File picture: Jan Kopřiva via Unsplash.
File picture: Jan Kopřiva via Unsplash.

Theft from car washes is a growing trend, here’s how to avoid it

By Motoring Staff Time of article published Oct 21, 2021

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Johannesburg - Let’s face it, not everyone wants to hang around at the car wash while waiting for their once-shiny steed to get its sparkle back, but leaving your car behind while you take a stroll through the nearby shops could mean never seeing it again.

According to the SAPS, theft from car washes is a growing trend and there have been several incidents recorded in Johannesburg recently, authorities have warned. Often the thief manages to convince the car wash staff that he or she is a friend of the car owner.

But how can you prevent this?

King Price Insurance advises motorists to ensure that they only hand their vehicles over to reputable businesses that have proper protocols in place. Very importantly, you must also inform the car wash employees that you will be collecting the vehicle, and no one else. If there is any uncertainty, it is always best to wait for your vehicle rather than leaving it unattended.

Will insurance pay out if your car is stolen?

We reached out to King Price’s client experience manager Wynand van Vuuren, who said that his company would cover clients who act with “due care”, even if they are caught out. Other insurers will also likely have an obligation to settle such a claim, as long as a specific exclusion does not exist in their paperwork. However, Van Vuuren warns that some companies do take chances with things like this, although the insurance Ombudsman is keeping a close eye on this.

“It is still only theft of the car. If the insurer offers theft cover they will have to pay the claim. The fact that it was theft under false pretence does not change the fact that theft is covered,” Van Vuuren said.

But customers also have certain obligations

“One should however not lose sight of the fact that the insured should always act with due care. In other words - act the same as he/she would have if there was no insurance on the car. Reckless behaviour might put the insured in a difficult position. If you foresee danger and ignore it, you don’t act with due care.

“The question is: What was the specific person thinking when he/she left their car at the car wash – did they leave their keys with a responsible person (or someone who appeared to be responsible), before they knew it was unsafe, then the claim must be paid,” Van Vuuren concluded.

The bottom line: if in doubt, don’t. And always make sure to check out the exclusions on your car insurance policy in detail, or call for advice if need be.

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