Catalytic Converter Theft: Most Likely Targets

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Crime rates have been rising recently, and cars are a hot target.

But thieves don’t have to take your entire vehicle to grab something valuable from it.

In fact, the catalytic converter, a part responsible for regulating your vehicle’s emissions, has become one of the most stolen car parts.

When it comes to catalytic converter theft, not all cars are created equal. Some are bigger targets than others.

Keep reading to find out which cars are most likely to have their catalytic converters stolen. 

Which Cars are Most Targeted for Catalytic Converter Theft?

All cars that aren’t fully eclectic are targets for catalytic converter theft, but, according to data compiled by Carfax, these cars get targeted most often:

  1. 1985-2021 Ford F-Series
  2. 1989-2020 Honda Accord
  3. 2007-17 Jeep Patriot
  4. 1990-2022 Ford Econoline
  5. 1999-2021 Chevrolet Silverado
  6. 2005-21 Chevrolet Equinox
  7. 1997-2020 Honda CR-V
  8. 1987-2019 Toyota Camry
  9. 2011-17 Chrysler 200
  10. 2001-21 Toyota Prius

If you’re thinking that this list looks a lot like a list of the most popular cars in the country, you aren’t far off.

Why do these cars get targeted?

Many of these vehicles are very popular, which is part of the reason why they are so heavily targeted for catalytic converter theft – there just happens to be a lot of them to steal from. 

Another common factor contributing to some of these cars being on the list is a high profile.

Because they sit high, it’s easier for thieves to get access to the catalytic converter.

Ford F-Series trucks are both some of the most popular vehicles on the road, and they sit very high.

It’s no wonder they sit atop the list.

Plus, many of the vehicles on this list have large catalytic converters, which generally means more money for the thieves.

In the case of the Prius, its catalytic converter has more valuable precious metals in it than some of the other cars on the list.

Why do Catalytic Converters Get Stolen?

There are two main factors that have led to the uptick in catalytic converter theft. 

First, catalytic converters are relatively easy to steal.

Thieves need little more than a battery-powered reciprocating saw to cut the catalytic convertor loose very quickly. 

Second, catalytic converters can be turned for big money.

This is because catalytic converters are made with certain valuable precious metals. Here’s an idea of just how much they are worth:

  • Rhodium: $13,000 per ounce
  • Palladium: $2,000 per ounce
  • Platinum: $900 per ounce

Thieves can’t actually extract those materials from the catalytic converters—the process is complicated, and it takes a lot of catalytic converters to get very small amounts of pure rhodium, palladium, and platinum—but they can sell them to recyclers who can.

Recyclers typically pay about $150 to $300 per catalytic convertor.

That can lead to a pretty big payday for thieves, considering it typically takes a thief less than a minute to snag a catalytic converter. 

How to Protect your Car from Catalytic Converter Theft

Having your catalytic converter stolen is something you never want to experience.

While you can technically drive without one, know that it is illegal to do so, and you’ll never pass a smog test without one.

Replacing a catalytic converter can cost you as much as $4,000

Short of locking up your car in a fortified garage, there really isn’t a full-proof way of protecting your car from catalytic converter theft.

However, there are some things you can do to reduce the risk of having your catalytic converter stolen. 

The general idea is to make things a little more difficult for thieves to snag the catalytic converter.

Thieves have enough targets that if it’s even remotely difficult to pull off their theft, they’ll move on. How do you make things difficult for them?

The first thing you can do is park your car in a secure garage when possible, or in well-lit areas.

Thieves are much more likely to steal from a car that is tucked away in an area where they can stay pretty hidden. 

You can also get your VIN or license plate number etched into your catalytic converter.

This makes it traceable, and being traced is the last thing a thief wants. If they see the etching, they’ll likely move on.

There’s actually legislation in the works to make identifiable etchings standard on all catalytic converters. 

There are also anti-theft devices you can have installed.

These include shields, cages, and frames that go over the catalytic converter, preventing thieves from easily accessing it. Make sure to purchase a high-quality device as some poorly made ones may be very easy for thieves to cut through. 

Finally, take a look at your current car insurance policy to see what kind of coverage you have. To make sure you’re protected, you’ll want to check to see that you have comprehensive coverage that covers things like parts stolen off your car.

If your policy doesn’t cover catalytic converter theft or you’re looking to save some money on your current rates, it’s a good idea to compare a few quotes.

Anti-Catalytic Converter Theft Legislation

More states are working towards adopting legislation designed to curb catalytic converter theft.

For example, California just passed a law that requires recyclers to only purchase catalytic converters from either the legal owner of the vehicle, dealer, or a licensed dismantler.

How Do You Know When Your Catalytic Converter Is Stolen?

You’ll know!

Though you might not see that it is gone when you walk up to your car, you’ll encounter some pretty big signs once you start it up.

Here are some telltale signs that your car’s catalytic converter is missing:

  • Your car will be much louder than usual, especially when starting it and accelerating.
  • The check engine light will likely come on.
  • You’ll notice a larger amount of exhaust fumes coming out of your car.
  • You may also experience sputtering acceleration. 

It never feels good to be a victim of a crime, especially one that can be very impactful to your wallet.

By putting up obstacles and being vigilant about where you leave your car, you can reduce the risk of having your catalytic converter stolen.