Skip to Content

Why Are People Stealing Catalytic Converters?

Thieves are stealing catalytic converters from vehicles (including RVs) all across the country. The National Insurance Crime Bureau released statistics that show these thefts are up over 300% compared to previous years.

Several states are even taking legislative action to reduce these occurrences. 

So why are people stealing catalytic converters? Let’s take a look.

What Is a Catalytic Converter?

A vehicle’s catalytic converter is a part of the exhaust system that resembles a small muffler. These pieces of equipment convert the hazardous exhaust into a safer and less harmful gas. 

Catalytic converters began appearing on vehicles in 1975 to comply with the strict regulations for reducing emissions. Most non-electric vehicles on the road today have a catalytic converter, but they’re also on generators, motorcycles, and trains.

Why Are People Stealing Catalytic Converters?

Catalytic converters contain metals that have drastically risen in price. Once they steal a catalytic converter, they can sell the converter to a salvage yard and make a chunk of cash. 

People desperate enough to steal to make easy cash typically don’t worry about the inconvenience they’re causing their victims.

Catalytic converter close up image
Catalytic converters are necessary to convert the hazardous exhaust from your vehicle into less harmful gas.

What Are Stolen Catalytic Converters Used For? 

Thieves aren’t stealing catalytic converters because they contain highly-priced metals: rhodium, platinum, and palladium.

Here’S the spot price per ounce for each metal as of this week:

  • Rhodium: $22,300.00
  • Platinum: $1,146.20
  • Palladium: $3,087.02

It’s a rather sketchy way to earn a buck, but thieves typically have little concern for morals when they need money.

Many salvage yards accept catalytic converters. There are even mail-in recycle services where you can send in an old converter and get cash in return. Depending on the business, some are willing to turn a blind eye to people cashing in abnormal amounts of catalytic converters.

Luckily, law enforcement takes these crimes seriously and often investigates these situations.

Pro Tip: Keep your vehicle safe with these tips on How to Easily Prevent Vehicle Break-Ins.

How Do Thieves Steal Catalytic Converters? 

All a thief needs is a battery-powered reciprocating saw. Within a few seconds, they can cut away a catalytic converter and be on their way. Some thieves will use a wrench to undo the bolts that keep it in place, but this takes much more time.

If thieves see an easy target, they’re usually in and out without anyone noticing. They’ll often wait for the cover of night, but many victims have had their catalytic converters stolen in broad daylight.

How Much Is a Stolen Catalytic Converter Worth? 

You may think it’s insane that people would steal a car part from a parked car. But, it’s not so insane when you hear how much they’re worth. Depending on the vehicle, catalytic converters can range from $50 to over $1,600. Pricing will also depend greatly on who is buying the catalytic converter.

Car thief breaking into car
Insurance policies will likely cover a stolen catalytic converter.

How Are Stolen Catalytic Converters Sold? 

Many states have laws regarding the sale of catalytic converters. Some states even require a scrap yard to collect a copy of the seller’s ID, photo, license plate number, and even a video of the transaction. Once all of this is complete, payment is through a check mailed to them after a three-day waiting period.

With all those rules and precautions, plenty of scrap yards will accept catalytic converters through the mail.

These scrap yards are often in states with relaxed laws on catalytic converter sales. All the scrapyard needs is a copy of the seller’s driver’s license. Someone willing to steal a catalytic converter will likely have no trouble finding a fake ID to show for the transaction.

Does Insurance Cover Stolen Catalytic Converters?

If you have comprehensive coverage on your vehicle, your policy will likely cover you if your catalytic converter gets stolen. However, it’s a good idea to check your insurance policy or have a chat with your insurance provider. Confirm your coverage before you’re a victim.

The cost to replace some catalytic converters can be upwards of $3,000. If your insurance policy doesn’t cover the repair costs, you’re going to be on the hook for the entire repair bill. That’s unless you’re able to locate the thief and file a lawsuit to get them to pay.

Pro Tip: Uh oh! If your catalytic converter is stolen or you just generally Need Your Car Towed, Expect to Pay More in 2022! Find out why.

How to Protect Your Catalytic Converter from Theft?

If you want to protect your catalytic converter, there are a few things you can do.

Some vehicle owners will even go as far as etching their license plate number onto their catalytic converter. A thief that sees this etching will likely not take the risk of messing with your converter. They’ll probably move on to find another victim. This will also help law enforcement identify your catalytic converter if they discover it in a junkyard or a pile of stolen catalytic converters.

Some owners will even go as far as installing an anti-theft device onto their catalytic converter. These typically cost $150 to $350, depending on whether you install it yourself or not. However, this will make it more difficult for a thief to make a quick buck.

The easiest solution for protecting yourself is always parking in well-lit areas or your garage. A majority of these thefts occur at night when it’s dark and everyone is sleeping. Thieves will look for the easiest target, typically one in the shadows and off by itself. So always park in a secure location whenever possible.

Do you know anyone who has had their catalytic converter stolen? Tell us about it in the comments!

Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA

To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).

You should give it a try!

As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site! 

We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below:

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Reita Powell says:

    My neighbors across the street had the catalytic converter stolen from their old Honda CRV. Since insurance wouldn’t cover it they ended up junking the car.

  2. Todd Evans says:

    While test driving when shopping for a different truck last summer I drove a newer used one ton truck. Out on the test drive I noticed that the truck had a loud tone to the exhaust and the check engine light came on. I thought maybe it had been modified by the former owner. When returning from the drive we looked under the truck to find the crossmember had been cut in half and the cat converter removed. It looked like a very expensive repair.