Skip to content
person looking underneath at a car's catalytic converter

How to Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft

    3 minute read

    Catalytic converter theft is at an all-time high nationwide. Normally functioning as an antipollution device, the auto part is a popular target amongst thieves who sell them to scrap metal dealers for hundreds of dollars. Recently, states such as California have passed legislation to help reduce thefts by introducing new reselling protocols. However, thefts continue to be a problem.

    According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), there was a 325% increase in catalytic converter theft from 2019 to 2020. And the numbers have yet to go down. With replacement costs upwards of $3,000, understanding how to keep your vehicle safe can help you avoid a costly repair.

    What Are Catalytic Converters?

    Catalytic converter that is installed in a vehicle.

    A catalytic converter is an essential part of your vehicle’s exhaust system that reduces harmful emissions. Since 1975, it has been a mandatory part of all gas-powered vehicles. It is located underneath your car, attached to its exhaust pipe.

    Inside the converter are precious metals (typically rhodium, platinum, and palladium), which interact with dangerous toxins in your car’s exhaust to remove their harmful effects. For example, carbon monoxide (a toxic gas) enters one end, interacts with the metals inside, and exits as carbon dioxide.

    Why Are Thieves Targeting Catalytic Converters?

    So why are thieves targeting this auto part? Because the metals inside are highly valuable. Rhodium is the most sought after out of all three metals, which all regularly sell for over thousands of dollars per ounce. In 2021, rhodium hit a high of $26,000 per ounce.

    As the metals’ prices rise, so do the production costs of the converter itself. This has caused metal dealers to place a higher value on scrap converters as the metals inside can be extracted and recycled. Typically, most recyclers pay anywhere between $50 to $250 for a single converter.

    Due to its location, your vehicle’s catalytic converter is easily accessible and can be removed within minutes using a power saw. This, combined with their increasing demand, has made them a popular target for thieves.

    Which Cars Are Prone to Catalytic Converter Theft?

    Any gas-powered vehicle produced after 1975 can be a target for catalytic converter theft. However, thieves do target some models more than others.

    Thieves can remove a converter within minutes using a power saw, so they tend to target vehicles that they can quickly get underneath. As a result, automobiles with higher ground clearance (such as trucks and SUVs) are more prone to theft as their height makes it easier for thieves to reach the converter.

    the word Hybrid written on a car's grill.

    Additionally, hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius have been a familiar favorite for thieves. Their ultra-low emission ratings result in a higher concentration of metals within their converters.

    Older cars, produced around 1975, also have higher concentrations than cars produced today, making them likely targets.

    How to Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft

    Converter theft is a “crime of opportunity,” so removing easy openings will encourage would-be thieves to move on. To combat the rise in catalytic converter theft, the NICB recommends the following:

    • Install an anti-theft device: Installing an anti-theft device—such as a steel plate or steel cage around your converter—will significantly increase the time required to remove it. This will deter potential theft. Vibration-sensitive alarms can also discourage thieves from completing the theft.
    • Park securely: When possible, always park your vehicle inside a garage or within a secured lot. If parking in a driveway, consider backing into the space and installing motion-sensor lights. While lights alone will not prevent theft, they can force a thief to think twice and leave your vehicle alone.
    • VIN etching and painting: Etching your VIN onto your catalytic converter will make it easier to trace. Similarly, coating your converter in highly visible, high-heat paint can discourage thieves from attempting to sell them as their own.

    Protect Your Vehicle with Comprehensive Auto Insurance

    If you have a vehicle at high risk of converter theft, investing in comprehensive auto insurance will keep you protected. Minimum liability insurance only covers property damage and injuries to another person in the event of an accident but does not cover stolen parts.

    Give our Insurance Specialists a call at (888) 772-4247 or get a free online quote to learn more about obtaining affordable, comprehensive auto insurance for your vehicle.

    The information in this article is obtained from various sources and is offered for educational purposes. Furthermore, it should not replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. No warranty or appropriateness for a specific purpose is expressed or implied.