The theft of catalytic converters raises the question, why.

Probably recently, you've heard the term "catalytic converter" Sadly, it's probably for the wrong reasons.

Theft of this crucial auto component has increased dramatically in recent years. The National Insurance Crime Bureau reports that 3,389 catalytic converters were stolen nationwide in 2019. In 2021, that number soared by 1,215%.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, it's all a part of a larger crime wave that saw over 900,000 vehicles stolen in the United States in 2021. That figure has increased by 17% since 2019 and by 6% since 2020. The NICB attributes the rise in auto-related theft to the pandemic, the economic downturn, the elimination of youth outreach initiatives, and public safety budgetary and resource constraints.

We are aware of the motives behind the theft of expensive vehicles, but why are catalytic converters of particular interest?

why are catalytic converters stolen?

An essential component of your car's exhaust system is a catalytic converter. Its goal is to reduce the amount of dangerous pollutants that an internal combustion engine emits. These devices, which are placed between the engine and the exhaust pipe of the vehicle, change harmful gases found in vehicle emissions, such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, into less harmful ones, such as carbon dioxide and water vapor.

Precious metals are used as catalysts in catalytic converters, which are filled with them. These are typically palladium, rhodium, and platinum. Hazardous gases from engine emissions come into contact with these metals while passing through the device and react chemically. Their molecular structure is changed during this process, making them into safer substances.

These catalytic converters are frequently stolen because of what's inside of them. The precious metals used in these devices are in high demand and have a finite supply. Due to recent supply chain disruptions, they are now even harder to source and consequently more expensive.

This has made catalytic converters, which are easily removed from cars with commonly available tools in a matter of minutes, into valuable commodities. Currently, catalytic converters are literally worth more than gold. Each ounce of platinum, palladium, and rhodium is worth thousands of dollars. Typically, the combined weight of these metals in catalytic converters is only a few grams. That would nevertheless sell for at least a few hundred dollars and perhaps even up to $1,000.

Whatever buying a new car means to you, here are some pointers and tricks to help you through the process.

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Vehicles with the Highest Catalytic Converter Theft Rate

All catalytic converters are expensive and therefore are frequently stolen. However, those discovered in two vehicle segments are most likely to have been stolen, and for very different motives. One reason is that they are more valuable, and the other is that they are simple to access.

Because they function best in warm environments, catalytic converters are frequently found close to engines. In hybrid vehicles, the engine is not always running, so the converters do not reach the proper temperatures. As a result, hybrid vehicles' converters use more precious (and expensive) metals to make up for their inefficiency.

Larger automobiles, such as trucks and SUVs, are victims of their own situation. A thief will find it simpler to slide under the car and remove the converter if it has a higher ground clearance.

How to Recognize a Stolen Catalytic Converter

You probably don't check underneath your car every time you take a drive. How else can you identify a stolen catalytic converter? Once you start your car, it will be clear to you.

Once the engine fires up, a car without a catalytic converter will emit a loud, roaring noise. Additionally, you might observe the check engine light on and jerky driving

why are catalytic converters stolen?

Install a theft prevention device.

The best way to stop your catalytic converter from being stolen is to put an anti-theft device on top of it. Devices come in a variety of forms, including shields, cages, and steel cables. Consult your mechanic to determine whether this is a safe fix for your car.

You should etch the VIN or your license plate number onto the catalytic converter.

While taking this precaution won't stop someone from stealing the catalytic converter, it might deter them. The distinctive marking can notify potential buyers that the component is stolen if it is ever taken. This might make it harder to sell and less desirable to thieves. More stringent laws governing the purchase of scrap catalytic converters have been passed or are being considered in nearly two dozen states.

In a Smart Spot, park

Always leave your car in a garage that is closed or in your driveway. Leave the car in a well-lit area if you're parking away from home.

The Most Stolen Auto Components

Not all car parts, including catalytic converters, are sought after by thieves. These additional car components are frequently stolen.

Wheels and Tires

The wheels and tires of cars fit many criteria for thieves. There is always a market for re-selling them because they are inexpensive, can be quickly removed from every car, and are necessary but frequently replaced. Wheel locks are an easy way to secure your wheels against theft. These lug nuts have a unique wheel lock key that must be used to remove them rather than a standard socket.


Because used car batteries are not particularly expensive, they don't hold quite as much appeal as other parts of cars that are frequently stolen. However, since they are straightforward to remove, they are prime targets. By installing aftermarket hood locks, you can keep people from getting to your battery.

Air Bags

Once deployed, air bags need to be replaced, creating a constant demand for these safety features and a chance for thieves to make money. The NICB estimates that 50,000 air bags are stolen annually at a cost of more than $50 million.


Without the use of any tools, truck tailgates can frequently be opened in under a minute and can be sold for hundreds of dollars. Owners of older trucks can install their own tailgate locks, despite the fact that many modern pickup models now have locking mechanisms.

How Insurance Can Be Useful

You will be protected from having your car parts stolen if your insurance policy includes comprehensive coverage. It offers coverage from damage brought on by an incident other than a collision, such as theft, and is sometimes (and less ambiguously) referred to as "other than collision." Although only necessary if you are leasing or financing a car, this affordable choice may come in handy if you become the victim of a stolen catalytic converter or other auto component. Repairing a catalytic converter might set you back thousands of dollars.

Your deductible would apply if you had to use your comprehensive coverage.

To discuss your options for auto insurance coverage, get in touch with a AAA Insurance agent.

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