's handling the car loan, know that the car was stolen and they said thanks. I owe less than $3K on it now, and the insurance company will pay that off as part of the settlement if that needs to happen.

I know the police aren't actually out looking high and low for my car. Should I be looking for it?

The insurance company is providing a rental car for the time being--they'll cover up to $600, and my rental is costing $23 per day.

The insurance company has been a little evasive about answering questions like When will you give up looking? When should I give up looking? When should I get a new car?

I'm feeling sort of out of control here. This week, someone else decided what car I'm going to drive. I just mailed my car keys off to a post office box in a town I'm willing to bet is not the same town where my car is. What can I do here beyond what I've already done?
posted by emelenjr to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total)
There's nothing you can do. Really. In fact, it's about to become Not Your Problem.

AFAIK, cars that are stolen end up either stripped and sold for parts, or used in the commission of further crimes. Your car is really, really common (or, its component parts are shared with enough cars that are common) so as to make it worth quite a bit when disassembled, and not big enough to hold much stolen merchandise, so it's very likely never going to be found again. If it is used for further crime, it'll probably show up in a few days having been abandoned.

Once the insurance company pays out your claim, however, they own it. It's not your car to follow up on any longer. And they're not too worried about finding it because, hey, now they own a tainted car that's likely worthless that they have to try to sell.

As for the police, well, nobody was hurt, and it's property crime with assets that are (very, very) easily identified. As well, the perps are likely already in the system, have likely been in and out of prison repeatedly, and aren't going to be able to be tied to the car theft anyway unless they get extremely unlucky or do something monumentally stupid like get pulled over. Basically, it's about the lowest of low priorities.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 9:01 PM on February 6, 2010

your insurance company will (is supposed to) stay on your police dept. for updates on your car, because if the car is recovered, they will want to sell it for salvage. right now, they are ordering your police report from choicepoint, and they will take a recorded interview from you.

if your insurer is, as you say, suspicious, they will probably ask a lot of pointy questions about your personal finances and the finances of people close to you, and the mechanical condition of the car. they will not be loving the part about how your personal bank info and the car manuals were left on the pavement but your car and work computer were taken.

when you give your statement, do not use any technical language or jargon related to the insurance industry, if you know any, because it may result in your claim being flagged for PILR (fraud database) investigation.

otherwise, just make sure your claims adjuster has all 55 of your contact phone numbers because the quicker they get your recorded statement and police report, the quicker they will close your claim and pay you.

(I am a former auto claims adjuster)
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:03 PM on February 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

result in your claim being flagged for PILR (fraud database) investigation.

which obviously will make it take longer
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:04 PM on February 6, 2010

As a piece of advice I wish someone had told me after my car was stolen - sometimes, if the car is found in decent shape within 30 days of being stolen, your car insurance company will make you take it back. It happened to me, and after I had my heart set on a brand new car, 20 days after my car was stolen, it turned up during a drug bust, perfectly fine and even had new rims on it! And I had to take it back. Luckily, I didn't have to pay back the rental fees that my insurance company covered.

Check with your insurance company if they have a pending coverage time. And if so, hope if your car comes back that you'll at least get some baller rims.
posted by banannafish at 9:09 PM on February 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

As a piece of advice I wish someone had told me after my car was stolen - sometimes, if the car is found in decent shape within 30 days of being stolen, your car insurance company will make you take it back.

whoa - learn something new every day! we never found a car, so I never had to cram one down the insured's throat. wrecked cars that should have been totaled, oh my yes, but not stolen-recovered cars.
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:16 PM on February 6, 2010

Everything from my car that had my name on it--receipts, bank statements, pay stubs, the binder containing all the Toyota manuals and such--were on the sidewalk where my car had been parked.

You probably should alert your bank(s) and setup a fraud alert on your credit report. They might have left most of that stuff on the curb, but there's a chance they've still got a paystub, book of checks, etc. which is more than enough to cause you years of additional trouble.

