Most people don’t care about catalytic converters. That is, they don’t care until the part gets stolen from their car. Catalytic converter thefts have risen dramatically in the last few years, and it’s no wonder why: they’re valuable and easy to access. Catalytic converters filter your car’s exhaust with the help of precious metals, which are currently selling at a premium. The growing issue has people wondering if their car is at risk for catalytic converter theft. After all, wouldn’t thieves target the vehicles with the most valuable parts? Yes, but these are also crimes of opportunity; popular car models could also be at risk because they’re easy to find, even if there’s nothing special about the catalytic converter.
When the catalytic converter gets stolen from a car, it may seem like the obvious choice is to replace it, but that isn’t always a smart decision. Catalytic converters cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000, so the loss of the part could total an older car. Some people decide to just get a replacement, but they can help fund their next vehicle with their old car. Thanks to companies that buy cars online, you can quickly get cash for any car, even if it’s missing the catalytic converter.
What are catalytic converters, and why are they getting stolen?
Most cars have a single catalytic converter, but some models have two. They’re a crucial part of the exhaust system; if you think that carbon dioxide emissions are bad, you should consider what your car’s engine is emitting before the fumes go through the catalytic converter. Nitric oxide, carbon monoxide, and other toxic gasses are the byproducts of a combustion engine, but catalytic converters turn it into something much less harmful.
The reasoning behind the thefts is simple: catalytic converters represent a low-effort way to get your hands on up to three hundred dollars’ worth of precious metals at a time. That’s from cars with standard combustion engines, anyway; those from hybrid vehicles could get a thief up to $1,400. With components made of palladium, rhodium, and platinum, even completely busted catalytic converters will still retain value because of what’s inside.
Another factor in the thefts is the position of catalytic converters on most vehicles. Regardless of how far front or back it’s located, it typically sits lower than the rest of the undercarriage. With nothing but a hacksaw and 15 minutes undisturbed, someone can remove a catalytic converter and run off with it concealed under their jacket.
Which vehicles are most likely to be targeted?
In many cases, getting a catalytic converter stolen may mean that you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, some thieves do target particular cars that offer easier access or more valuable converters. Here are the vehicles that have their catalytic converters stolen most frequently:
- 2001-21 Toyota Prius
- 2011-17 Chrysler 200
- 1987-2019 Toyota Camry
- 1997-2020 Honda CR-V
- 2005-21 Chevrolet Equinox
- 1999-2021 Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks
- 1990-2022 Ford Econoline vans
- 2007-17 Jeep Patriot
- 1989-2020 Honda Accord
- 1985-2021 Ford F-Series pickup trucks
If your vehicle isn’t on this list, it isn’t necessarily time to breathe a sigh of relief; certain cars are still being targeted because of specific characteristics, even if they aren’t on the top ten list.
- Trucks and SUVs
It’s pretty simple to figure out why these vehicles would be targeted. First, a larger engine means a larger catalytic converter, which means more precious metals. For example, the catalytic converter for a Dodge Ram 2500 goes for $2,000. Second, they’re higher off the ground than many other vehicles, which means better access.
- Older cars
In general, the older a vehicle is, the more fumes the engine will produce – and the more precious metals the catalytic converter will need in order to deal with all those fumes.
- Hybrid vehicles
Most hybrid vehicles are super emissions-friendly, which often entails a costly catalytic converter. They tend to be higher in palladium, which drives up the overall value.
- Luxury cars
As you’d expect, the ridiculously expensive cars come with ridiculously expensive catalytic converters. For example, a Lamborghini’s catalytic converter costs an average of $3,000, while a Ferrari F430 requires two catalytic converters that cost a total of $7,540.
Time for some good news – here are the cars that are less likely to fall victim to catalytic converter thieves
Just like certain factors make specific cars more appealing to thieves, there are also certain factors that could discourage theft.
- Cars made pre-1974
1974 was when catalytic converters came into widespread use, so vehicles made before then simply don’t have catalytic converters to steal.
- Electric vehicles
No gas = no need for catalytic converters. Pretty simple.
- Diesel vehicles
These cars have catalytic converters, but they use far smaller quantities of precious metals. With so many other targets, these cars basically aren’t worth the time.
- Any vehicle that’s low to the ground
Again, these are crimes of opportunity. If the car is so low to the ground that the undercarriage is difficult to access, that doesn’t represent the best opportunity.
If you want more reassurance, here’s a list of manufacturers whose vehicles generally have less valuable catalytic converters. If the thief knows what they’re doing, they’re less likely to target a car from the following auto makers:
Practical tips for minimizing risk
The best strategy is to keep your car in the garage, or parked in well-lit areas with the exhaust pipe as close as possible to the wall. Another idea is to install a protection device such as a metal shield or a wire cage; these can be pretty much impossible to get through. Even though this won’t necessarily prevent theft, engraving your car’s VIN or license plate number on the catalytic converter will help the police track the part if it gets stolen.
Catalytic converter thefts are higher than ever before, but you can still take steps to reduce your risk no matter what type of vehicle you have.