My Boyfriend’s Car Got Stolen Yesterday (And Here’s What We Did About It)

Yesterday, my boyfriend's car got stolen, but we're not panicking at all. Here's how we're making do with one car in the meantime.

Dude, Where's My Car?My boyfriend Will’s car was stolen yesterday.

I know, I know — whose car gets stolen? Does that really happen? Or is that just the type of thing you read about in police blotters and crime-fiction paperbacks?

Yesterday morning, Will went about his normal routine: he got dressed, packed a lunch, grabbed his car keys and headed out the door for work. Ten minutes later, he came back inside.

“Hey Paula,” he said, “I think my car got stolen.”

I stared at him, confused.

“Maybe you just misplaced it?” I replied.

He stared back with a look that said: Are you nuts?

“Well, its definitely not out there,” he said. “I’ve walked up and down the block twice. It’s not here.”

We live in the city, where real estate is at a premium and only very expensive homes have garages. Street parking normally isn’t an issue. Use common sense, don’t leave expensive things in your car, and, um, try not to get kidnapped.

But now that story has changed.

“Did you leave anything valuable inside it?” I asked.

Notice that I didn’t ask about the car itself, as though I wasn’t at all concerned about retrieving it. Will drives a 1997 Honda Accord with 275,000 miles on it. Its Blue Book value is $1,030 as a trade-in, or $1,840 if we sold it on Craigslist. And one of the benefits of driving a car that’s worth less than $2,000 is that you’re not upset when it’s stolen.

In fact, my first thought was, “Oh man, I wanted to take a picture of the odometer!” I had planned to write a blog post triumphantly announcing that the car crossed over the 275,000-mile mark, a fact that filled me with frugal pride. I’ve been drafting this post in my head for weeks, trying to figure out whether such an announcement is worthy of 500 words, or if its better stated as a Facebook update. (Yes, this is what I think about in my spare time.)

But that’s a moot point now. The car’s gone. No odometer photo possible. Sorry, readers.

My second thought was: “Why Will’s car?” Beyond a doubt, Will owned the oldest, ugliest car on the block. Our neighbors don’t exactly park Aston Martins on the street, but there’s a strong showing of five-year-old Priuses, sporty-looking Mazdas and midrange, new-ish Nissans and Subarus. In contrast, Will drove the eyesore of the block (with my own car trailing behind as a close second). Why his?

Then it stuck me: His car got targeted because it’s so old. He doesn’t have fancy-pants keyless entry. He doesn’t have a security alarm. I’m not exactly a car-theft expert, never having attempted to pilfer one of my own, but I’m pretty sure a mid-1990’s Accord is fairly easy to steal.

Two sides to every coin, right? You care less about an $1,800 car … but its lack-of-features is precisely what puts it at risk. Count that towards the total cost of ownership. :-)

That led me to my third thought: “What kind of neighborhood do we live in?” We border a gentrifying street, the kind dotted with vacant buildings and “payday loan” establishments that are slowly morphing into luxury condominium complexes and Whole Foods markets. It’s a great location from a rising-home-value perspective. It’s a little less great from a keeping-your-car perspective.

At least our neighborhood is highly walkable. We rely on our legs now.

That’s fine with us. We can walk to two grocery stores, one farmer’s market, several gyms and at least 20 restaurants and bars, all within less than a mile. I work from home and Will can ride the train to the office. So we’re not sweating it. We can easily be a one-car couple.

Obviously insurance won’t cover the cost of a replacement, because we’re both firm believers in only purchasing insurance to cover things that would financially ruin you. My health has a $6,500 deductible. My house has a $5,000 deductible. And instead of paying excessive monthly premiums, we shovel the difference into a savings account.

The result? We can pay cash for the next car we buy. (Which, by the way, is the only circumstance under which I’d buy a car.) But we’re not in any hurry to get one. We don’t need it.

The City of Atlanta police reassured us that they’ve got a pretty good track record of recovering stolen cars. “Usually it’s just kids going on a joyride,” the officer who took the report told us. “They’ll abandon the car once it’s out of gas.”

