Theft… and daylight robbery

Russell Gowers

BMW 3-Series Touring proved irresistable to joyriders

BMW 3-Series Touring proved irresistable to joyriders

“It’ll be fine.” Possibly the three most dangerous words in the English language. You use them when you’re busy ignoring everything that your intuition is screaming at you and, whilst nine times out of ten, ‘it’ really WILL be fine, that tenth time can often prove to be expensive.

Low on fuel and have to make a short motorway hop? “It’ll be fine…” Car tax expired two days ago and need to run the kids to school? “It’ll be fine…” You get the picture.

My “It’ll be fine” comeuppance was delivered on Christmas Day when I left the fascia attached to the rather nice Pioneer stereo in my newly acquired BMW E30. Realising that this left the car as a somewhat tempting target for vandals, I thought long and hard about venturing out into the cold to remove the fascia. Then I had another beer.

By Boxing Day morning, the car was gone.

They found it not twenty-four hours later, minus stereo, on a garage forecourt, with two lads trying industriously to steal more cars. Presumably, it had taken about that long to discover that a 1.8 8v, 189,000 miles and a heavy Touring bodyshell don’t make for the ideal getaway car… but I digress.

I thought long and hard about venturing out into the cold to remove the stereo’s fascia. Then I had another beer…

The car was recovered by Mansfield Group, a vehicle recovery sub-contractor tasked by the North Staffordshire police with securing any stolen or burned-out cars in the region. “Great!” I thought, when I was told the news, “I’ll simply pop in, collect my car, and see about repairing the damage.” Oh no I wouldn’t – not without paying the £150 recovery charge first. Oh, and the Scene of Crime Officer had to examine the car – he’d not be available until Monday – and there was a £12 per day “storage fee”.

Now, I appreciate that the recovery of vehicles is not a cheap operation. I further recognise that police budgets are stretched. But since when has policing been “pay-as-you-play”? And why, if we’re going down that route, doesn’t someone OTHER THAN THE VICTIM have to pay for it? “Well, it’s policy”, was the best response I could ascertain from North Staffs Police but it is a policy that seems utterly, utterly unfair.

It is also, arguably, unlawful. After all, they are providing a service which I could have procured by myself, either cheaply or (via the RAC) free. They have provided this service without my knowledge or agreement and then sent me the bill. Come on, at £150 for a tow of just under ten miles, I could probably have procured Elton John to drive the tow-truck.

Angry with the police, I set about claiming on my insurance, which was a TPFT policy with the people who wish to “Quote You Happy.” It transpired, though, that making a claim would double my resultant premiums and I’d also have to pay a £250 excess. This meant that a settlement figure on my car would have to be more than £850 for me not to make a loss, let alone get any money towards repairing my car. How likely was this, I asked? “We can’t say without sending an assessor, sir,” they responded. And you can’t have an assessor sent out without making a claim. My future finances thus depended on a gamble and, having tried my luck once this holiday and lost, big time, I was reluctant to take a second chance.

Angry with the police, I set about claiming on my insurance, which was a TPFT policy with the people who wish to “Quote You Happy.” It transpired, though, that making a claim would double my resultant premiums, and I’d also have to pay a £250 excess

At this stage, I doubt they would be quoting me anywhere for fear of breaching OFCOM rules on offensive language.

My options, then, were threefold. Choice one: claim on the insurance, pay out £850, and hope the car was valued at more than £850, then spend the difference on the repairs (bearing in mind market value for my car was £750, and I’d paid just £550 for it). Choice two: pay for the repairs myself and stump up for the police fee myself too (which, by this time, had reached £210). Choice 3: Mansfield offered to waive the recovery charge if they were allowed to “dispose of” the vehicle themselves – after careful consideration, this turned out to be the simplest and least expensive option.

So a mint condition (well, it was before it was stolen) rare, very late BMW E30 is going to the crusher because of a combination of an unfair police policy and an even more unfair insurance policy. Of course, it is sour grapes to cry foul now, and I accept at least partial blame for leaving valuables on display. However, the feeling of helplessness, of having nowhere to turn, has been one of the least pleasant experiences of my life and one which I can’t help feeling that I don’t quite deserve.

So here’s a tip. Check your car security, check it again… and then check it a third time. Remove your SatNav holder before you leave the car (oh, and put it to the right-hand-side of the wheel where it doesn’t obscure your view, unlike half the numpties I drive past every morning) and make sure you wipe off the tell-tale mark it leaves on the windscreen too. Buy a Crook-Lock. And for God’s sake make sure your No Claims Bonus is protected. In other words, do all the things you’ve always considered doing, but have dismissed as too much hassle. “It’ll be fine…” you’ll have thought.

It won’t be fine. It’ll be expensive.

Posted in: AROnline Blogs
Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007. Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Clsssics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

13 Comments on "Theft… and daylight robbery"

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  1. Tim Burgess says:

    Sadly an all too common tale. Tucked up royally by the authorities and then by the insurance company.

