Friday, November 1, 2013

Urban Tale: recovery of stolen vehicle

The van was stolen from in front of the house in the middle of the night in early August. We'd joked about it being the ideal vehicle for criminal activities: big black van with tinted windows and only a driver's seat. Lots of cargo room! As the weeks went by, chances of recovery got slimmer.

In late September my partner left to do a 500-mile pilgrimage walk from France to Santiago, Spain. He allowed two months, but finished in 4 weeks. You can read about it and see photos from his pilgrimage here.

Meanwhile mail arrived from California Highway Patrol. Turns out the van was "recovered" on 10/19 and towed to a storage yard. To get it out he had to pay the fees: $190 for towing and $75 a day for storage. It was day five. You do the math.

They also required a release from the California Highway Patrol which meant a notarized letter from him authorizing me to pick up the van because I was not the registered owner. By this time we found this out, it was bedtime in Spain. >Ding!< add $75.

The next morning I was off to the CHP office by 8am with the precious notarized letter >Ding!< add $100. I paid the fees (>Ding!< add another $70 for title search) before they walked me out to the van. I had the key, but didn't need it. The thieves broke the ignition - anyone could've started the van with a screwdriver. And they locked a Club onto the steering wheel!
not my Club!
The towing yard couldn't get the Club off. Turns out the van wouldn't start anyway. So AAA towed it home. At least I didn't pay extra for that.

The $600 van has racked up costs of $810 for this incident. It obviously needs new license plates, door locks and ignition; the Club removed; and whatever fix to start it again. Unless the same thieves come back and fix it, it'd be waiting for him.

How much more will it cost to get it running again? Do you hear bells ringing?

  • In California, if the vehicle is picked up by the third day of storage, then no storage fees are charged. In this case, they recovered the van on a Saturday and didn't write and mail the report until the CHP office opened on Monday. Three days were up at a blink of the eye!
  • The storage yard will keep a vehicle worth less than $4000 for 30 days before selling it. If the sale price does not cover the fees then they will send collections after the owner for the difference.
  • The owner can offer the pink slip to the storage yard before the 30 days are up, but again, if the sale price does not cover the fees, then they will send collections after the owner for the difference.
  • Avoid having your vehicle towed in a city like San Francisco. The storage yard advised me they charge for storage by the hour!
  • A friend had a vehicle parked on a Berkeley street while she was out of the country. Her neighbor reported the vehicle because it hadn't moved for more than 72 hours. She had to jump through similar hoops to get her vehicle out of storage. The 72-hour rule is California law. 
The lessons learned:
  • Don't leave the country if you are the sole registered owner of a stolen vehicle. Unresolved business comes back with a bite! 
  • Get insurance coverage for theft and vandalism even if the vehicle is not worth much. It doesn't cost much and may help cover all the fees that rack up. 
cargo trash