Did you keep a spare set of house keys in your car? If so, have your locks changed.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:46 PM on February 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

Ditto what Nathan said. Keep an eye on your credit report, change locks, report your work laptop stolen and if there are any sensitive files on it, be sure to take the appropriate actions which your employer will no doubt inform you of. Bummer deal dude.
posted by MsKim at 10:03 PM on February 6, 2010

Something like this happened to me in August. I was anxious to find my car at first, but they didn't find it until about two months had passed, so insurance had paid my claim already and I had bought another car. The experience was hugely stressful.

After they found it, the insurance company towed it to an auction lot, but they let me look at it to see if any of the stuff in it was mine. It reeked of a combination of cigarette smoke and mold (yuck). I was quite happy they hadn't made me take it back in that condition.

Assuming it isn't found in the next few weeks, you'll sign the title to the car over to the insurance company, and they'll write you a check; after that, if the car is found, it belongs to the insurance company (they bought it from you).

I think it's really weird that they left your stuff on the sidewalk. In my case, there was an odd selection of my stuff still in the car when it was recovered (a few paperbacks, a few pieces of paper, my garage door opener, and my boots). My laptop was nowhere to be seen. But it was mostly full of the thief's stuff, including five suitcases full of clothes, an open can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew, and his collection of Celine Dion CDs.

Bottom line, hope they don't find it too fast, since you probably won't want it back in the condition it will be in. You might want to start researching what the value of the car should be so you're prepared in case you need to negotiate with them on the payoff.
posted by sergent at 10:40 PM on February 6, 2010

I had a friend whose beater car was stolen in SF. Friend went looking for it, found it in a poor neighborhood, and after talking to the police, drove it home.

If you have plenty of time on your hands, you could go looking for it. If it's not gone to car heaven yet, it's probably parked on the street somewhere. If you do find it, call the police before doing anything.
posted by zippy at 10:42 PM on February 6, 2010

Aw, man, that sucks. Definitely tell your bank and the credit bureaus.

(I've had a car stolen once, when I couldn't afford that happening at all. Turned out the guy sold it to someone else, who tried to register it, and it came up stolen. They towed it and got it back, after which I sold it, but they still haven't found the original thief.)

Also, the insurers may not be particularly suspicious. They ask a lot of questions in total loss situations. And TheNewWazoo's right--if they pay out, they should have full title to your car. Virtually always, as toodleydoodley implies, they will only get salvage value for it, but it may be recovered in better condition. I don't know anything about banannafish's statement about the insurer's "making" you take it back, but it could be so. (In my case, I wanted my car back.)

Finally, it's not surprising that they took the amp and laptop--actually, it's much more surprising that they left all your paperwork out there, and that may indicate that these thieves are mostly interested in stealing from the people to whom they sell it (as my thief was), as opposed to you. Nonetheless, they were still too proficient in thievery to let such resalable plunder as an amp and laptop go free, the bastards.

(I am a lawyer, but not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.)

Good luck.
posted by tellumo at 11:47 PM on February 6, 2010

If it does come back make them get it inspected before you accept it back and then go over it with a fine tooth comb yourself. We had a car stolen and it was used to smuggle drugs over the Mexican border. We got it back in "fine" condition which <12 months later meant complete engine failure. Took a long time to prove it was down to the theft and we were lucky to be able to do so.
posted by fshgrl at 1:18 AM on February 7, 2010

Do some research on the value of your car. Insurance companies usually pay out somewhere between the blue book wholesale and resale value of your car. Also find your actual policy documents and make sure you understand your rights with regards to rejecting their first offer on a value. You won't have much in the way the rights, there might be something in there about taking the dispute to arbitration. If you were meticulous about routine maintenance, or just had brand new tires put on the car, or have anything like that which would potentially increase the value of the car, get all that documentation in order. Since they can't examine the car the insurance company is going to assume average. If your car was in better than average condition for its age you want to try to document that.
posted by COD at 6:03 AM on February 7, 2010

Unfortunately, I have some fairly recent experience with this. A few things I learned which may help you:

*Check out what your state's procedure is regarding your plates. In Illinois, you have to file a separate form at the BMV stating your plates were stolen--it's not done for you by the police when the car is stolen (crazy, I know). No one told me this, either from my insurance company or the police department when I filed my report, so I found this out about a month after my car was stolen, adding a lot of stress to the whole endeavor.

