Auto insurance

Portland auto theft soars, recovery fees sting

Tuesday, January 16, 2018by  Jon Osterberg

A car thief looks inside the vehicle for valuablesPortland auto theft soared last year to the third-worst rate nationally, per FBI data, and owners of recovered cars often must pay dearly to get them back.

The Oregonian reports that more cars were stolen in Portland in 2017 than any year since 1997, with the Hazelwood neighborhood suffering the highest theft rate. (That unnerves me because it's less than 1 mile west of where my dad lived for years.)

If you're into statistics, Hondas were stolen far more than any other make, and 1997 was the most-stolen model year, probably because those cars have many parts that are interchangeable with other Hondas.

The good news is, Portland police say that 90% of those vehicles have been recovered. That's a better fate than I would have guessed.

The bad news: owners often must pay a fortune to reclaim their recovered cars.

Willamette Week reported in December that it's police policy to give owners of stolen cars 30 minutes to retrieve them once found. After that, police summon a tow truck from one of the local towing companies.

Once impounded, owners often must pay hundreds of dollars to get their cars back.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler told Willamette Week, "Let's all agree: Making a victim of crime pay $300 or $400 to get their vehicle back is adding insult to injury, period."

Wheeler said he'd discuss changing that policy, which actually is dictated by the Portland City Council.

A tow truck delivers a stolen and recovered car to the impound yardKelly Blue Book shows that the fair price for a used 1997 Honda Accord is currently $1,750. Critics of Portland's stolen-car policy say it's unreasonable to pay $400 to recover a car worth little more than that.

Some insurers, like PEMCO, will cover towing and impound fees, provided the policyholder has Comprehensive coverage. But some people who drive low-value vehicles carry just liability coverage, which doesn't cover towing.

You can count yourself lucky, I suppose, if your car is stolen and found in Seattle. Unless a recovered car is parked illegally, Seattle police leave them where they find them.

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