Why are catalytic converters being stolen?

Catalytic converters are also being stolen because they are made of precious metals like platinum, palladium, and rhodium. The value of a catalytic converter is based on the quantity of these precious metals in it.

They also contain copper, which is valuable, and the converter itself can be sold for a few hundred dollars. Converters are easy to steal- they’re often accessible under the car, might not be serialized, which make it hard to track if they’re stolen.

According to Monex, these are the prices of precious metals in catalytic convertersin 2022:

  • Rhodium is worth 18,700 USD/oz
  • Palladium is worth $2,558 USD/oz
  • Platinum is worth $1,048 USD/oz

The value of precious metals in catalytic converters make them worth from $200 to several thousands, depending on the make and model.

Continue to read here to know more about how much is a catalytic converter worth.

catalytic converter

Rhodium makes catalytic converters interesting for thieves

Still wondering why catalytic converters are being stolen? It’s essentially because of the Rhodium. It is a key metal sold in every car in America since 1975. It’s the reason thieves are sawing off catalytic converters off cars, in the hope of putting their hand on a few precious grams of this metal.

It’s a perfect storm that’s causing the market price of rhodium to rise. Rhodium mines have resulted in a deficit of this uncommon metal. If automobile manufacturers can’t get it from mines, they’ll have to recycle it instead.

Recycled precious metals account for a large portion of the car manufacturers supply chain, which translates into big opportunities on the street.

How did catalytic converters get there?

In the United States, automobile emissions were polluting the atmosphere to an unprecedented degree in the 1970s. As a result of public outcry, the US Senate passed the Clean Air Act of 1970, which set national air quality standards. By 1975, one of the aims of the new legislation was to decrease 90% of toxic vehicle pollutants by new methods reducing them.

The three-way catalytic converter, also known as a three-way cat, is a component of the exhaust system that sits just behind the exhaust manifold and before the muffler. It’s designed to reduce three harmful emissions:

  1. Carbon monoxide;
  2. Hydrocarbons (unburned fuel); and
  3. Nitrous oxides.

How is a catalytic converter made

On standard vehicles, a simple converter is made with a stainless steel shell surrounds a ceramic honeycomb monolith coated with rhodium, platinum, and palladium.

As the exhaust gas passes through the converter, the metals heat up and converts:

  • Carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide;
  • Hydrocarbons into water vapor and carbon dioxide; and
  • Nitrous oxides into nitrogen and carbon dioxide

Because precious metals are quite durable, they may perform this function for the life of the car part without deteriorating much in performance. However, rhodium’s high cost is a disadvantage.

Continue reading here to know more about what is a catalytic converter.

How long does it take to steal a catalytic converter?

This really depends on the make and model of your car. On several popular cars, it only takes a few minutes to steal a catalytic converter, and it can be easily done with the right tools. Catalytic converters that are located under a car bumper can be quickly removed. This makes them an easy target for thieves.

The most common way to take it out is to cut the converter out of the exhaust system, but this is sometimes a time-consuming process.

Others will disassemble a large portion of the exhaust system to get to it, which also takes time without the proper professional equipment.

Authorities limit their interventions and surveillance on catalytic converter theft

Authorities resources can’t be allocated to the property crimes like they are given attention to the violent crimes. Also, without specific markings on the catalytic converters themselves, it’s sometimes impossible to prove the provenance of a sawed-off cat.

How to protect your catalytic converter from thieves?

Parking in your garage is one of the simplest ways. Not everyone has access to a garage, and not everyone has the space in their driveway for a car, so even if you can park in a well-lit location, it’s just another thing that adds a little bit more work because they have to crawl underneath your automobile.

Thefts of SUVs and trucks that are a little closer to the ground are easier for thieves. Some of the smaller cars must be raised up on one side in order to be able to access them from underneath.

It takes a little bit of time. But simply being aware. Keep an eye out for suspicious behavior in and around your communities, as well as reporting it.

Engrave a serial number

Third-party businesses may etch an ID number into a car’s catalytic converter and enter that data into a database. Concerned salvage operators can access the database. While black-market scrap metal dealers would likely still take an engraved converter, it really helps with minimizing the ability for thieves to get rid of their product.

Weld it to the car frame

Some people are even going to their local mechanic shop to have the converter welded to the vehicle frame or have mechanics put a screen over it to protect it. That may be more effort, but people who have a model of car more at risk should do anything that makes it more difficult to cut out the converter out of it.

Buy an electric vehicle

Electric vehicles are one solution, since they do not emit any exhaust at all.

What should you do if your catalytic converter is stolen?

If your catalytic converter is stolen, you should report it to the police and your car insurance company. Most insurance companies will cover the cost of replacing a stolen catalytic converter.

You may also want to install a theft-deterrent system to make it harder for thieves to steal the converter in the future.

Why are Toyota Prius catalytic converters being stolen so frequently?

The reason why Toyota Prius catalytic converters are being stolen so frequently is that they have more precious metals than other popular models. Converters are easy to steal, and they can be easily sold for a few hundred dollars. Some thieves are targeting Prius cars specifically because they are popular and have a valuable converter.

Being environmentally friendly can also come at a cost.

When you consider a hybrid automobile, you don’t think of the engine being on all of the time. As a result, the temperature is even lower. So what are your options? You just add more catalysts to existing technology, resulting in a significant scarcity and an extremely expensive car converter.

Will my car work without the catalytic converter?

Your car will still run without a catalytic converter, but it will not be as efficient and may produce more emissions. In some states, it is also illegal to drive a car without a catalytic converter.

Since the purpose of a catalytic converter is to reduce toxic car emissions, your state regulations might not allow you to use your car without one.

Which cars are most likely to have a catalytic converter stolen?

The cars that are most likely to have a catalytic converter stolen are those that are have a lot of precious metals in it. Some examples of cars likely to have their catalytic converter stolen are high performance cars and more specific ones, like the Toyota Prius.

Will my car insurance pay for a stolen catalytic converter?

Most car insurance companies will cover the cost of replacing a stolen catalytic converter. However, you may need to provide proof that the converter was stolen in order to receive reimbursement.

Which car parts are thieves most likely to steal?

Thieves are most likely to steal car parts that are valuable and easy to sell. This includes catalytic converters, tires and mags, exhaust system, stereo systems and other electronics.

We hope this short article has explained sufficiently why catalytic converters are being stolen so you can better protect yourself against theft.

Want to sell your catalytic converter?

You can sell your catalytic converter to a local scrap yard or to a wholesaler directly. If you sell to the latter, you will need to take it apart from the exhaust system and ship it to them. It’s more work, but you might get a better price, since you eliminate the middleman. If you want to know how much you can get from your scrap cat, call us for an instant quote:


Email us to request a quote

Check under the car or remove the Cat completely. Check corners, under shields, and down pipes for numbers.
Make, model & year of your vehicle. Original part or replaced? Any additional information to make an appraisal easier.