    Avon & Somerset gave me the same tale back in 1994 when my Montego Estate was stolen from a car park, used in a ram raid and then abandoned on a main road in South Bristol. I thing the release fee was about £120 even then. Thankfully as the car was a company vehicle I told them which orifice they could stuff their release fee up and rang the Fleet Manager – I didn’t care as I was working my notice anyway and tooling about in a brand new Seat Toledo GTi.

    The people that “quote you happy”, I have on good authority and personal experience will find any bit of wiggle room to avoid paying on a claim or string you along as long as possible before paying out. My advice; other insurers are available.

  2. Richard Brant says:

    When they called to say they’d found my Father-in-Law’s car he asked them not to recover it as he owned a body shop and could recover the vehicle himself. They assured him that the car had not been recovered and that it would not be recovered.

    It was recovered. By them. He still had to pay.

  3. Rob says:

    Russ, I doubt that will go to the scrapper, it’s not worth more than 60 quid these days. I reckon they’ll put it into a salvage auction to see if they can recover any costs. Play your cards right and you might be able to buy it back for a couple of hundred quid. Give the recovery agents a bell and see if they’ve got a “disposals” department, they might sell it to you direct once the insurance has cleared.

  4. Rob says:

    Oh and as for the “quote you happy” crew, that’s all they’ll do – QUOTE you happy. As soon as they’ve got your money they’re not interested any more, be it for car, house or even medical insurance, as we’ve found out to our cost, both financially and mentally.

  5. Stewart says:

    Actually whet they have done is stolen your car again. You are under no obligation to pay the ‘recovery aganets’ anything as you did not autherirse its removal from the site it was discoverd at. If it was not obstructing anything then there was no need to touch it and you should have been told where it was and been able to pick it up yourself.

  6. Rusty says:

    Rob – tried that one already. Got a friend to enquire, under the guise of needing a “small, solid estate, maybe a BMW” for a banger rally. They said that they didn’t sell them on, they were all crushed. Bastards.

  7. gary says:

    how about the little rats who stole the car paying the release fee ect out off their giro that would make them think twice before taking someone,s pride and joy. why should you pay for the pleasure of having your car stolen or even worse as in this case lose it altogether.

  8. Will says:

    @gary

    Exactly! This is what is wrong with the country these days, the criminals are treated by nulabor with kid gloves, given training etc, to hell with the victim.

    Make the criminal pay for all damages, or, as is often the case, if they are underage, make the lazy parents pay – then they might give a damn what their little “darlings” are up to.

  9. lord sward says:

    There is alot of misunderstanding here of the jobs required by both the police and the recovery agent. I do not to need to go into these here.
    I can see the frustrations and resentment of the loss and inconvenience, but the petty criminal is the instigator of this remember. Others are left to clean up the mess as best and economically as possible. While it is utterly wrong that the victim is left to pick up the pieces, there is legislation to prevent this. If a vehicle recovered at the police’s instagation is not subjected to an insurance claim, then the recovery agent is bound by their terms of tender to relese the vehicle FOC.
    As for thoughts suggesting that police shouldn’t have these vehicles recovered by their own agents, then this simply isn’t practicable in the slightest. Nor are the recovery agents fees extortionate. They are entirely reasonable given what is quite often involved in the recovery of stolen vehicles and the value of (secured) land.
    All I can say is ‘crime prevention’, nobody can protect yourself better than yourself. Scum look for an easy ride and quite often its given to them. If I sound harsh, then forgive me, but I also had a car stolen before christmas, so you’re not alone.

  10. Wilko says:

    lord sward :As for thoughts suggesting that police shouldn’t have these vehicles recovered by their own agents, then this simply isn’t practicable in the slightest. Nor are the recovery agents fees extortionate. They are entirely reasonable given what is quite often involved in the recovery of stolen vehicles and the value of (secured) land.

    Surely it’s still completely outrageous for a crime victim to have to pay out as a result of somebody stealing their property! The police should pursue people charged with car theft for these costs. What happened in Russell’s case is disgraceful but I don’t think it is unusual.

  11. Mike says:

    I had the same experience in Bristol. My mini was nicked & dumped (one of two stolen that night) and I was left with a £150 release fee for recovering. I went to the yard, paid the release fee – called the AA for a tow home and a guy from the recovery yard came out, started up one of the wagons and asked me “Where to?”

    Recovery – £150
    Parts to repair damage to the car – £15

    I did get a letter from Avon & Somerset Police telling me they had caught the guy who’d nicked it though.

    Which was nice.

  12. Silas says:

    Russell & Mike: ask the police for the identity of the people caught for these crimes. Start a small claim for your loss using moneyclaimonline. They have caused you loss, so they get to pay. If you have legal protection on your insurance, use that service instead of claiming for the loss of the car.

  13. Darren says:

    lord sward :If a vehicle recovered at the police’s instagation is not subjected to an insurance claim, then the recovery agent is bound by their terms of tender to relese the vehicle FOC.P>

    Have you got a source for this information please.

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