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Tire theft: Blast from the past

Linda Melone

Tire theft — a common crime in the 1980s — has come back to the future.

An outbreak of tire thefts has been reported in Texas, where tires and rims valued at $200,000 were stolen from 39 new vehicles in one case and $90,000 in another case. Other states reporting tire theft rings include Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Statistics for such crimes are hard to track, says Frank Scafidi, a spokesman for the nonprofit National Insurance Crime Bureau. “The FBI reports ‘thefts from a vehicle,’ which could be anything from a piece of the car to the hood or wheels,” he says.

New technology enabling thieves to remove tires with the speed of a NASCAR pit crew has been blamed for a rise in this type of crime, although that reason remains under debate, Scafidi says. “This sounds like nothing more than stealing hubcaps back in the ’60s,” he says. “When thieves can acquire something cheaply and turn it around fast, it drives the underground market.”

If a thief steals your tires, your car insurance or home insurance typically will cover the loss.

The role of insurance

Greg Sabey experienced tire theft in 2011 in Massachusetts. Sabey normally kept a set of tires chained together behind his apartment. One night, he left the tires unlocked and found them gone the next morning.

“Storing a bunch of car stuff indoors isn’t really doable when renting an apartment,” Sabey says.

Sabey’s car insurance policy was bundled with his renter’s policy. Since the tires were not on his car, his renter’s insurance policy – not his car insurance policy – covered the theft. “The theft was valued at a couple thousand dollars, and my insurance covered the full amount,” Sabey says. He did have to pay a small deductible, though.

If the tires had been stolen directly from Sabey’s car, the comprehensive part of his car insurance would have covered the loss, says David Miller, CEO of Brightway Insurance in Florida. Keep in mind, though, that comprehensive coverage is optional; however, most lenders require this coverage for financed cars. If the tires had been stolen from Sabey’s car and didn’t carry comprehensive coverage, he would have had to pay out of his own pocket for new tires, Miller says.

The deductible for a comprehensive claim typically ranges up to $1,000.

Show me the money

Unlike many home insurance policies, car insurance doesn’t pay for the full cost of replacing damaged or stolen parts or an entire vehicle, according to says Keith Verisario, vice president of All-Security Insurance Agency Inc. in Illinois. “The insurance company doesn’t give you a 2012 Toyota Camry after your 2003 Camry gets totaled in an accident,” he says.

So if you file a claim for tires that have 80,000 miles on them, your car insurance company probably won’t give you much money for them, he says. Coverage for the loss depends on the type and age of the tires.

Verisario advises you to keep receipts for any new tires that you buy. If you have proof of a recent purchase and have to file a tire claim, “your settlement will be much closer to the full value,” he says.

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