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Thought I'd pass along some lessons I learned from my recent experience replacing a stolen car on some of the boards I frequent most. My car was stolen on the morning of July 4, 2005. It was a 1995 Honda Civic. Inside the car was: my briefcase (with a client's file inside), a flash drive containing personal and office information (resume, writing samples, case outlines, etc.), work attire, and other personal items including all my sports equipment.

The loss of the car was not a big deal to me since I was planning to retire the Honda this Fall anyway - and there was a lot of "deferred maintenance" that was needed. It was the stuff inside the car that mattered most to me (try explaining to a client that their ENTIRE FILE is gone, for example!). I tried to find every angle to make myself whole again from this loss. From this experience, I learned the following:

- Auto insurance does not cover personal items left in the vehicle (unless the policy so states or additional coverage is purchased);
- That a fraud alert issued on one major credit report will be relayed to the other two credit-reporting-agencies (saves time and hassle);
- That an e-fund / savings fund is incredibly useful if you need a down payment for a replacement car ASAP (my rental car coverage was for 30 days or 3 days after payment of my claim was made - whichever occurred FIRST);
- That American Express' Buyer Protection Plan does NOT cover items that are lost or stolen from inside a motor vehicle (several of the items stolen were new / recently purchased with an AMEX card);
- Theft-related losses are, to an extent, tax-deductible as casualty losses but ONLY if the loss exceeds 10% of your AGI;
- That some car makers let you e-mail dealers for a quote WITHOUT having to give them your phone number (I bought an Infiniti as a replacement and it was great to be able to get quotes without having to open my phone lines to harassing sales calls!). Also, e-mail can be a great tool for negotiating your price because you have, in essence, a written quote for other dealerships to meet or beat. I had 5 dealerships in my rotation and didn't let the dealers know I was asking around until the last 2 days or so before I made a purchase - then it was only to say "another dealer quoted me $xx for this same configuration, can you beat them?";
- That when dealing with car dealers, explaining to them that you've had your car stolen and that you are waiting to resolve your claim before you make a decision will forestall most high-pressure sales tactics ("I really can't make a decision today since I'm waiting for my insurance to pay out my claim - and if my car's found, that will change things as well"). You could use this one even if your car WASN'T stolen to keep them of your back!
- That if your car was in less-than-perfect condition, you could actually end up making money off the insurance valuation of your stolen vehicle. I ended up getting about twice what I thought the car was worth as a trade-in (i.e. deferred maintenance was not considered in the valuation assumptions)!

Anyway, just thought I'd pass on the lessons I learned so they might benefit others.
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