Catalytic Converter Theft – How to Stop Like a Pro

Catalytic Converter Theft

Catalytic converter theft continues to rise, costing both car and RV owners time and money. In this post, we will discuss which cars and RVs are most likely to have the catalytic converter stolen, and how you can protect your catalytic converter from theft.


Why Do Thieves Steal Catalytic Converters? 

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, “A catalytic converter is a device that looks like a small muffler along with the exhaust system. It is designed to convert the engine's environmentally hazardous exhaust into less harmful gasses. To do this, they use platinum, palladium, or rhodium.” According to various sources, these metals are worth between $1,000 to $26,000 an ounce, and recyclers pay $50 to $250 per converter.


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Why is a catalytic converter so valuable?

Catalytic converters are stolen primarily for the valuable precious metals they contain, like platinum, palladium, and rhodium. These thefts are lucrative because converters are easy to access and lack serial numbers, making them hard to trace. Increased demand for these metals due to emissions regulations has driven up black market demand. Quick theft, lack of security, and easy resale also contribute to their desirability for thieves. Efforts to combat theft include increased police presence, security devices, and technology to deter thieves.


Where do Catalytic Converter Thefts Occur?

Because of the easy access to a car or RV catalytic converters, it takes experienced thieves less than a minute to remove the part. Parking lots and populated communities with on-street parking are often targeted because criminals can steal many catalytic converters in a short window of time. Most catalytic converter thefts occur in the middle of the night, and criminals will target multiple cars in a single neighborhood or parking lot at once.


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How Can I Tell if My Catalytic Converter Has Been Stolen?

Some car owners discover that their catalytic converter has been stolen after spotting metal shavings and parts on the ground next to their vehicle. Other owners do not realize that someone has stolen their catalytic converter until they drive their vehicle. Signs of a missing catalytic converter include a loud roar when you start the car or accelerate, exhaust fumes, sputtering when driving, or the check engine light suddenly coming on.


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Which Cars and RVs are Most Likely to Have Catalytic Converters Stolen?

 According to CarFax, these vehicles are the most likely to have their catalytic converters stolen throughout the United States as of September 2022:

  •     1985-2021 Ford F-Series
  •     1989-2020 Honda Accord
  •     2007-17 Jeep Patriot
  •     1990-2022 Ford Econoline
  •     1999-2021 Chevrolet Silverado
  •     2005-21 Chevrolet Equinox
  •     1997-2020 Honda CR-V
  •     1987-2019 Toyota Camry
  •     2011-17 Chrysler 200
  •     2001-21 Toyota Prius



Most of these vehicles are cars and small SUVs. However, the Ford F Series and Chevrolet Silverado are common tow vehicles used to tow travel trailers, 5th wheels, and other campers. And if you drive a Class A motorhome and tow a car behind you, that gives thieves double the opportunity to steal the catalytic converters from both your motorhome and your car or SUV.


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Why is RV Catalytic Converter Theft So Common?

RVs are appealing targets for catalytic converter theft because the catalytic converter is larger, and therefore contains more of the materials that give the catalytic converter value. According to the Pro-Vigil blog, “Thieves are after the precious metals inside of catalytic converters, and they can fetch hundreds of dollars just by selling the parts for scrap.

So, it makes sense that larger vehicles, such as RVs and campers, would be a favorite target of criminals – larger vehicles means larger catalytic converters which equals more money.” 

In fact, in one recent article, the NBC Dallas Fort-Worth news interviewed the manager of 17 RV storage facilities. He said that thieves view RV storage as a “shopping mall” in which they can enter the facility and steal multiple catalytic converters at a time.


How You Can Protect Your Catalytic Converter Theft Yourself

Even with the popularity of security cameras at private residences and commercial storage facilities, thieves continue to steal catalytic converters in large numbers. And although many states have passed laws, criminals still find ways around them.

Texas catalytic converter theft has gotten so bad that lawmakers have passed strict laws. However, In a recent story by NBC Dallas Fort-Worth, they reported, “The Texas legislature cracked down on catalytic converter thefts the last session by passing tough new penalties and requiring sellers to produce proof of ownership and even fingerprints. But now, police say, the thieves have found a way around the new law: They’re stealing the devices in Texas, accumulating them, and selling them in other states with weaker laws.”


Try catalytic converter locks

Catalytic converter locks are devices designed to secure the catalytic converters of vehicles to prevent theft. A catalytic converter is an essential component of a vehicle's exhaust system that helps to reduce harmful emissions and improve air quality. However, due to the valuable metals they contain, such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium, catalytic converters have become a popular target for thieves.

The use of catalytic converter locks is a simple and effective solution to this problem. These locks secure the converter to the vehicle's undercarriage, making it much more difficult for thieves to remove it. In most cases, the lock is made of high-strength steel and is attached to the vehicle using special bolts. Some locks also use unique keys, making it even more difficult for thieves to remove the catalytic converter.

In addition to the deterrent effect, catalytic converter locks also provide peace of mind for vehicle owners. Knowing that their converters are secure can help alleviate the stress and worry associated with the potential theft of this expensive component. Moreover, catalytic converter locks are relatively inexpensive, making them a cost-effective solution for vehicle owners who are looking to secure their vehicles.

While catalytic converter locks are not a guarantee that a vehicle's converter will not be stolen, they are an excellent way to reduce the risk of theft. By making it more difficult for thieves to remove the converter, vehicle owners can reduce their chances of falling victim to this crime. Additionally, because the locks are visible, they may act as a deterrent for potential thieves, who may move on to another target instead.


Does Insurance Cover Catalytic Converter Theft?

Catalytic converter theft is typically covered under your vehicle’s comprehensive insurance. According to Allstate, “Comprehensive insurance is a coverage that helps pay to replace or repair your vehicle if it's stolen or damaged in an incident that's not a collision.” The cost to replace a catalytic converter varies depending on whether you can replace it yourself, or must hire a mechanic. If you are worried about your catalytic converter being stolen, you can contact your insurance agent to review your policy and adjust your deductible.


How Can I Protect My Catalytic Converter From Being Stolen?

Because catalytic converter theft is a costly, time-consuming problem for car owners and RV owners, there are a variety of products and solutions to help protect your catalytic converter from being stolen.

Experts recommend common sense tips like parking in well-lit areas, parking your car or motorhome in a closed locked garage, and installing motion-activated security lights. However, that is not always possible depending on your living situation or when traveling.

One option is to have your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) etched into your catalytic converter. Other experts suggest painting it a bright color with a high-temperate paint to make it harder to sell. However, that is useful only if the person purchasing your catalytic converter from the thief is honest and law-abiding.

There are a variety of devices that you can install on your vehicle to thwart would-be thieves. You can purchase a catalytic converter alarm that sounds if someone moves or tampers with your exhaust system. You can also find locks and other catalytic converter shields that work by blocking access to the catalytic converter. Catalytic converter anti-theft devices include the Cat Clamp, Catstrap, and Cateye.

The downside of these devices is that they can be expensive to purchase and must be installed by the owner of the vehicle or a mechanic. In some instances, the cost to add these to your vehicle is more than the insurance premiums and deductible to have a stolen catalytic converter replaced. If you can DIY your catalytic converter lock, you will save money versus having a mechanic install it.


Weighing Your Options Against Catalytic Converter Theft

Depending on the vehicles that you own, where you park them, and the insurance that you carry on your vehicles, the right solution for catalytic converter theft prevention

will differ from owner to owner. In the meantime, more states continue to propose and pass legislation to reduce this widespread problem. Police continue to identify large crime rings that deal in catalytic converters and are making arrests daily, while this issue continues to be a nationwide epidemic.