Catalytic converter thefts are up: How to protect your catalytic converter from being stolen
Catalytic converter theft is on the rise nationwide, new data shows.
In 2022, thefts nationwide were 540% higher than all of 2020, public data company BeenVerified found.
Thieves are slipping under cars to swipe catalytic converters, those pollution-control gadgets that contain precious metals that are in growing demand because of car emissions rules.
Catalytic converters can be removed with a battery-operated saw in minutes. They are then sold for a few hundred dollars to scrap recyclers.
For ripped-off car owners, the pain has just begun. Replacing the catalytic converter can cost between $1,500 and $5,000, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. And insurance may not cover it.
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In the past two years, 32 states have adopted new laws or amended laws to combat catalytic converter theft. This year the insurance crime bureau expects at least 11 more to introduce legislation to create new regulations for scrap yards, strengthen regulations, increase penalties or fix problems in current laws.
Fifteen states saw year-on-year declines in catalytic converter thefts, 12 of them after enacting state or local legislation, BeenVerified found.
At the federal level, a bipartisan bill proposed by Rep. Jim Baird, R-Ind., aims to reduce thefts by including identifying information on catalytic converters.
Catalytic converter crime wave: New numbers
The nation is in the middle of a massive catalytic converter crime wave, says Kerry Sherin, senior public relations manager for BeenVerified.
Over the last three years, catalytic converter thefts have soared nearly 2,200%, the latest figures from BeenVerified show.
Overall, growth in this type of crime slowed in 2022, but some hard-hit states are seeing surges. New York, for example, saw a 183.82% increase year over year and was up 9,386.36% in 2022 from 2019.
New Jersey, Illinois, Connecticut and Pennsylvania also saw big increases.
How much is a catalytic converter worth?
Catalytic converters, located between the engine and the muffler, cut down on the harmful chemicals emitted by vehicles. They contain high-value precious metals. The value of these metals per ounce has skyrocketed and is averaging: rhodium: $10,700; palladium: $1,568; platinum: $1,010, according to the insurance crime bureau.
Which cars are targeted for catalytic converter theft?
Thieves tend to target large pick-ups and delivery vehicles that have higher clearance, making it easier to remove the catalytic converter, according to the insurance crime bureau.
Hybrids are another major target because they have two catalytic converters and the converters tend to have less corrosion, making them more valuable.
CarFax found that the 10 vehicles most likely to be targeted nationwide were:
- 1985-2021 Ford F-Series
- 1989-2020 Honda Accord
- 2007-17 Jeep Patriot
- 1999-2021 Chevrolet Silverado
- 1990-2022 Ford Econoline
- 2007-21 Jeep Compass
- 1993-2020 Nissan Altima
- 2008-14 Dodge Avenger
- 2011-17 Chrysler 200
- 2011-19 Chevrolet Cruze
How to prevent your catalytic converter from being stolen
The bottom line, there is no surefire way to prevent catalytic converter theft.
“You can invest in all of the equipment you want, but in all reality, it takes less than 90 seconds to cut that thing from the vehicle, especially if it’s unprotected,” Sherin said.
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But deterrents can slow thieves down. Some of them are pricey but typically not as pricey as having to replace your catalytic converter.
- Park in secure garages or in well-lit areas. If you park in your driveway, install motion sensor lights and security cameras. In public garages and lots, park near the entrance.
- Install a catalytic converter anti-theft device such as a cage or steel plates.
- Install an alarm, either for the whole car or just for the catalytic converter, or increase the sensitivity level of your car alarm to alert you if anyone tampers with your car.
- Engrave your vehicle vehicle identification number and phone number on your catalytic converter. It could help law enforcement track and identify the stolen part. Look for free catalytic converter marking events near you.
- Spray paint your catalytic converter with high-temperature automotive paint. I can alert scrap recyclers to look for VIN etchings.
- Report the theft to law enforcement and your insurance company. Statistics can help pass laws that make it harder for thieves to steal catalytic converters.
- Put a security sticker on your windshield. A sticker warning that your vehicle is equipped with an alarm system could deter thieves.
Does your insurance cover catalytic converter theft?
Comprehensive insurance covers catalytic converter theft. Get comprehensive insurance or consider lowering your deductible if you live in a high-risk area or if you have a vehicle that is commonly targeted.
How do you know if your catalytic converter was stolen?
When your catalytic converter is stolen, your car will make a roaring sound that gets louder when you push the gas pedal. It might also make a sputtering sound when you accelerate. You may also notice an increase in exhaust smells.