About two and a half weeks ago, early one Sunday morning, Nick woke me up with the following news:
“Helen, wake up! The yellow car is gone!”
I don’t think I’ve gotten out of bed that fast in a while. I flew to the window and looked out – sure enough, there was a big, empty space where our yellow Dodge Neon should have been parked.
I told Nick to just take the van to work and I would call the police. His keys to the church had been in the yellow car (we’ve all affectionally referred to that car as “Yellow Car” ever since the boys could talk), but he figured he could flag down an early morning custodian to let him in.
At 6:20am that Sunday, I called our local police department to report the stolen car. Then I posted on Facebook. Priorities, people!
I then called Nick to get our insurance info from the van, because I couldn’t remember our policy # and the card had been in the car, of course.
Nick: “They were in the van.”
Me: “What do you mean?”
Nick: “They got into the van and rummaged around. I can tell stuff has been moved around. And the spare key for the yellow car is gone.”
Ahhhhh….. Another piece of the puzzle. We still aren’t entirely sure how they got into the van; we’re pretty sure we had locked it when we returned home the night before, and the insurance company and police both said they can easily get into cars and not do any damage so it’s hard to know for sure sometimes.
Know what made the whole thing worse?
1. I had done a portrait session the afternoon before, and when we returned home later that evening I had been tired and lazy and didn’t unload the car. Thankfully, I always make sure my camera goes back into the house immediately, but there was about $400 worth of backdrops, fake floors, my stand, and my favorite baskets and blankets in the car. *sigh* (Personal or business property isn’t covered under car insurance, and the value pretty much equaled the deductible, so there’s been no point in filing for the other insurance to cover that loss.)
2. Since March we had spent $2,000 on repairs and upkeep. The car turned 10 years old this year, so some of the stuff was just wearing out from age, but we knew the car had lots of life left in it (it only had 124,000 miles on it) so we kept fixing things, knowing we’d be set for a while.
The first 48 hours after Yellow Car vanished were weird. Nick and I felt an odd mix of helplessness and violation. Anytime we were driving around, our eyes were peeled for the car or any sign of my photography props. We even had an hour or so of hope the next day when a friend spotted a yellow car randomly sitting in a field about 40 minutes away from our house! Turned out to not be our car, which was a bummer.
So the waiting game began. We filled out insurance paperwork and were told that once everything was processed (2-3 weeks generally), that they would just call the car a total loss if it hadn’t been returned by then. We were nearing the 2 week mark, when we got a call this past Friday telling us the car had been found!
It was found in a random apartment complex about 15 minutes from here, and the key was still in it. The police officer that found it, drove it up onto the tow truck bed and it was towed to a lot nearby. I went to pick it up, and instead of bringing it home, the saga continued.
The car reeked of smoke, all of our stuff was gone (car seat, photography stuff, church keys, glove box contents), the interior light had been stripped out and, most importantly, the engine sounded terrible. They had put over 1,000 miles on it in the 12 days they had the car! So I left the car at the tow lot. Of course this all happened after 5pm on a Friday, so I had to wait until Monday morning to talk to the insurance folks and tell them the car was not ok.
On Monday it was towed to our usual mechanic and looked over. Early Tuesday morning I headed over to get my first look at the car in daylight hours, and was surprised to arrive and see the insurance adjuster was already there checking it out himself.
The list of things that the thieves broke, bent, and ruined was long. Really long. From the outside, the car looked fine. A little dirty, but fine. All of the damage was under the hood and under the car. While I was there, the adjuster told me he was going to call it totaled. His list was already up over $3,000 in repairs and that was before they had even discussed a new engine (which the mechanic thought was likely) and before they had factored in the labor charges. Ouch.
The thieves had clearly been off-roading in it, because there was grass stuck underneath the car. The mechanic said the engine noise was probably from them “driving all fast and furious” in it as well. Glad they had fun in it. (Said with heavy sarcasm, of course.)
The mechanic gave me a print out of what we’d paid out to them in the last few years, in case we needed to battle with the insurance company over the value of the car. He said sometimes it helps if you have proof that you’ve taken great care of the vehicle and spent a lot in recent years in upkeep. I was grateful for the tip, and was ready to do battle!
We knew the value of the car was right around $3,000 so we wanted no less than that. Nick and I both figured they would try to low-ball us, so when I returned the call from the adjuster yesterday I was ready for the battle. I was floored (and had to hide my excitement) when he told me they had valued the car at a little over $4,200! So after our deductible, we got a check for just under $4,000. Yep, I already have the check in hand! Yesterday afternoon, they sent an agent over to collect the title and extra key, and they gave us a check.
Now the car shopping can begin, which we’re not exactly looking forward to, but at least we can get this taken care of soon.
Random thoughts about the whole situation:
Thanks to the quick thinking and generosity of some friends, we only had to be a 1 car family for about 9 hours. Seriously! Some friends had an extra car sitting in their driveway and they offered it to us before we had even begun to think about what to do. It has been such a blessing to not have to worry about a rental and getting reimbursed by the insurance company!
The boys are sad about not seeing Yellow Car again. When it was still missing they would ride around in the back of the van, looking through binoculars and hoping to spot the car. They said multiple times that they wanted to “give Yellow Car a hug when it comes back”. They’re so bummed now!
I’m sad about the car too – that was the first car I had bought myself, and I loved it! However, after sitting in the car last Friday night I felt violated all over again and wondered if I would ever feel comfortable in it again. Bittersweet for sure.
Having a car stolen right out of your driveway, while you’re sleeping just 20 feet away, is an unnerving experience. I hope none of you have to go through that yourselves!
We’re grateful that they chose to steal the Neon instead of our van. The headache of replacing the main family car and all of those carseats would have been brutal!