Why Do People Steal Catalytic Converters?

The critical reason that people hear more and more about stolen catalytic converters is that these parts are moneymakers. They consist of platinum, rhodium, and palladium, all of which are precious metals. Because of this, a converter’s scrap value can yield well over $200 per piece, and some larger, rare converters can even fetch over $1000, based on the metal’s current scrap rate.

Since 1975, all automobiles have had to have a catalytic converter—however, some converters interest crooks more than others. For instance, trucks and SUVs are effortless to get under, which makes them an excellent target. The higher up your vehicle sits, the easier it is to steal the catalytic converter. And, usually a larger engine will have a larger converter with more metal content inside.

From 2019-2020, Los Angeles County reported a 400% increase in catalytic converter thefts. In the state of California, there was over an 85% increase in converter replacement service.

Why Would Someone Steal a Cat Converter?

Crooks love catalytic converters because they contain precious metals they can sell. Scrap yards offer around $200 for catalytic converters and more for bigger, heavier ones. How, then, does a thief remove a catalytic converter?

Criminals usually use a portable reciprocating saw to remove it, aiming to take the converter off in less than a few minutes.

You might not be able to know that your catalytic converter was taken by looking at your vehicle, but once you start it, the sound of gargling open exhaust (think massive muffler leak) will immediately make it apparent. It will be loud – very loud, and louder when you accelerate and get on the road.

How Much is a Stolen Catalytic Converter Worth?

Depending on the precious metal, thieves could sell a converter to a metal recycler for around $200. The recycler then removes the metal and resells it for over $5,000 per ounce. While there is no official record of catalytic converter thefts nationwide, crime is rising dramatically, increasing metal costs.

The unlucky auto owner will need to shell out $1,000 or more for a converter installation. If the thief breaks any additional exhaust components, such as cutting the oxygen sensors or destroying other exhaust work, expect the cat converter replacement cost to go up.

How to Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft

Preventing converter theft can be difficult. One thing to keep in mind is that the process of sawing a converter off is not quiet. Most thieves choose to do these in open parking lots at night, away from close detection. Fleet vehicles or trucks parked in open lots are often prime targets. Some thieves have become bolden though and have begun attacking neighborhoods. Use these tips to help prevent converter theft:

  • Park close to entrances and in well-lit areas. If you need to park your car in an open lot, choose an area close to the main road where passers-by might see thieves trying to steal it. If you notice cameras in the lot, park near them
  • Park your vehicle inside your garage, making sure to shut and lock the garage doors. If this cannot be done, avoid parking your truck or SUV especially farther away from the house – keep it close
  • Install an aftermarket alarm that can sense vibration
  • Install one of many available outdoor and night-vision security cameras and aim the camera at your parking area. While this may not prevent a thief from trying (no different than package thieves) it will give authorities video evidence that could help them find the perpetrator
  • Use your landscaping and other lower-riding vehicles to your advantage. Remember, a thief has to be able to easy get under more-desireable vehicles like SUV’s and Trucks. These thieves do not have time to jack a car up. For instance, if you have Truck and a lower car, and one side of your driveway has a retaining way, or hedge bushes, park your truck as close to that side as possible, and the car as close to the truck at the side. While they may not prevent theft, generally thieves are going to choose easy targets. You have to out-strategize the thief!

For more tips on protecting your converter from thieves or need replacement parts in the event of a converter theft, visit your local AutoZone store. If you need help with a converter theft replacement, you can view our Preferred Shops in your area that can help with a converter replacement.

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