*Do start getting your service records and proof of mileage together. My insurance company tried to screw me over on the value of my stolen car (they wanted to pay me about a third of what I'd paid for my car less than a year earlier). If you get an unreasonable quote like this, be prepared to fight it. I think I might have gotten a particularly bad agent at first, though--they switched to another agent midstream and I had no problems from that point on.

*Be prepared for the car to be found, trashed (this happened to my brother when his car was stolen--it was found a week later), or to never hear from the police again. About 6 weeks after my car was stolen, the cops called me asking if my car had been found; apparently my insurance company had called them asking about it. That shows how on top of things both my insurance company and the police were in my case.

I did have particularly bad luck with my experience, though, so I don't want to discourage you--you'll probably have better luck than I did. Sorry this happened to you, I know how much it sucks.
posted by carrienation at 8:53 AM on February 7, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the tips everyone, and please keep them coming.

That's especially helpful about the license plates, carrienation. It would make sense for the police to coordinate with the DMV about that, but I'll call the DMV on Monday to report those as stolen as well.

Among the paperwork left behind was a receipt from the most recent service trip, back on Jan. 6, and my insurance company requested that as a way of verifying the mileage (recent mileage, anyway.) I took my car in for scheduled tune ups every 5K miles, and always to the dealership where I bought the car, so they'll have a thorough record of all the work that was done to it over the last four years.

I'm hoping that the theft of my employer's property along with it will speed up the process. The security department interviewed me and asked for the police case number and insurance claim number, anyway.
posted by emelenjr at 9:26 AM on February 7, 2010

This does not address your question. However, it might be useful to you - or anybody - in the future, to actually prevent theft. I've had a car stolen before, and the hassle factor is worse than any monetary losses. Since then (years ago), I've installed Car Defender and never had a car stolen yet, even in high crime /car theft areas. This system is vastly superior to simple ignition bypass switches, and is unique in the market. Having witnessed the installation (a full hour by a trained mechanic), I believe the company when they say they've never had it defeated yet. Basically, with this in, the only way your car will be stolen is if it's towed away. To me, having this installed is worth the circa $200, for the peace of mind. I'm not associated with the company in any way, other than a satisfied customer. Good luck!
posted by VikingSword at 12:13 PM on February 7, 2010

Ha, for once I feel like a pro about something. I have had my car stolen from me twice. Two different cars, two different cities. I should play the lottery, huh?

Best piece of advice I have for you is to call the impound lot every day to make sure your car hasn't shown up there. A nice cop the first time around told me this. If your car is towed to the impound lot, they may not get around to calling you until three, four days into it. At least in Memphis, this meant that I would be responsible for paying for every day it sat there, whether they called to inform me or not. This could mean paying hundreds in impound fees just to retrieve your own car (assuming that you'd even want your car back at that point). Now, this may vary by location, but it's not a bad idea to start calling around. Ask the local police what impound lot they typically use to tow stolen/found cars to.

I'm so sorry that this happened to you. It may turn out to have a happy ending. My first car was found after 10 days, left abandoned by the side of the road with all of the windows left down. Rainy season = moldy car = me selling it immediately.

Second car was found after 10 hours, probably due to the fact that I had out-of-state plates and was easier to spot. Only damage was a broken window and mangled steering column, both quite repairable.
posted by elisebeth at 9:45 AM on February 8, 2010

Response by poster: The automated Ask Me followup e-mail has great timing. Last night, the police called to say my car had been recovered. I don't know any more details than that because the police report isn't ready yet. And I don't care that much, either, because my insurance company settled with me and I bought a new car last week!

Thanks, everyone, for the advice.
posted by emelenjr at 2:19 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

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