Vehicles have a metal that costs more than gold and thieves are after it. Authorities are reporting that catalytic converter thefts from vehicle exhaust systems continue to rise across the country. Replacing a catalytic converter can cost between $2,000 to 3,000 and, depending on how old your car is, it is illegal to drive without one.
With the increase in the price of precious metals, the problem has only gotten worse since 2020. Thieves had originally been targeting hybrid vehicles because they contain a higher percentage of precious metals, including platinum, rhodium, and palladium, which are more expensive than gold, but more recently thieves are also targeting other large and small vehicles.
What is a catalytic converter?
The catalytic converter is a round canister that is located underneath the car and is part of the exhaust pipe system. It’s typically installed in the middle of the exhaust system between the exhaust manifold and muffler. The catalytic converter contains a ceramic honeycombed core coated with precious metals to neutralize harmful exhaust gasses.
How long does it take to steal a catalytic converter?
Thieves can remove a catalytic converter quickly, often in less than two minutes, so theft can even occur in broad daylight, as reported by Edmunds.com
What do thieves do with the stolen catalytic converters?
Because these precious metals are expensive, thieves sell the converters to scrap yards for several hundred dollars per piece, depending on the size of the converter and the current rate on the metals inside it.
Historically, catalytic converter thefts have increased when the price per ounce of these precious metals increases. There is especially a strong correlation between the cost of rhodium and the rise in thefts. In today’s market, rhodium is valued at $12,600 per ounce with a 30 day average of $14,191 per ounce.
How bad is the problem?
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) catalytic converter thefts increased dramatically by 325% between 2019 and 2020. Additionally, an analysis published by BeenVerified shows that this increase continued in 2021 with nearly 65,400 claims reported. So far in 2022, there have been an estimated 26,000 catalytic converter thefts, up 33% from the same time last year.
Tokio Marine America also saw the number of catalytic converter theft claims double in 2021 as compared to 2020, with the average cost being $2,500 per claim. We expect 2022 catalytic claim results to exceed 2021 results based on claims reported during the first five months of this year.
In 2021, 26 states proposed bills to help curb the increase in catalytic converter thefts across the nation. Of these, 10 have either enacted new laws or firmed up already existing laws, including; Arkansas, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia.
The top 10 vehicles targeted
In an article published by Car and Driver on June 15, 2022, the 10 vehicles most prone to catalytic converter thefts include:
- 2001–2021 Toyota Prius
- 2011–2017 Chrysler 200
- 1987–2019 Toyota Camry
- 1997–2020 Honda CR-V
- 2005–2021 Chevrolet Equinox
- 1999–2021 Chevrolet Silverado
- 1990–2022 Ford Econoline/E-Series
- 2007–2017 Jeep Patriot
- 1989–2020 Honda Accord
- 1985–2021 Ford F-series
TIPS TO REDUCE THE THEFT OF YOUR CATALYTIC CONVERTER
- MARK THE CONVERTER WITH A SERIAL NUMBER. Etch your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the converter so it can be easily identified and install a sticker in the rear window that indicates the catalytic converter is marked. This may help prevent thieves from targeting your vehicle.
- INSTALL A DEVICE TO MAKE IT MORE DIFFICULT TO REMOVE. Security devices are available that attach to the converter, making it harder to steal. An example is a device for Toyotas called “Catloc” or the "CatClamp" for other vehicles.
- PARK IN WELL-LIT AREAS OR AREAS THAT PEOPLE REGULARLY WALK PAST. Always park in well-lit areas when possible. Park close to a building entrance or the nearest access road when parking in a public lot. Increased pedestrian traffic in those areas may decrease the risk of theft.
- KEEP YOUR CAR PARKED IN A GARAGE AND NOT ON THE STREET. If you have a personal garage, keep your car in the garage with the door closed when the vehicle is not in use.
- PARK TO PREVENT ACCESS UNDERNEATH. Thieves need to slide under the vehicle and use cutting tools to detach the converter from the pipes around it. Strategic parking can put thieves off. Parking your car close to fences, walls, or curbs makes theft much more difficult.
- PARK IN AREAS WHERE THERE ARE SECURITY CAMERAS OR INSTALL ONE FOR YOUR DRIVEWAY. Video surveillance around your garage or driveway is helpful if you have the budget for it.
- WELD THE BOLTS SHUT. If your catalytic converter is bolted on, ask a local garage to weld the bolts to make it more difficult to remove.
- INSTALL AN ALARM. The noise of the alarm should help scare off any thieves. If you have a security system on your car, calibrate it so vibration sets it off. This ensures the alarm activates if a thief tries to saw off the converter.
- BLOCK ACCESS TO THE UNDERSIDE OF LARGER VEHICLES. If your company has a small fleet with trucks and cars, block the larger vehicles with smaller vehicles.
The Washington Post: “A precious metal that costs 15 times more than gold is driving a surge in thefts of catalytic converters.”
National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB): “Increase in Catalytic Converter Thefts, 2018 through December 2020.”
National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB): Catalytic Converter Thefts Skyrocket Across the Nation | National Insurance Crime Bureau (nicb.org)
CARFAX Catalytic Converter Theft: Most Targeted Vehicles by U.S. Region: https://www.carfax.com/blog/catalytic-converter-theft
Edmunds: “In Under Two Minutes: Catalytic Converter Theft”
CatClamp: Catalytic Converter Lock
About Tokio Marine America
IMPORTANT NOTICE - The information and suggestions presented by Tokio Marine Management, Inc. does not represent, warrant, or guarantee the appropriateness, validity or accuracy of this information in every situation. This information does not necessarily cover every possible condition, protection, hazard, situation or exposure and is not warranted to be in compliance with laws, regulations, codes or standards in every jurisdiction. This information is representative of reasonable practices in the industry. However, you may wish to investigate whether these recommendations are applicable to your specific operations. Loss control is the responsibility of your management.