Bolted beneath gas-powered vehicles, catalytic converters reduce harmful emissions. They also contain valuable precious metals such as rhodium, platinum, and palladium—making them hot commodities for thieves and vandals.
According to industry trade group the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), stolen catalytic converters command as much as $350 each when illegally resold to recyclers and scrap yards, and cost victims several thousand dollars to replace—with such crimes on the rise.
National auto insurance carrier State Farm reports catalytic converter thefts skyrocketed by about 300 percent between the second half of 2020 through the first half of 2021 compared to the 12 months prior. It also reports extraordinary payouts during this period—from less than $9 million to a whopping $33.7 million!
State Farm’s most recent data reveals this surge continues—catalytic converter thefts growing 109% nationally between July 2021 and June 2022, in terms of the number of claims filed, compared to the previous 12 months.
Catalytic converters are chiefly stolen in the evening, and easily removed with common tools such as a wrench and reciprocating saw. Once removed, the vehicle becomes illegal to drive.
These crimes are frightening and costly, but there are precautions that can be taken to safeguard vehicles from thieves. Deterrents include front door and doorbell cameras, vehicle tracking devices, video analytics, motion detection, and other smart technologies.
Such thefts have also captured the attention of lawmakers, who’ve proposed the Preventing Auto Recycling Theft Act (PART). If passed, it would require auto manufacturers to stamp catalytic converters with corresponding Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) making them traceable. The legislation also outlines stiffer penalties for apprehended assailants.
Here are several protective measures, smart technology integrations, and other precautions to help deter catalytic converter thefts.
What Is a Catalytic Converter?
Catalytic converters are exhaust emission control devices legally required on any U.S. vehicle manufactured after 1974. They’re typically bolted to the exhaust pipes of gas- and diesel-powered vehicles. They’re also one of the vehicle’s most expensive components.
How Much Do Catalytic Converters Cost?
Dependent on a vehicle’s make, model, and year, replacing a stolen catalytic converter can be pricey. Unless you possess the expertise to perform a replacement yourself, you’ll need to enlist a reputable auto mechanic, who will typically charge approximately $1,000 to $3,000 for parts and labor.
This doesn’t factor in possible lost wages and alternate transportation costs while the vehicle is out of service.
Vehicles Targeted for Catalytic Converter Thefts
While any new or used vehicle is fair game for thieves and vandals, according to vehicle data provider CARFAX, some of the most common targets include Honda, Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota, and Chrysler.
How to Tell If Your Catalytic Converter
Has Been Stolen
Most victims don’t even notice their catalytic converter has been stolen until turning the ignition. Those missing one will hear a loud, whirring sound increasing in volume as the gas pedal is pressed. The engine will sputter as it accelerates, creating a rough ride. Other signs include a pungent exhaust smell, “Check Engine” light, or missing parts.
Catalytic Converter Theft Protection
While there’s no guarantee you won’t experience catalytic converter theft, precautions can be taken. Consider the following on your own, or through a reputable service provider such as General Security.
Garage Door Protection
The best defense from catalytic converter theft is storing vehicles in a locked garage equipped with smart technologies. The Alarm.com mobile app can remotely operate open/close functions, and provides real-time alerts.
Smart Outdoor & Doorbell Cameras
If you don’t have a garage or enclosed carport, installing outdoor cameras near front porches, yards, and driveways can help deter thieves from swiping catalytic converters. Doorbell cameras can also detect trespassers and vandals.
When integrated with smart technologies, these provide real-time alerts to any mobile device!
Motion Detection & Video Analytics
These smart technologies eliminate unnecessary video and can help law enforcement identify and apprehend suspects. Video analytics differentiate movements between animals or humans. Customized, virtual tripwires activate alerts during thefts.
Alarm.com Perimeter Guard is another option. When paired with compatible security cameras, trespassers are greeted with blaring sirens, and red, flashing, LED lights.
Alarm.com Connected Car
Placed beneath driver-side dashboards, this Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking device can determine if the car has been tampered with. It can also help law enforcement identify and apprehend potential perpetrators.
Keeping Your Vehicles Safe & Sound
As catalytic converter thefts rise, it’s best to work with a reputable service provider such as General Security to ensure 24/7 vehicle protection—whether you’re home or away.