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What NOT to Do When Your Car is Stolen

September 7, 2011

If I can impart one lesson on you all about what do when your car is stolen – and subsequently recovered – it would be this: DO NOT remove the car from the impound lot. Ever.

Let me start at the beginning. My 1998 Honda Civic coupe, my beloved car, was stolen for the second time in its life last week. The first time was in 2004 when it was taken from right outside our condo complex. Thankfully the police recovered “CUD” (nickname for my car) at 4 a.m. the next day during a high speed chase.

With 160,000 miles on that car, it still runs like a charm and I love it. I feel happy every time I drive it. I bought it Labor Day Weekend 1998. I knew I wanted that green Honda Civic with the stick shift. I didn’t know how to drive a manual, mind you. But I knew I wanted to learn. So I signed an agreement with Honda to finance my new car with the stick shift. My dad drove it home and then taught me to drive it. After a few near misses, I finally got the hang of it and proudly cruised about town in my new automobile.

Going forward to last week (ironically days before Labor Day Weekend 2011), Bryan – who was driving CUD to work that week – parked our car in the same area we always leave it every day. At 6 p.m., Bryan made his way through the parking structure and discovered that CUD was gone.

I’m at home relaxing when Bryan calls to say the car was stolen. My first thought is, “Oh no! Who’s going to pick up the pizza I just ordered?” But I quickly put that notion aside and told Bryan to call the police and sit tight. Sophie, Casey, Romeo and I piled into the bigger family truckster to pick up Bryan; first stopping for the pizza (priorities!) and gas, as this was no time to play Russian roulette with the fuel tank.

Bryan and I tried to face the fact that this may have been CUD’s last ride. But sure enough, at 10:30 that night, the police called to say they found the car in good condition, parked in a residential neighborhood about five miles from where it was stolen. It would be towed to an impound lot and waiting for us. What a relief!

The next morning, the cracker-jack insurance agent recommended we go to the impound lot, pay to release it, and drive it home so the insurance adjuster could come out and check the car. And being the authority-abiding citizens we are, that’s just what we did.

The minute CUD came out of impound, we see it had no ignition and steering column. Between those minor details and the hypodermic needle found in the glove compartment, that car wasn’t going anywhere. Problem was that once you pay to release your car from impound, the towing boys won’t let it back into their lot. After a grueling hour and a half on the phone with the insurance agent and a towing company; a whiny child in the backseat (who can blame her?); and $305 out-of-pocket later, the car was being taken to a collision center just ten minute away for an evaluation.

This entire insane day could have been avoided (and $305 saved) if the first insurance agent had just told us to leave the car in the impound lot and let the adjuster come out and survey the damage. Now we’re waiting to find out what’s next. We have no idea if it is only the ignition and steering column that are damaged. I hope little CUD survives because it still runs like a charm and it’s completely paid off. And quite honestly, I really will miss that car if it’s gone. It’s been with me through thick and thin, good times and bad.

So please, folks, say a little prayer for me and learn from our mistakes. Never take your stolen car from the impound lot, no matter who tells you to do so. Or be prepared to waste several hours and $300 you probably didn’t have in the first place.

This has nothing to do with my car situation ... I just thought it was funny.

41 Comments
  1. September 7, 2011 1:12 am

    OMG! I remember the first time your car was stolen and taken for the joy ride of its life! Poor thing and what a trooper. You should have it write its own blog about what really happened during those hours it was out of your ownership.

    Thanks for the lesson. I hope it never comes in handy, though.

  2. September 7, 2011 3:21 am

    Good advice. Those hondas were built like tanks. We had one years ago. I also remembered driving across country in the summer of 1978 in a red Honda Civic- they had just come out. I’d answered an ad to help drive with this woman, a complete stranger. I wanted to see my then boyfriend who was working in Portland, Oregon. She was driving to Bellingham, Washington. We camped along the way. When my father drove me to meet her to leave, his comment was “that looks like a skateboard with a motor.” Guess I should write about this one day!

  3. September 7, 2011 3:53 am

    Hopefully, I never need this advice… :( I’m sorry about your car. Hondas are the best runners, aren’t they?