“Darn,” Will replied. “It had a full tank.”


  1. says

    So sorry to read this Paula, it must be a horrible feeling! I used to have an old Accord as well and I read many places they’re one of the most stolen cars because they can be parted out and are pretty easy to steal.

    Hopefully the police find it, but if not, it sounds like you guys will be fine. Plus, you won’t need 2 cars while you’re in Paris :)

    • says

      @Lance — You know, Will’s brother also drove an old Accord, and his car was stolen, too. That happened in New Orleans (totally different city and state). I joked that car theft must run in Will’s family, since the only two people I know who have been affected by it are him and his brother!

      • says

        Oh no! I also drive a 1997 Accord and live in New Orleans. I have only 167,000 miles so I was momentarily excited about all the remaining life it should have, but considering I’ve been parking it on the street in NO for ten years it’s only a matter of time the odds catch up. Although there’s another green one only two blocks away, maybe that’ll go first.

        It actually replaced my first car since moving here, which was, of course, stolen.

        For these and other reasons we generally try to combine trips or walk; most days we don’t even use it. I’d probably have the same reaction if it’s taken, no need to replace right away.

        • says

          Try getting “the club” — the stick that attaches to your steering wheel, locking it in place. After Will’s brother’s car was stolen in New Orleans, he started using “the club,” and none of his cars (he continues to drive old Hondas and park them on the street) have been stolen since then.

  2. says

    That’s funny (and sad). I had a car “stolen” in college. It turns out that mine wasn’t stolen at all….I’d parked it in an illegal spot inadvertently and it was towed. I thought briefly about not getting it out of lock up because you could see through the floorboards and the engine was on it’s last leg.

    • says

      @Joe — Will told me that his first thought was: “Did I drink too many beers last night and then walk home?,” followed by “Did I leave it at work and get a ride home from someone else?” He had to run though all the possibilities in his head before it slowly dawned on him that his car got stolen.

  3. says

    Ugh. What a pain in the butt. I read that and all I could think of was what a hassle it’d be to have to go get another car. Mr. Afford Anything had one that worked perfectly fine, probably rarely gave him problems, and was reliable. Now you have to go deal with smarmy car salespeople or dredge through Craigslist to find legitimate buyers. Blech. That sucks.

    A good friend of mine (who’s a travel blogger at and whose writing will leave you in stitches) had her car stolen in DC (car theft in DC? Really?!?!) and it was a joyrider. Whoever did it trashed her car and abandoned it. It was, from an insurance standpoint, totaled, and not worth the time and effort of the police to go all CSI on whoever did it, since it clearly wasn’t part of some carjacking ring where they were using those cars to smuggle people across borders or something. So, you’re right – it’s probably a joyrider who watched a couple of episodes of 24 and learned how to hotwire a hoopty.

    Not that it helps in the moment, but it is nice to be at a point in your life where the inconvenience is the biggest negative from the whole story.

    • says

      @Jason — Exactly! We figure the total loss is roughly $2300 (about $1800 for the car, and another $400 – $500 in “replacement costs” of random personal possessions … old winter hats, random plumbing tools, etc.) And yeah, mostly that’s an inconvenience. Will was most upset about the fact that “I just don’t have time to shop for another car right now!” Which is a pretty fortunate problem to have, all things considered. :-)

  4. says

    I’m sorry, that is horrible! When we lived in our first place a long time ago, people would always steal our spare CHANGE out of the car. Then eventually W left a pair of vintage $900 Raybans that my dad passed down to me from his great uncle, and someone stole those. I was NOT happy at all.

  5. says

    The last sentence made me smile – my 1997 Accord (234k miles, so your story gives me hope it can last a couple more years) was stolen a few years back and my first thought was, “Darn it, I just filled it up!” The cops managed to find it a few blocks away. In any event, if Will’s car isn’t retrieved, it sounds like you live in an ideal place to not need one.

    • says

      @Anna — Haha, great minds think alike! I’m glad the cops found yours a few blocks away. I hope they find Will’s car (if nothing else, I want our random scattering of personal possessions that were in the backseat and trunk!)

