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5 things we learned when our car was stolen

They didn't have comprehensive coverage, but luckily their renters insurance was still in effect.

By Karen Datko Jan 26, 2011 11:19AM

This post comes from Sarah Winfrey at partner blog Wise Bread.


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 (see also: "10 ways to get your car stolen"):


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.


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 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 the paperwork, etc., that comes along with a stolen vehicle in chunks, and then 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.


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.


A car's value isn't just how much you could get for it. We didn't carry comprehensive insurance on the car 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 Kelley 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 to not carry more coverage on the car, we will think about such things differently in the future. If a car is our only vehicle, for instance, we very well might carry comprehensive on it in the future.


Property insurance is a lifesaver. Whether you have homeowners insurance, renters insurance, or some other type of property coverage, that's what pays for any items inside your car if it is stolen. This was lucky for us, because we had renters 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 you never have a vehicle stolen. However, if you do, I hope you remember these tips and that 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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