  4. September 7, 2011 6:22 am

    I am sorry Leah, but I could not help but laugh when I read that the your car was stolen for the 2nd time in it’s life! Can you imagine the stories your car could tell? I am glad that it was recovered for you with a minimum damage and I am sorry about the time and the money you’ve wasted! I am sorry still laughing….

  5. September 7, 2011 6:23 am

    Oh Leah, I’m so sorry to hear that! What a mess. And I definitely understand about the attachment and affection toward a car, having just traded in my baby. I hope CUD comes through once again!

  6. September 7, 2011 6:44 am

    I regularly have “OMG someone stole my car” moments but then realize I’ve either flipped the parking lot diagram in my head, or am just randomly remembering a parking lot I was in from 1995.

  7. September 7, 2011 6:45 am

    What a nightmare, Leah! I’m so sorry! I hope the car comes out okay without too many more headaches or machinations on your part…. I cannot believe you’ve gone through this TWICE. :(

  8. September 7, 2011 8:07 am

    How horrible Leah; thanks for sharing your story and the warning. However, I have to say that I did get a laugh out of your initial thought to worry about who would pick up the pizza! That’s something I would have worried about, too :>) Good luck and let us know what happens.

  9. September 7, 2011 8:26 am

    So sorry this happened to you, Leah!
    Here’s another piece of advice: if your insurance person tries to tell you it’s not repairable, challenge that. I wrecked a trendy car (1970 Mustang) once in California, and the insurance company tried ot rip me off for it by saying it was totaled. Turns out it wasn’t. And I got it fixed, by getting a second opinion.
    Good luck. Hope CUD comes home soon!

  10. September 7, 2011 8:26 am

    What a mess! And how frustrating that the ridiculous policy at the impound lot cost you $305. Fingers crossed taht your car will be in good repair soon.

  11. September 7, 2011 9:11 am

    I’m rooting for CUD to make a full recovery! What an ordeal! Good advise to leave it at the impound lot. Like you, I would have tried to get it out of there as soon as possible. Thanks for the heads up.

  12. September 7, 2011 9:19 am

    Oh that stinks. I drove my beloved Honda Civic for 9 years and loved it. One hail storm and tons of damage later, and I finally traded up for a new Honda.

    PS I am following you on twitter via flgirlnewlife.

  13. September 7, 2011 9:46 am

    It’s certainly a salutory lesson. I hope you are able to get your car back to health.

    Over here, a neighbour of mine had his car stolen – silly man left the keys on the seat while he popped indoors for something. The Police were ‘Oh Really? – Have you looked for it yourself’! – you do wonder what you pay your taxes for sometimes :-( I bumped into him a few hours later when he’d been looking around without luck. I said “Have you been over the Grange Estate – I bet it’s over there” Sure enough – that’s where he found it, no thanks to the Police who even said he should go and get it himself after he told them where it was! I wonder what they would have done if he’d been stabbed when he went? – Probably nothing, no point in doing their job if they can get joe public to do it.

    That was about 10 years ago – I’m pleased to report that things have improved but like all law abiding citizens I wish they were better.

    Thanks for the interesting post :-)

  14. September 7, 2011 10:07 am

    This does not sound like fun. I think you need a pamper day, they a mini holiday in Cabo. Honestly, this sounds like a nightmare. I do hope everything works out in a positive way – sometimes life gives back after torturing us.

  15. September 7, 2011 10:15 am

    Wow. So sorry. That’s just terrible. One car stolen twice? Your car must look very inviting. That’s why I keep mine looking like a trash heap that may fall apart at the next turn. No one’s even tempted to steal that thing!

    Good luck getting everything fixed. I do hope it goes smoothly from here on out.
    ~FringeGirl

  16. September 7, 2011 10:25 am

    Goodness- what a story! I’m glad they found it and I hope you got the pizza! :)

    My car got towed once and my first thought was that it had been stolen. I didn’t care about paying the hundreds of dollars to get it out of the impound lot because I was just so relieved it wasn’t stolen.

    I hope everything works out but I am really sorry that happened…again.