  6. says

    Sorry to hear about Will’s car, Paula. Having lived in Los Angeles while attending college. My car was broken into on two occasions, but never outright stolen; regardless, it sucked! Also, you are right, Honda’s have been in the top 5 stolen vehicles for years (my former life I was in insurance claims), actually, they topped as #1 for many years. That’s the blessing and curse of driving a car that everybody has – people need parts for their cars!

  7. says

    Hey Paula, Really sorry to hear about Will’s car. We were broken into last year and they took my handbag with car keys in it, then went outside and took the car! It was old too – an eleven year old Vauxhall, but though it wasn’t worth much we were intending to run it into the ground
    We were hopeful of getting it back, but sadly didn’t – though the police told us that they recover about 60% of stolen cars. I’ve always wondered what happened to it – it was so old I can’t imagine anyone selling it for profit or even parts!
    So, we bought another secondhand car with cash – I’d never take a car loan. And I guess we will run this one till it’s a teenager too!
    Really hope you guys recover your car soon. x

  8. says

    I second Lance’s sentiment. My mother’s Honda Accord wagon was stolen recently (the night of her birthday dinner no less….with her beloved iPad inside). It’s the third vehicle we’ve had stolen over the past ten years(all were stolen while in a certain part of Southern California) and we learned that Hondas and Toyatas are the most stolen vehicles in the state. They’re good quality cars that last forever and apparently legit owners aren’t the only ones to appreciate that fact!

    My 94 Accord has 270k+ miles on it but I’m now neurotic about removing the kill switch key and putting a club on it, even if it’s to run a quick errand. There is some debate on the efficacy of clubs but thoroughly rolled up windows + club + dead kill switch = good plan in my book.

    I trust his car is recovered. The only better thing than buying a well-priced but durable, paid-in-cash car is to get the paid-off one back!

  9. says

    Sorry to hear about Will’s car getting stolen. As you said, at least it was old, had a lot of miles, and not worth too much. Also the fact that you can walk to most places should help as well.

    Ultimately, the reason why this isn’t a huge deal for you is that you don’t put a lot of value in your cars, and so you are able to make the adjustment fairly easy. For people who have to drive a new car every few years, this would be a devastating loss for many reasons.

    • says

      @Khaleef — Ugh, I can’t imagine doing that (having a new car every few years!) That sounds awful for so many reasons … the cost, of course, but also the time-and-hassle factor that comes with replacing a car! (I guess that also reflects how little of a priority I place on my vehicle). :-)

  10. says

    That sucks. Sorry to hear it. Unfortunately, Honda’s are the easiest cars to steal and to part out. I had a Honda and I was afraid every I parked that thing. I stopped two attempts at people stealing it. I had to create my own ignition lock for it because they are just too easy to hotwire. While I hope the car is returned, I think it might have already been parted.

  11. says

    I used to own a 1995 Honda Accord! I owned it for 17 years. I guess I was lucky to never have it stolen. It helps that 90% of the time, it was either garaged or in a secure (school) parking lot. I heard it was a popular car to steal, but I never really thought ab out it.

  12. says

    Sorry to hear that! My little scooter was stolen once, and the police called me to say they found it, I was at the airport about to go on a week trip and they charged something like $30 per day at the police car park. I really with the burglars had taken it, but apparently they put it on their truck, saw it didn’t start and disposed of it. Hope if you get it back it will be in the same shape!

  13. says

    That’s intense. We don’t have many auto thefts just people breaking in and stealing radios. It’s annoying to replace a window that’s been busted out that’s for sure. I guess you’ll have to replace an entire car so there’s that. How new/old will you buy this time whenever the time comes to pull the trigger?

  14. says

    This happened to my boyfriend over Memorial Day weekend, in a very similar way…we went out to check on our newly planted front yard, and…the car was not on the street for some weird reason! We were very confused at first as well.

