Why Do People Steal Catalytic Converters?

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Catalytic Converter Removal at a Salvage Yard/ Image Credit: Getty Images Signaure

You do your best to keep your car protected from theft. However, you may be surprised to learn that your vehicle’s catalytic converter is also at risk of being stolen. There’s currently a high demand for these parts, which has led to car thieves cashing in on repair shops desperately trying to keep them in stock. Read on to learn what a catalytic converter actually is, as well as how and why they’re stolen.

What is a Catalytic Converter? 

A catalytic converter is a vital part of your emission system meant to safeguard people and the environment from harmful exhaust and pollution. It is located on the underside of your vehicle and is part of the exhaust system, situated between the engine and the muffler. Any vehicle made after 1975 should have one, with one large exception: electric vehicles. EVs don’t create exhaust, so they have no need for a traditional exhaust system. For more info on EVs, check out our blogs on EV maintenance and what factors to consider before buying one. 

Why Do People Steal Catalytic Converters?

Catalytic converters are targeted because they’re designed with precious metals more valuable than gold. Metals like rhodium, palladium, and platinum: all highly valuable to metal dealers. At a scrapyard, just one converter can fetch several hundred dollars. With stricter car emissions being enacted around the globe, car manufacturers are scrambling for these necessary metals to make converters. This increase in demand has pushed the asking price of said metals to record highs, and thieves are cashing in.

How Are They Stolen? 

What’s most concerning is how fast a theft can occur. Armed with a reciprocating saw or wrench and a mechanic’s creeper, thieves can slip under your vehicle and remove your catalytic converter in about two minutes. This makes it difficult to catch people in the act. In fact, many converters are stolen in broad daylight from vehicles in parking garages, strip malls, and driveways.

What Cars Are at Risk? 

Vehicles most frequently targeted include trucks and SUVs. Late-model Toyotas are especially vulnerable because they sit higher off the ground, which grants easier access to these prized parts. You can also easily remove the bolts on these particular converters. Hybrids like the Toyota Prius are also at greater risk because their gasoline engines get used less than regular cars. Because of this, their converters often retain more of their metal composition, which makes them even more valuable to metal dealers.

How to Protect Yourself 

You can’t tell your converter was stolen by looking at your car, but it will become clear as soon as you start the engine. You’ll hear a roaring sound that gets increasingly louder as you accelerate. Your vehicle may also make a sputtering sound as you change speeds or feel like it’s not driving as smoothly as normal. If it has indeed been stolen, your insurance may be able to cover the loss. Check out if your coverage applies to catalytic converter theft here. 

To protect you and your vehicle, we recommend you park near well-lit areas and as close to building entrances as possible. If you have access to a garage at home, park inside with the door closed instead of on the street. Have your repair shop weld the converter to your car, as it will be that much more difficult to steal. Another option is to have your VIN engraved on the converter to alert scrap dealers that it was stolen.

Your converter is integral to your car and being aware of its potential appeal to a thief can help you take the necessary cautionary measures to protect it. If you’re considering a new ride altogether, save yourself the headache of visiting multiple dealerships and head to BestRide instead. We can help identify the best vehicle for you based on previous reviews, safety recalls, and buyer guides. Visit BestRide.com today to learn more.