On top of losing a car, you get piled on with stolen vehicle recovery charges.
After the blow of getting the news about my 2001 Chevrolet Suburban getting stolen, not having a second car to get to work, and feeling robbed (because I was), I got some great news: my car had been found and had been recovered!
Unfortunately, another wave of bad stuff was coming: the stolen vehicle recovery charges.
This isn’t my first time around the block regarding car theft. I was honestly just hoping for the best out of the bad situation. From experience, I know that I can divide this into the best case scenario, a medium, a worst-case scenario. In this particular case, here is a list of charges that I had to pay:
Stolen Vehicle Recovery Charges
- Tow from the recovery site to the storage yard fees, $485.79
- Storage fees, $115.00 (one day)
- Inspection by a mechanic $119.25
- Repairs $440
- Miscellaneous items taken from inside the car ~$300
Now, there were some other fees associated with this, but please note that I didn’t add insurance fees on there because I didn’t have to pay a deductible on it since my insurance is on the lowest tier that doesn’t cover stolen vehicles. Also, I didn’t include some of the anti-theft devices that I purchased for my car to help prevent future thefts.
Side note: not everything has been fixed yet. The truck still has some issues with the engine (the thieves took some hoses from under the hood), and I cannot yet be certain if the theft had something to do with it.
Worst-Case Scenario: Car is Totaled, Towed, and Stored
I am not sure why there aren’t any laws about this that I’ve heard about, but this is definitely as bad as it can get. Your car gets stolen, driven into a ditch somewhere, the engine is totaled, the windows shattered, air bags deployed, and basically pointless to repair and then you have to pay for tow fees? What?
Fortunately for me, the car was still in running condition, even with some missing components from under the hood but other people have had way tougher luck.
Imagine finding out that your car is stored in a lot and the car was found in a different state and it costs you more to get it towed than the overall price of it? Fortunately there is a cap of how many days an impound lot can charge you for, but it still can rack up in the couple of thousand dollars.
What Happens When the Police Find Your Car?
Normally, the officers will contact you to go get it back. But there is a trick I’ve learned about this! There is a small window of time before the police calls a tow truck. If your insurance doesn’t cover this, you want to get there as soon as you can in order to avoid the costly tow and storage fees. Trust me on this. I’ve had to convince the officer that found my car to please not call a tow truck even though I had no idea on what I was going to do.
I did not have a AAA account, and my insurance didn’t cover any of the towing fees (I used Allstate at the time), that when I called them, they told me that I could add on the service for an additional dollar per month. A freakin’ dollar.
Oh, but the service wouldn’t activate until midnight later that evening.
Eventually I found a family member who had a AAA membership and I got to take it home.
If you cannot make it to your car, the police will have little choice but to do what they have to do in most cases. The police takes a report, calls a tow truck, and they notify you where the car is going.
This can be very costly and can even be considered theft just by itself! These services are taking huge advantage of the misfortune of other people. I’m not sure how anybody running an impound lot or tow service can sleep at night.
Picking Up the Stolen Car From The Yard
After you get the notification from the police, they will give you the name and phone number of the lot where your car is located. There are several things that I’ve learned about getting a car back from the tow yard.
- Impound lots will not negotiate most of the time
- The tow fees and storage fees are ridiculously high
- Bring another driver with you, take a taxi/Uber, or take the bus to the lot so that you can drive the car back
- Bring your keys or your spare! If you don’t have them, get ready for another tow fee to get your car back home
What you have to do to pick up your stolen car from the impound lot is to show up with your identification that matches the name on the title of the vehicle. If it isn’t you, the tow yard will not accept it and you will have to come back some other time.
The administration office there (usually old/stinky rooms) attended by a rude person will give you your receipt with many fees on it. Expect around $200 for the tow and somewhere around $50 to $200 for storage, plus all of those odd fees like paperwork, etc. I’ve tried negotiating with these guys, but it has worked 0% of the time.
They know that if you leave your car another day in there, the car will keep making them money.
After you pay, you will gain access to your car again. Before you drive it back, be sure that the car will run smoothly and that nothing major is missing. In my case, the thieves took my air conditioning unit and they had left a radiator hose completely off, so I had to check it for antifreeze.
Take photos of the inside of the car in case you need to file any additional damages to your car.
Just thinking about all of the hassle that things involves makes me angry all over again. First, you’re a victim to theft and then a victim to the towing and tow lot companies (they’re usually different companies). I sincerely hope these places fix up their price gouging strategies.
It reminds me of the crazy ambulance fees here in California.