How to Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft

Wherever there is something of value, there is the possibility of theft. While car theft is a concern, some thieves target specific car parts like catalytic converters. Catalytic converters help reduce pollution by turning the exhaust into something that’s not as harmful. Theft of catalytic converters has spiked almost 293% in a year from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 according to the Rockford Register Star. Given the rise in theft, we’re sharing how to prevent catalytic converter theft and what you can do to protect yourself.

Why Do People Steal Catalytic Converters? | Metromile

Why do people steal catalytic converters from cars?

If you’re curious why people steal catalytic converters, it comes down to money and how easy it is. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has also noticed a huge spike in catalytic converter theft during the pandemic. It explains that a lot of it has to do with supply and demand and limited resources. 

The NICB President and CEO said in a statement:

“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.” 

The value of the metals from catalytic converters is an obvious factor, but another culprit is how easy it is for thieves. Stealing a catalytic converter may only take a few minutes. So you have the monetary value of these parts, the ease of execution, plus supply and demand and difficult times for a lot of people, and you get a perfect recipe for an increase in theft. 

What’s the value of a catalytic converter? 

The value of catalytic converters or how much they’re worth makes them an appealing quest for thieves. How much catalytic converters are worth can depend on the type of vehicle and how old the vehicle is. 

The precious metals used in catalytic converters have increased in value. According to NICB, “In recent years, the values of these precious metals have increased significantly. As of December 2020, rhodium was valued at $14,500 per ounce, palladium at $2,336 per ounce, and platinum going for $1,061 per ounce. Typically, recyclers will pay $50 to $250 per catalytic converter.”

Rockaway Recycling has a list of catalytic converter scrap prices ranging from small amounts to several hundred dollars — up to $543 for foreign car catalytic converters. 

If your catalytic converter gets stolen, you’ll have to replace it. According to J.D. Power, most catalytic converters cost between $800 to $1,200. NICB states that it could cost between $1,000 to $3,000 to get your car fixed, so it can be pretty expensive to fix this issue. In the past (pre-pandemic), catalytic converters started around $350 and up (not including labor) states a 2015 article on AutoServiceCosts.com

The value of the metal in catalytic converters is surging due to a shortage plus an increase in demand, making the part more costly and theft more common. Read more about the economic context and why it’s surging here. 

What is being done to help catalytic converter theft prevention?

Given the spike in catalytic converter theft, you might wonder if anything is being done about it. Some states are trying to take things into their own hands. 

According to a Washington Post article, “In Ohio, lawmakers introduced a bill to ban the sale of catalytic converters without proof of ownership. And a city in Arizona launched an undercover initiative called “Operation Heavy Metal” to combat the thefts, which jumped from two cases in 2018 to more than 400 as of September.”

The article also notes that police departments are working with communities to try and fix the issue, with Takoma Park launching an ‘Etch & Catch” catalytic converter anti-theft program. The goal is to etch the license plate number onto the converter to make it easier to trace in the case of theft. 

There has also been an increase in legislation to try and prevent the sale of metal scraps. According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc., all 50 states have passed laws that aim to prevent metal thefts. 

How to prevent catalytic converter theft

Getting your catalytic converter stolen can be annoying and costly. If you have comprehensive coverage, it may be covered under your policy. However, if you have liability only, you’ll likely pay out-of-pocket for the expense. 

If you want to learn how to prevent catalytic converter theft, take the following steps:

  • Etch your catalytic converter with your VIN or license plate number or install an anti-theft device, suggests the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) in California.
  • Park in a garage, near an entrance or well-lit area, and install a car alarm and calibrate it to detect vibration, suggests BAR.
  • Consider installing a motion sensor light, recommends NICB. 
  • Park in a way that thwarts thieves, as they need to go underneath the car. This can mean parking close to walls or other cars in a way that limits space underneath. 
  • Purchase a CatClamp, which is a special catalytic converter lock. 

Taking these steps can reduce your chances of catalytic converter theft. Whenever possible, keep your car protected in a garage or near populated and well-lit areas. 

The bottom line 

In the past year or so, there’s been a huge spike in catalytic converter theft. If you start your car and it’s loud and seems off, you may be a victim of this type of theft. If you experience this, you can see if your auto insurance covers it. To help catalytic converter theft prevention, use these tips above to keep your car protected. 

While you’re looking at ways to protect your car and avoid theft, consider shopping around for car insurance too. You may be paying too much for insurance if you’re a low-mileage driver. You can pay for the miles you drive and save using pay-per-mile car insurance.. Get a quote with Metromile to see how much you stand to save. 


Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer, podcast host of the Mental Health and Wealth show, and author of Dear Debt. She’s a cat mom to two jazzy cats, Miles and Thelonious, an amateur boxer, music lover, and needs coffee to function.