  17. September 7, 2011 10:40 am

    I’m rooting for the car. I’m a Honda fan from way back. I have over 150, 000 on my ’04 Pilot and my husband’s ancient (don’t even know the year) Civic is held together by rust but still runs. And yes, pizza is a priority if you have a car full of hungry kids.

  18. September 7, 2011 11:35 am

    Wow! That is a crazy story! One car stolen twice! Thank you for the heads up on impound lots and I hope this gets sorted out and end up working out in your favor!

  19. September 7, 2011 2:22 pm

    Honestly Brenda, these are the type of things that put me completely over the proverbial edge. Such a waste of time and money, not to mention the gigantic aggravation factor. Sophie was probably aging just sitting there! I hope CUD serves you for many more years to come, she’s part of the family.

  20. September 7, 2011 3:14 pm

    What a big fat bummer! Thanks for passing along what you learned from the whole process. I too was once in love with a Honda. She was blue. Ran like a charm. My first big girl (non beater) car. A deer took her away from this world too soon. Still, I mourn.

  21. September 7, 2011 4:08 pm

    Oh man! So sorry to hear of your misfortunes, Leah. Kind of reminds me when my home was broken into back in April. :-/ Well, I truly hope little CUD can recover. Please keep us posted!

    –Shari

  22. September 7, 2011 5:34 pm

    Dang, I hate when that happens! I hope that your wee car makes it and you have many more happy miles together!

  23. September 7, 2011 7:18 pm

    Bless your Heart. Thanks for the words of advice.
    I hope Cud survives and can be put back in top shape in no time. Isn’t it amazing how attached we can get to our vehicles.
    My positive thoughts are with you and Cud for a speedy recovery from this dreadful experience.

  24. September 7, 2011 9:08 pm

    Love the cartoon! Any news yet?

  25. September 8, 2011 9:59 am

    Oh that sucks, Leah! The last thing you probably want is a car payment so I hope your insurance will do it’s job and get you and CUD back on the road in a jiffy. ;-(

  26. September 8, 2011 12:14 pm

    Augh! Hoping for a happy ending, MJ

  27. September 8, 2011 6:22 pm

    Hi Leah, just stopping by to let you know you have been awarded the Liebster Award! Please stop by The Garden Gate to pick it up friend, and Congratulations.

  28. September 8, 2011 6:58 pm

    Can’t believe it was stolen TWICE! I hate that you have to go through this and hope you will tell us the outcome. And thanks for the advice, though I sincerely hope I never have to use it!

  29. September 13, 2011 4:45 pm

    Leah, what an awful ordeal that must’ve been! Here’s hoping CUD will be in tip top shape soon! Thanks for creating awareness. I too would have run to remove it from the impound lot. Good to know!

  30. September 25, 2011 10:09 pm

    I am finally reading this! What a horrible ordeal. I can’t even imagine it. I hope CUD will be ok. And thank you for warning us all about what NOT to do if this happens to us.

  31. October 1, 2011 7:55 pm

    Poor CUD. My dear Laura has been in the shop lately, and I miss her even though I know she (car) will be OK. Expensive bill, but I’ll have her back. I’m sorry for what you and CUD are going through and hope you will be OK.

  32. jeana permalink
    February 24, 2012 8:46 pm

    i am looking up stories about stolen vehicles and yours popped up on google. Ive had my 95 honda accord for 6 years its like my second home I am constantly driving around place to place or even just to go for a ride to relieve stress and listen to music. Yesterday I went into a store for not even 5 minutes to grab something and I came out my car was gone. I am hysterical i had so many valuable things that ment the world to me in there and its been 24 hrs and still no call from the cops. The doors were locked and I have the keys with me. I dont know if she will come back to me but I have to many memories with that car and I might sound pathetic but i have to say it truly breaks my heart. I hope these theives get what they deserve!

  33. elizabethweaver permalink
    October 22, 2012 1:21 pm

    My car was stolen this morning and I so hope I get it back. Thank you for the advice when that happens. May CUD never be stolen or damaged again and you get many happy years with CUD. Thanks for the post.

