Texas Living

Catalytic Converter Thefts Are Skyrocketing: Here’s What to Know

By Abi Grise Morgan 10.18.22

It may not be pretty, but to thieves, the catalytic converter under your car is a veritable treasure chest.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), there was a 325% increase in catalytic converter theft claims in 2020. Thefts are rising because the price of precious metals inside catalytic converters have risen. Thieves saw off catalytic converters in seconds and then sell them to scrap metal dealers for cash.

Catalytic converters can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 to replace — leaving drivers both stranded without a usable vehicle and stuck with a hefty repair bill. But there are always ways to outsmart thieves at their own game.

What Is a Catalytic Converter?

Catalytic converters are part of your exhaust system and a necessary component for your car to pass safety and emissions inspections. Thieves love them because they contain valuable precious metals: platinum, palladium, and rhodium. These metals convert harmful combustion byproducts, such as nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide, into less harmful gases. And they go for a pretty penny at scrap metal dealerships. In March 2022, rhodium sold for a staggering $20,000 per ounce.

The Limits of the Texas Law

In 2021, Texas HB 4100 made it a state felony to steal, buy, or sell stolen catalytic converters. It also requires scrap metal dealers to ask for vehicle titles or other documentation before accepting catalytic converters. However, there are plenty of states that don’trequire documentation or consider catalytic converter theft a felony. This is where thieves take their bounty.

Is Your Vehicle a Potential Target?

All vehicles manufactured after 1974 that use fuel have catalytic converters, so chances are high your vehicle has one. There are two characteristics that make your car especially attractive to thieves: taller vehicles, such as SUVs or trucks, that provide ample clearance for a thief to work, and hybrid cars, whose catalytic converters contain a high supply of precious metals. Older models of hybrid cars are especially valuable at the scrap yard. For example, according to Auto Catalyst Market, a 2004 Prius catalytic converter might go for over $1,000, whereas a 2010 model might fetch closer to $500.

How to Discourage Thieves

Make your vehicle less of a target with these tips:

Park smart: Thieves love the dark. In seconds, they can slip underneath your vehicle without a soul catching sight and do their work under the cover of your car itself. Make them think twice about touching your car by keeping it inside the garage, if you have one, or in a well-lit area, such as under a streetlamp. Set up floodlight cams in your driveway or, even better, cameras!

Leave thieves a note: Etch your name, license plate number, or VIN number on your catalytic converter. It doesn’t have to be pretty — just visible enough to alert the scrap dealer that the catalytic converter was stolen. Spray paint will also do the trick; just make sure your paint is made to withstand high temperatures.

Install anti-theft devices: Next time you’re at the auto shop for an oil change, ask your mechanic for a quote on getting a cable or cage welded around your catalytic converter. There are plenty of options for the DIY mechanic, too. Companies like Catstrap and CatClamp have devised all kinds of clever locks, shields, and security devices to make removing your catalytic converter a headache — sometimes literally, with ear-piercing alarms. Install them at home yourself or ask your mechanic for help.

What to Do if You’re a Victim of Catalytic Converter Theft

Always report theft to the police. Even if your car was old or broken down, that information can help police anticipate the thief’s next move and catch them. Reporting also helps lawmakers make decisions to combat future thefts. And of course, call your Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent to make a claim.

The best remedy for car theft is prevention. Second-best is an auto policy that fits your vehicle, lifestyle, and needs — such as comprehensive auto insurance, which covers catalytic converter theft.

© 2022 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance