Cars That Are Most Commonly Targeted by Catalytic Converter Thieves

Catalytic converters have probably been getting stolen since they were first invented, but the last few years have seen a frankly staggering increase in converter thefts. Just consider the statistics: from 2019 to 2021, there was a 1,215% rise in catalytic converters reported stolen. In 2018, there were around 1,300 catalytic converter thefts; in 2021, there were more than 52,000. What’s making them such a common target? It’s all about what’s inside. The rhodium, palladium, and platinum can be melted down and sold at a premium, which seems like an even more appealing option during the hard times brought on by pandemic-related restrictions.

Catalytic Converter Thieves

catalytic converter thieves
Image credit: Flickr

If the catalytic converter gets stolen from your car, your options are fairly limited – but it might not be a total loss. Ideally, of course, your car insurance policy would cover the cost of replacement. If that isn’t on the table, though, you’d either have to shell out for a replacement part or start looking for another vehicle. After all, converters are expensive; if your car was nearing the end of its lifespan anyway, you might want to think about selling the vehicle as a junk car and getting a new one. Orthodox Auto Company buys old cars in almost any condition, as do many other companies all across the country. Best of all, since junk cars are often paid for by weight, the absence of the catalytic converter wouldn’t make that much of a difference.


Is anything being done to discourage catalytic converter thieves?

So far, several states have passed new legislation that’s meant to make it more difficult to sell the stolen converters. It’s too early to say whether or not these measures are effective enough to bring down the skyrocketing number of thefts, but they should still make a difference at some level. For example, one law requires junkyards to ask for proof of ownership and ID, as well as ensuring that the person selling the converter is 18 or older. Another law requires junkyards to be stricter about the way they keep sales records; this means that they can’t simply hand out cash to anyone who shows up with valuable car parts to sell.

Practical ways to discourage the theft of your car’s catalytic converter

Are you concerned about being affected by this trend? Here are some practical steps you can take.

  • Get an anti-theft device – There are several different types of anti-theft devices for catalytic converters, so make sure you’re getting the right one for your vehicle. Toyota Prius owners (and some Tacoma owners too) can get a protection shield that bolts over the converter. Wire “locks” can be installed around the converter on almost any vehicle; they’re pretty much unbreakable, and they attach the converter to the car’s frame. Motion-activated alarms can be a bit hit-and-miss, especially on windy nights, but a loud noise that goes off if someone’s messing around with your car can be an effective deterrent in populated areas. Turn it on when you’re parked, and turn it off when it’s time to go somewhere.
  • Put motion-activated lights wherever your car will be parked – Security lights aren’t quite a fool-proof theft deterrent, but then, it probably doesn’t take much to scare off a converter thief. If they can’t get the job done without risking exposure, they’re more likely to leave your vehicle alone.
  • Have the car’s VIN number engraved on the converter – This won’t necessarily prevent theft, but it’ll certainly help catch the perpetrators.
  • Avoid parking in poorly lit areas – If your car is sitting in the dark, it’s that much easier for someone to steal the catalytic converter without being caught.
  • Park in the garage, and keep the door closed – Even if the vehicle is parked in the driveway, that’s no guarantee that the converter is safe.
  • Pay attention to where you’re parking – If you don’t have a clear line of vision on all sides of the vehicle, you’re basically just making it easier for someone to potentially steal the catalytic converter.

Is your car at risk of catalytic converter theft?

There’s no telling when a vehicle will be targeted, but statistics show that converter thieves go for certain vehicles over others. These are the ten cars that saw the most frequent converter thefts in 2021:

  • 1985 – 2021 Ford F-Series trucks
  • 2007 – 2017 Jeep Patriot
  • 1999 – 2021 Chevrolet Silverado trucks
  • 1997 – 2020 Honda CR-V
  • 2011 – 2017 Chrysler 200
  • 1989 – 2020 Honda Accord
  • 1990 – 2022 Ford Econoline vans
  • 2005 – 2021 Chevrolet Equinox
  • 1987 – 2019 Toyota Camry
  • 2001 – 2021 Toyota Prius

How much are catalytic converters worth?

If you’re talking about selling a stolen converter, it’ll get anywhere from $25 to $300 if it’s from a regular car and up to $1,400 for a converter taken from a hybrid car. This second type uses a lot more precious metals, which is why it’s so much more valuable.

If you’re talking about buying a replacement, you could end up spending between $1,000 and $3,000, depending on the type of car you have. It’s never nice to have something stolen from you, but discovering that your catalytic converter is gone could make both you and your bank account very unhappy.

How to tell if your catalytic converter has been stolen

Cars can make alarming noises for all kinds of reasons, but an absent catalytic converter will result in a pretty distinctive roar. It’s quite loud, and it only gets louder when you accelerate. There will also be a lot more exhaust than usual, and the vehicle’s acceleration will likely be uneven due to the lack of exhaust regulation.

Of course, the most fool-proof way to check if the converter is gone is to check the undercarriage of the vehicle. If you spot sawn-through pipes in your car’s undercarriage that don’t seem to lead anywhere, it’s time to call your insurance company.

The takeaway

The likelihood of having your vehicle’s catalytic converter stolen is higher than ever, but forewarned is forearmed; all it takes to lower the risk of that happening are a few common-sense precautions.

Jasper has been an enthusiast of the automotive and IT industries since the age of 16. He independently writes on the auto industry's recent happenings.