What NOT to Do When Your Car is Stolen

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.

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