  34. mack permalink
    November 21, 2012 11:04 pm

    I hope ur CUD gets recovered soon! I can understand how u feel about that bcs my car also stolen 2 weeks ago. it was an ’05 infiniti g35 coupe. I miss it so much already but not recovered yet. ):

  35. JD Parran permalink
    December 1, 2012 3:38 pm

    I’m sorry you went through all of that, however, to say to never get your car back from the tow yard after it is impounded doesn’t make a lot of sense. I went through a similar experience when my car was stolen by a 16 year old kid. Police pulled him over after he tried to outrun them, and then sent the car to the tow yard. I called the tow yard the next morning, but the tow yard guy tried to discourage me by telling me it had a lot more damage than it did. Being a 1990 car, and of questionable value, I was determined to see it before paying the $270 to get it back. So I went into the lot and the car looked good, not near as bad as the tow yard guy had told me on the phone. I believe they may try to get you to abandon good cars without first looking at them so they can eventually sell them and make even more money. It’s a racket and they are not always truthful. So, I go in the yard and the car is in pretty good shape, other than a flat tire and a dead battery. I’m glad I paid to get it back because I would have lost a lot more if I had abandoned it even if I could have done so for the tow charges. But my case involves no insurance agent as I had only liability, no theft or comprehensive, but i would still feel it is better to get it back as soon as possible since they tack on $40 @ day in storage fees. the best advice I could give to anyone is to avoid getting you car stolen in the first place. Buy a steering wheel club and/or a brake pedal locking device, and use it EVERY night. The one night you don’t use it is the night it will get stolen. Also, it’s not a bad idea to pull the coil wire loose, or even remove it. These things wont stop a professional thief, but they will discourage a 16 year old that’s looking for a joyride for him and his buddies.

  36. January 13, 2013 8:10 pm

    Thank you for every other wonderful article.
    The place else may anybody get that type of information
    in such a perfect approach of writing? I have a presentation subsequent week,
    and I am at the look for such information.

  37. jesse permalink
    January 14, 2013 9:31 pm

    My 1996 dodge Dakota was stolen over a month ago. Today I received a call from the police saying they found my truck and if I could go pick it up at the location they found it. So I went to the location. It was an apartment complex with numbered parking spots. The truck was missing everything under the hood except for the motor. The whole job looked like it had been done there in the parking space. They had surveillance cameras and the person whose parking spot that belonged to was in the apartment complex. Here is where I need help. The police would not take finger prints off the truck, it had a bunch of oil finger prints everywhere. They would go speak with the owner of the parking spot or review the video surveillance.. I feel sick to my stomach that this criminals can get away with this. I live in California.

  38. dana permalink
    May 9, 2013 2:15 pm

    My car was stolen about a month ago from right outside my apt complex, will I ever see it again?

  39. July 30, 2013 10:18 am

    My Honda Civic 98 was stolen twice. This time the police recovered after a few days. They towed to a Tow place as always. After I paid $315 for towing/storage (the police said the car was in drivable conditions). I tried the drive the car but it stalled in a heavy traffic and I had to call towing/police to help me out. I ended up have the car towed to my mechanic shop. It ended up having to recharge the battery only. The problem now is that my insurance co. gave two options: first: they want to buy the car from me or2-If I keep the car they will give some money but they want to salvage the title ??? Is that legal ?

  40. October 19, 2013 9:25 pm

    On October 6th, 2011, my 2008 honda civic got stolen. I remember it like it was yesterday. I got a call at 6am from my neighbor telling me my garage was open and my car was not there. This got me on my feet! I raced out to the garage and it was true. The nite before when i put the door down, something was blocking the sensors. All my life I have had the bad habbit of keeping my keys in the car. (I just figure its in a garage with no windows, what could happen?) The next 4 days were filled with tears and I had my phone glued to me, waiting for a call from the police. On october 11th 2011, I recieved good news from the police atlast! They had located my car near the mid continent library and it was driveable, and I needed to get it. As I pulled up to my very missed car, I found it was driveable, but not in perfect condition. First of all the criminals were a teenage boy and girl who had been living in it. A gun had been shot off in it in which bullet went right through drivers door and even BROKE the window, the criminals smoked like 20 packs a day so the smell was awful, but nothing was wrong with the engine. It was Iin the shop for 2 weeks and before I knew it, I was back on the road again!

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