Catalytic converters are car parts that can make a car thief’s eyes bulge out of their heads. The black market eats up the precious metals that make up this part, making it one of the most common parts stolen. While this precious scrap metal has been a targeted part for many years, it’s seen quite the surge lately. Let’s discover why.
Auto repair workers believe that the reason there’s been a rise in catalytic converter thefts is due to people being out of jobs during the pandemic and those desperate for money feeling forced to get creative. Pair that with cars sitting around all day from these job losses and people now working from home and you’ve got a perfect recipe for converter theft.
So what is a catalytic converter anyways? Why is it so valuable to thieves? A catalytic converter is an emissions control device found in your car’s exhaust system. It prevents harmful compounds such as carbon monoxide from leaking out of your tailpipe and into the atmosphere. An obviously valuable part, let’s discuss it in more detail.
The three valuable metals inside of a converter are platinum, rhodium, and palladium. These metals can be sold for up to $150 depending on the size. Rhodium is valued at $14,500 an ounce, palladium is at $2,336 an ounce, and platinum sits at around $1,061, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. As the value of these metals increases (which they are), so do these types of thefts. There were roughly $1,200 thefts a month in 2020 compared to only 280 the previous year. Stolen catalytic converters from vehicles have only risen in 2021.
Seasoned thieves can cut them out from underneath a vehicle in a matter of a few minutes. Even a short grocery run can make you a victim of theft. Next time you run in for some toilet paper at Target, come back out and your car randomly sounds incredibly loud, you may have just lost your catalytic converter. In fact, a Texas resident who did just this reported that when he came back out to start his van it sounded as if a Camaro was next to him. In other words, if your car is not a race car but all of a sudden sounds like one, you may need to go get it checked.
Some tips to prevent this theft may be buying an electric or hydrogen-powered car that doesn’t have a converter (or perhaps even a very old car). However, this may not always hold true. In Anaheim, California, the Toyota Prius seems to be the most targeted car for thieves. Their gasoline engines run less which means less contamination which means a higher value for the black market. Big trucks like the Ford F-250 are also regularly targeted. Their higher ground clearance gives easier access for thieves. You may want to think twice about lifting your truck.
Some other prevention tips you can live by are being mindful and careful about where you choose to park your car. Parking in a well-lit area surrounded by other cars is always a wise choice. You can also purchase a metal plate with tamper-resistant screws that will protect against thieves.
If it’s too late and your catalytic converter has been stolen, the good news is that it can be replaced or repaired. However, the bad news is it’s not exactly cheap. It can be anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars in repairs. Some report that it’s typically around $1,000 to $3,000. If you have decent car insurance, it may be able to help with these hefty costs.
With the rise of converter theft, it’s important to stay vigilant, especially if you’re living in the state of California (one of the hardest-hitting states). Hopefully, with the pandemic nearing an end and workers going back to the office, these thefts may begin to fall again. Only time will tell. In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled and if your car suddenly sounds like it’s ready for the race tracks, you may want to bring it in.
Additional Reading: How to Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft
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