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Catalytic Converter Theft: Awareness and Prevention

Aug 03, 2022 Catalytic converter being installed in auto

Kate’s car started with a roar. She turned up the radio and pulled out of the driveway. As she continued on her way to work, however, the car made funny sounds and didn’t feel right. She swung into her local dealership, where a friendly mechanic agreed to take a quick look at her ride.

“It’s gone,” he said after glancing at the exhaust system. “Your catalytic converter. It’s been stolen.”

The cost to replace and install the new part was $1,600. Luckily, Kate’s comprehensive auto insurance coverage covered the bill, but it didn’t reimburse her for her time away from work and the inconvenience. Imagine if this had happened to a fleet of cars or trucks.

What Is a Catalytic Converter?

Catalytic converters convert harmful exhaust emissions into harmless gases. The technology used within these emission control devices is made up of valuable metals, including platinum, palladium or rhodium.

Unfortunately, stealing a catalytic converter can be very easy to do. Thieves usually slide underneath the car with an electric reciprocating saw and cut it out. It takes three minutes or less, and the catalytic converters are hard to track down once stolen.

Why Do People Steal Catalytic Converters?

The three metals that make up a catalytic converter have become more valuable within the past couple of years, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). As of December 2020, rhodium was valued at $14,500 per ounce, palladium at $2,336 per ounce and platinum at $1,061 per ounce.

The NICB reports that catalytic converter thefts rose from 14,433 in 2020 to 65,398 in 2021. They believe thefts will continue to climb:

“Vehicle thefts, carjackings, and break-ins are all crimes we’ve witnessed trending upward for several months, and now catalytic converter thefts are also on the rise,” said David Glawe, President and CEO of NICB. “We have seen a significant increase during the pandemic. It’s an opportunistic crime. As the value of the precious metals contained within the catalytic converters continues to increase, so do the number of thefts of these devices. There is a clear connection between times of crisis, limited resources, and disruption of the supply chain that drives investors towards these precious metals.”

Which Cars Are Targets for Catalytic Converter Theft?

All fuel-powered vehicles manufactured after 1974 have catalytic converters. Taller vehicles, like pickup trucks or SUVs, are often targeted because of the easy access underneath.

Using data compiled by the NICB and service reports from car repair shops around the country, Carfax determined the 10 vehicles most commonly targeted for their catalytic converters:

  1. 1985-2021 Ford F-series
  2. 1989-2020 Honda Accord
  3. 2007-2017 Jeep Patriot
  4. 1990-2022 Ford Econoline
  5. 1999-2021 Chevrolet Silverado
  6. 2005-2021 Chevrolet Equinox
  7. 1997-2020 Honda CR-V
  8. 1987-2019 Toyota Camry
  9. 2011-2017 Chrysler 200
  10. 2001-2021 Toyota Prius

How to Tell if Your Catalytic Converter Has Been Stolen

If your catalytic converter has been stolen, you’ll likely know it as soon as you start your engine. Your vehicle will make a roaring sound that will progressively get louder as you push the gas pedal.

Other indicators that your catalytic converter is missing include the following:

  • Increase in exhaust fumes or unusual exhaust smells
  • Missing parts under the vehicle leading to the muffler
  • Uneven or sputtering acceleration due to lack of exhaust regulation
  • Check engine light illuminates
  • Vehicle fails exhaust inspections

The cost to replace the part can be a few hundred dollars up to $2,500, plus the cost of installation labor.

Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft

To avoid costly downtime and potentially thousands of dollars in repairs, consider the following:

  • Park vehicles in a locked garage or a fenced-in, well-lit area.
  • Install motion sensors and cameras in the parking area. Post signs that they are in use.
  • Weld the catalytic converter to your vehicle(s).
  • Etch the VIN or license plate number into the catalytic converter. The number alerts the scrap dealer that the part is stolen and may deter a would-be thief.
  • Install “cat” straps or clamps designed to prevent theft.

Understanding when your car might be a target for catalytic converter theft is the first step in preventing it. Follow these protective measures to help deter thieves from targeting your car.

Review Your Auto Insurance Policy

Review your coverage with your broker or insurance provider if you have questions or concerns about your auto insurance policy or fleet policy. Hylant clients are welcome to contact their service team members anytime. Contact us here if you aren’t yet a client but need a quote for auto or fleet insurance.

Related Reading: 5 Ways to Help Your Teen Become a Safer Driver

The above information does not constitute advice. Always contact your insurance broker or trusted advisor for insurance-related questions.