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Catalytic converter thefts are rising. What it is, how to protect it

Mar 26, 2023Mar 26, 2023

In a rising wave of automobile catalytic converter thefts that has swept the country, many are wondering what makes these car parts so valuable to roadway robbers and if they might be the next target of this vehicle violation.

In 2022, the exhaust-system-component thefts nationwide were 540% higher than all of 2020, public data company BeenVerified found.

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A catalytic converter is a part of your car's exhaust system that converts harmful engine-exhaust pollutants into something less harmful to the environment through chemical reactions. Most hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides convert into the "less bad" carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and water vapor.

Catalytic converters began showing up in many cars in the mid-1970s and soon became almost universally used.

What has thieves seeing dollar signs in their eyes when they stumble upon these car parts? The value is in the materials.

Catalytic converters are made up of extremely hard and expensive metals, such as mining platinum, palladium, and rhodium. With the skyrocketing costs of precious metals, these converters are now seen as something worth more than gold.

Scraps of the converter can be sold to junkyards, getting anywhere between $50 to $300 for the stolen metal.

According to experts, catalytic converters are easy to steal, hard to trace, and difficult to prosecute. In an interview with NPR last year, David Glawe of the National Insurance Crime Bureau said thieves slide under the car and slice through the exhaust system using a battery-powered saw in 30 seconds to a minute.

Since most fuel-powered vehicles manufactured after 1974 have catalytic converters, there are a lot of cars on the road that would appeal to thieves. According to the insurance agency Allstate, they often target taller vehicles, like pickup trucks or SUVs, because they can easily fit under the vehicle to access the catalytic converter.

Another attractive target for catalytic converter thieves is hybrid cars, according to Forbes, because hybrid cars don't run as hot as gas-powered vehicles, their catalytic converters offer an even greater supply of precious metals.

CarFax found that the 10 vehicles most likely to be targeted nationwide were:

When purchased at a dealership or mechanic shop, a catalytic converter typically goes for between $1,000 and $1,500, depending on the vehicle's make and model. In general, the larger the engine, the more expensive the converter.

And some insurance companies might not cover the replacement.

According to experts, here are five major signs your catalytic converter has been stolen:

Allstate gives these tips to help protect your car from catalytic converter theft:

According to Florida law, it is illegal to:

Recently, the "Catalytic Converter Anti-Theft Act" won unanimous approval, aimed to prohibit a person from knowingly purchasing a detached catalytic converter, unless they're a registered secondary metals recycler.

Senate Bill 306 officially prohibits the sale, manufacture, and installation of catalytic converters by anyone without a license to recycle secondary metals.

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