A significant increase in catalytic converter thefts has hit the country for the second time this century, with the main attraction being the precious metals they’re made of. Thieves are brazenly sliding under vehicles, removing converters by the thousands.

What are Catalytic Converters?

A catalytic converter is a device that helps control exhaust emission by reducing toxic contaminants and gases from an internal combustion engine. Since 1975, vehicles with an internal combustion engine have needed a catalytic converter to meet federally mandated emission standards.

The Motive behind Catalytic Converter Thefts

The motive behind catalytic converter thefts are the precious metals (rhodium, platinum, and palladium) used to construct them. In 2008 there was an increase in catalytic converter thefts because the prices of these metals went up between 2008 and 2009. Since then, there has been a steady increase in thefts, likely associated with the monetary value of the metals and how easy it is to steal them. It can take seconds to saw one off of certain vehicles.

Catalytic converters can be sold to scrap dealers for $50 to $240 or more. Recyclers have been known to pay between $50 to $200 to legally buy a failed converter or one from a junked vehicle. At the highest precious metals price point, catalytic converters from diesel vehicles may be garnering a black-market price of approximately $640. Industry sources have said it’s possible to make several hundred dollars per unit due to the high prices for metals.

Repair Costs

Repair costs are forced higher because thieves end up damaging other areas of the vehicle, trying to remove catalytic converters as fast as possible. Installing a replacement catalytic converter could cost thousands.

Avoiding Theft

To minimize the chances of catalytic converter theft, consider parking in the garage or close to the entrance of your home. Shop at high-traffic shopping centers where people are constantly flowing in and out of the building.  It’s also a good idea to modify your vehicle with a security system specifically designed to reduce theft. Just make sure that making these modifications won’t void your extended warranty or aftermarket repair agreement.

Catalytic Converter Etching Programs

Etching programs help track catalytic converter thefts and aid in criminal prosecutions. Basically, the cars’ license plate number or VIN number is etched on the heat shield of the converter. Etching programs are sometimes offered by car dealerships, government-run options, and local businesses. Not all vehicles are eligible because some programs primarily etch highly targeted vehicles like SUVs and trucks because they’re higher off the ground, making the converter easy to access.

Catalytic Converter Replacement

A replacement catalytic converter can cost as much as $3,000, and repair costs can go even higher depending on the amount of damage caused during the theft. Also, check with your insurance company because catalytic converter thefts (and other stolen auto parts) are often covered by comprehensive (full coverage) insurance.

To learn more about catalytic converter replacements in Phoenix, contact us today.


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