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The hidden costs of having a vehicle stolen

Auto theft has surged in recent years and while police have made significant gains to stop criminals in their tracks and recover those cars and trucks, there remains frustration for victims, who are not always covered by insurance.

As Luc Robichaud slept, thieves walked up the drive of his Cassleman, Ont. home in early January, drilled a small hole in the driver's-side window to pop the lock, and ultimately drove off in his brand new Dodge Ram pickup truck.

"I noticed my truck had been stolen and luckily I was able to track it with the Ram app," he says. "This led OPP to recover the truck and they arrested four people out of the whole thing on the highway on the way to Montreal."

The Quebec port is a popular spot for criminals to bring stolen vehicles. That's where they are shipped overseas, and almost never recovered.

After police processed Robichaud's vehicle, it was towed to a dealership, where it remains because of continued supply chain problems.

"They [the criminals] pulled the infotainment system out of the dash, cut the harness at the back," says Robichaud. "I’ve been waiting for the parts for three months now and it’s going to be as much of a surprise to the service department as it is going to be for me when it actually arrives. I’m still making the payments, still paying insurance, and my insurance was covering about $1,500 worth of rental vehicle, which I blew through in a month."

And along with time, the costs are adding up on a vehicle he cannot drive, all part of a seemingly, never-ending nightmare.

Robichaud is not alone in this situation.

"Auto thefts increased in Ontario by almost 15 per cent between 2020 and 2021," says Anne Marie Thomas, director of consumer and industry relations, with the Insurance Bureau of Canada. "Theft and pandemic supply chain issues … are all part and parcel of what is contributing to the increased claims cost that insurance companies are seeing, and of course consumers, as well."

Thomas also notes that as the amount of money insurance companies pay out in claims could eventually increase the overall cost of coverage for all drivers.

"Insurance companies base their premiums partly on underwriting profitability, so if they're paying out a lot in claims, it stands to reason that they are going to have to increase rates to recoup some of that money," says Thomas.

Technology has been a main driver of the increase in vehicle thefts, with criminals using handheld devices to quickly gain access to cars. A car can disappear from a driveway in a matter of minutes.

"It’s an ongoing issue and growing issue not just for the province of Ontario but I would certainly say Canada as a whole," says Const. Justin Dickson, with the Ontario Provincial Police. "This is something we’re seeing every day on our highways. We’re coming across stolen vehicles and police are working diligently stopping these vehicles arresting these criminals who are being held responsible and accountable for this."

Dickson adds that consumers can also use technology to their advantage in protecting their property, with at-home solutions that include parking in a garage if possible, installing surveillance cameras and bright flood lights pointed at a vehicle that are activated by motion.

"And if their vehicle is stolen, they can provide police with possible description of the accused," says Dickson. "Also, installing tracking devices that could be manufacturer-made or third party made that you put in your vehicle on your own. Some of these tracking devices may send an alert to your phone if your vehicle starts moving when you’re not in it."

While Robichaud must now accept the cost of the theft, including the depreciated value of his new vehicle, what frustrates him the most right now is the time spent, and wasted, on waiting for the parts to arrive, a problem he does not blame on the dealership.

"Ram must realize that you can’t just ignore your customers. I understand that they have different part sources for the manufacturers and the parts department but, at the end of the day, you need to look after your customers," he says. "I’m hoping Ram sees this and says all right we need to get parts out to people that have vehicles that are sitting on lots waiting to get fixed." Top Stories

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