A Valuable Car Part You’ve Likely Never Thought About

Un voleur tente d’entrer dans une voiture en ouvrant la portière du conducteur

If you had to take a moment to guess what item of your vehicle is among the most prone to theft what would that be? Would you guess the entertainment system? Air bags? The wheels?

Though those items have been popular targets for theft throughout the years, the catalytic converter is now more of a priority for thieves. Allstate has released data showing that insurance claims submitted in 2022 for the theft of catalytic converters rose by 60% over the previous year. Further, the volume of claims for this type of theft increased by an incredible 1,710% between 2018-2022.

What is a Catalytic Converter?

The catalytic converter is a small cylindrical device that’s an important part of the exhaust system of gas-powered vehicles. It’s located under the vehicle between the engine and the muffler.

This catalytic converter is responsible for converting dangerous exhaust gases such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide from engine combustion into something less noxious before it flows out through the muffler. Catalytic converters have been included in vehicles since the 1970s to help reduce transportation exhaust emissions.

A catalytic converter performs this chemical reaction by having the exhaust gases react with certain materials. What makes this important part of your vehicle attractive to thieves is these materials are among the most valuable on Earth.

Rhodium, for example, is one of the world’s rarest elements which, as a result, can command a high price. Catalytic converters can also contain other valuable materials, such as platinum and palladium.

How Vulnerable Are Catalytic Converters to Theft?

Acatalytic converter is relatively easy to steal since it’s not locked inside your vehicle. A thief equipped with a saw or other cutting tool can simply crawl under the vehicle and detach the exposed part within five to 10 minutes.

The higher your vehicle is off the ground, the easier it is to crawl under, which makes SUVs, vans, and pickup trucks, as well as other large trucks, attractive targets.

Of course, a single catalytic converter contains only very small amounts of these precious metals, but there is enough to make them a big target.

RCMP in British Columbia arrested a man in August 2021 after he rode off on a bicycle carrying a stolen catalytic converter, and some police departments say thieves can get about $200 for each stolen unit.

What Happens to Your Car Without a Catalytic Converter

An owner may not notice that something is missing from their vehicle until they start the engine, which will then sound very loud. Because the exhaust system is now missing an important component, the exhaust gases aren’t treated, and the muffler is no longer connected. Allstate data shows the average payout to repair a vehicle with a missing catalytic converter was approximately $2,900 in 2022, up 81% from 2020.

Tips to Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft

The RCMP offers several tips:

  • Park overnight in a locked garage, secure parking area or somewhere well-lit in view of security cameras
  • Install good lighting and functional security cameras where you normally park your vehicle. Learn more about these kinds of systems here
  • Call 911 if you see suspicious activity and think a theft or other crime is in progress
  • Report any theft (or attempted theft) to police as soon as possible

Besides taking care in where you park your vehicle, there are other tips to help you deter catalytic converter theft:

  • Purchase a special clamp or cage to make removal more difficult
  • Engrave the catalytic converter with your vehicle identification number (VIN), which makes it easier to identify as stolen property.
    • Some Canadian municipalities or police departments hold special events where they provide this service for free or attach a special identification sticker and engrave a QR code on the converter using a special fluid. Watch for such an activity in your community or urge local officials to hold one
  • Have the converter welded to your vehicle, making removal more difficult
  • Purchase a car alarm that is sensitive to the vibration caused by attempts to saw off the catalytic converter

How Can Insurance Help in the Event of a Theft?

To help ensure you are adequately protected in the event of a theft, speak with your insurance provider regarding adding enhanced car insurance coverage (comprehensive coverage); as a standard auto insurance policy may not cover you in the event of theft of a component or part of the vehicle.

For advice on how to protect your vehicle from theft overall, the Good Hands Advice team shared important tips here.

Previously published November 2021

Disclaimer: This information and the websites referenced are provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as providing legal or insurance advice. Allstate does not control or guarantee the accuracy of any content on any third-party site.  Allstate is not responsible for the privacy practices of any third-party site.