    His was (is) a 1992 Honda Civic. Not as many miles on it though–275,000 is super impressive! The police found the car in just a few hours, a few blocks away. It had almost none of the gas left in the tank, and now you can start it with a screwdriver or anything pointy, no key required, which I find very amusing. (Extra amusing because he still has a car though, and doesn’t have to drive mine! Best of luck to you and Will in getting his back.)

    I love love love your blog, by the way. Thanks for being such a great inspiration.

    • says

      @Jennifer — I’m glad he got it back!! A 1992 model is impressive, too!! That car is 21 years old …. that’s pretty close to the age of the oldest car I’ve ever owned (I had a 22-year-old car when I was in college).

  15. says

    I recently had cause to ask my auto insurance company what the premium difference would be if I had a $300 deductible vs $1000. It’s a whopping three dollars PER YEAR. Up to that point I’d had a high deductible, thinking I was so clever and saving so much per year. Um.. not so much. And given that I just bought a house and have a lot more things to potentially use my efund for, I’m paying the extra 3 bucks.

    I think this could be an interesting pf post – what is the actual difference? Are we really being as clever as we think? You can cover it, if you want, it’s relevant to the story!

    • says

      @Bethh — That’s a great subject for a future post. For homeowner’s insurance and health insurance, the premium difference is HUGE. I used to have a $1500 deductible for my health insurance, and I was paying almost $2,400 per year for that policy. When I switched to a $6500 deductible, I snagged a policy that only cost $984 per year — a savings of $1,416 annually. A few years of accumulating those savings, and I’ll more than have the deductible covered. (Of course, I’m also in good health … I wouldn’t do this if I were frequently visiting a doctor.)

      For auto insurance, though, I’m also curious to see what the premium difference would be. I’ve never owned a car that’s nice enough to need full-coverage insurance (like I said, Will’s car is worth $1000 as a trade-in and $1800 on Craigslist, and mine is similar). But when Will buys his next car, he’ll probably get something nicer … something that merits “real” coverage. I’m curious to see how the insurance scenarios play out on that one.

  16. says

    Well that’s a rough lesson for sure. Several years ago my old Honda CRX was stolen in front of my house. Police arrested an individual driving it one city over about 3 days later (he had numerous priors). What really added to the pain was the exclusive city contract impound lot charged me $300 dollars to tow it 7 miles and store it for one day! Now I live in a new area and if I park it in a crummy part of town I’ll leave a “prop diaper” on the passenger seat (sort of the skunk deterrent approach).
    Love your column and good thoughts for you and your boyfriend!

  17. says

    I love how you asked does that happen? Especially in nice neighborhoods where you least expect it. Fortunately, the car itself wasn’t worth that much. It’s just more of a hassle and headache to deal with than anything else.

    • says

      @Gary — I feel pretty fortunate that the hassle — the sense that “Aw man, I don’t have time to buy a car right now!” — is the biggest frustration. What a lucky problem to have! :-)

  18. says

    That’s awful to hear his car go stolen but you have a great outlook on the situation! I’d be livid – however, my car is worth a little more than a grand. Perhaps it will turn up in a few days/weeks. Good luck!

    • says

      @Little House — A few people asked me if I’m feeling mad. Nope, not at all. If anything, I’m amused/bewildered. Who would have guessed that such an old car would get stolen?

  19. says

    Is it bad that I laughed a little when he said it had a full tank? Sorry, it’s just that, it’s like the only bad thing that you guys thought off about the whole situation. And I can almost imagine his face. And I’m sorry to hear that Will’s car got stolen.

  20. says

    I drove a 1993 Chevy Blazer in college and it was as broken into no fewer than 4 times. Nobody ever managed to actually steal it, though. Maybe old Chevy’s are unstealable? Made a mess of the dash every time trying to hotwire it, though.

  21. says

    Did you ever get your car back? My son just graduated college in SC and got a job in Omaha. He was there less than a month and went to leave for work and his 2000 black Honda Accord Coupe was gone. The apt complex saw on the cameras two men pull up in a black truck and stole the car at about 5am. We are know going on three weeks and still no car. We just had the car recently painted. I am sure the car has already been stripped for parts but we are still hopeful. In the meantime he is still without a car.

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