Catalytic converter thefts: why they’re rising, and what you can do to prevent it

Catalytic converter thefts are a serious problem that affects many car owners. A catalytic converter is valuable and very attractive to car thieves who steal them and sell them for a high price.

According to the BBC, thefts of catalytic converters from cars in England and Wales rose six fold in 2019. Prior to that, there were almost 13,000 recorded thefts of the devices, with Londoners particularly badly hit.

catalytic converter theft

Why are thieves targeting catalytic converters?

Thieves are targeting catalytic converters because they contain precious metals that can be sold for a high price. According to the RAC, the metals inside a catalytic converter, such as platinum, palladium and rhodium, have increased in value in recent years. Parkers have also reported that some catalytic converters can fetch up to £600 on the black market. So people steal catalytic converters due to the value of the metals contained within. A catalytic converter thief will likely target specific vehicles and models.

Some cars are more vulnerable to catalytic converter thefts than others. For example, according to This is Money hybrid cars, such as the Honda Jazz, Toyota Prius, Toyota Auris and Lexus RX, are often targeted because their converters have a higher concentration of precious metals and are less corroded. Cars with high ground clearance, such as SUVs, are also easier to access by thieves too, which makes them a bit more appealing and vulnerable to catalytic converter theft. Thieves can remove catalytic converters in just a few seconds from the exhaust system beneath a vehicle making it possible for catalytic converters to be stolen quickly and sometimes even in broad daylight.

Catalytic converter thefts can cause a lot of damage and inconvenience to car owners. The repair costs can be very high, and sometimes the car can be written off. The thefts can also affect the car’s performance and emissions, and make it fail the MOT test, says Parkers. Therefore, it is important to take some precautions to protect your car’s catalytic converter from thieves, which we’ll look at below.

How to prevent catalytic converter theft?

Great question, how do you reduce the chance of your catalytic converter from being stolen? Is there anything you can do to help aid towards catalytic converter theft prevention?

Catalytic converter theft is a serious problem in modern cars. A catalytic converter is a device fitted to an exhaust system to filter out harmful emissions from an engine. To do this, they contain precious metals such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium, which are very valuable, and car thieves quite like selling these for good prices at scrapyards and places like that.

There are some steps you can take to reduce the chances of thieves targeting your vehicle’s catalytic converter. Here are some tips:

  • Park your car in a locked garage or a well-lit area, preferably with CCTV cameras or security lights.

  • Park your car close to kerbs or fences, and if possible, have the exhaust facing the side of the kerb. This will make it harder for thieves to access the catalytic converter, says the RAC.

  • Buy a catalytic converter clamp or cage that covers the device and makes it more difficult to remove. You can ask your car dealer for advice on locks or guards that are approved by the vehicle manufacturer.

  • Have your catalytic converter marked with a serial number or engraved with your car’s VIN (vehicle identification number). This will help identify it if stolen and deter scrap dealers from buying it, which would work wonders if we all did this!

  • Have a garage weld the bolts that hold the catalytic converter to the car frame, says WikiHow. This will require serious tools to cut the metal rather than simply unbolting it.

  • WikiHow also suggests painting your catalytic converter a bright colour to make it more visible and less attractive to thieves.

  • Set your car’s alarm to react to vibration or install a tilt sensor that will trigger the alarm if the car is lifted.

  • prevent catalytic converter theft by installing home security cameras or CCTV systems to deter thieves

stolen catalytic converters are on the rise

What cars are targeted for stealing catalytic converters?

Catalytic converter theft is a growing problem in the UK because they contain valuable metals and can be removed in less than a minute by thieves. Some cars are more targeted than others because they have higher concentrations of precious metals or easier access to the catalytic converters.

According to Kvia and My North West, some of the most common cars for this type of theft are:

  • Hybrid versions of Honda Jazz, Lexus RX and Toyota’s Auris and Prius

  • Honda CR-V

  • Ford Galaxy

  • Mercedes Sprinter

  • Peugeot 406

These of course are not the only cars that can be targeted, but they are among the most vulnerable ones. So if you own one of these cars, you might want to take extra precautions to protect your catalytic converter from theft.

Is catalytic converter theft covered by car insurance?

The answer to this question depends on what type of car insurance you have. If you only have liability coverage, or liability and collision, your policy will not cover the theft of your catalytic converter. However, if you have comprehensive insurance coverage, the theft of a catalytic converter will be covered by your policy, says Confused.com.

Comprehensive coverage is optional and is part of full coverage car insurance. It covers damages that occur to your vehicle outside of accidents – including fire damage, hail damage, theft, and vandalism. Catalytic converter theft falls under theft and/or vandalism, and comprehensive coverage should cover it – which is great news!

If your catalytic converter is ever stolen, after you have reported this to the police, your next port of call should be to contact your insurer and report the theft to them. They might be able to pay for a replacement or reimburse you, but this would of course depend on what your car insurance policy covers, says Confused.com.

catalytic converters - why thieves are targetting them

Should you buy a car that’s had the converter stolen?

Buying a car that has had its catalytic converter stolen is risky business. Before making this type of purchase, these are just some of the things that you might want to consider:

What happens if you drive without a catalytic converter?

If you drive without a catalytic converter, your car will produce more air pollution, affect your engine performance, and possibly get you in trouble with the law. A stolen converter is replaceable, which is always good news.

You should also get your catalytic converter replaced as soon as you can. While it’s technically possible to drive a car without a catalytic converter, it’s illegal in the UK as it won’t meet emission standards. This means you could face a fine for not complying with emissions standards – £1,000 for a car or £2,500 for a van. It might also invalidate your car insurance policy and you’re also likely to face other problems, such as reduced fuel efficiency, loud noise, and poor acceleration.

How much does a catalytic converter cost?

The cost of a catalytic converter depends on several factors, such as the make and model of your vehicle, the type and quality of the converter, and the supplier or mechanic you choose. According to Book My Garage, the average cost of a catalytic converter in the UK ranges from £150 to £800, with some high-performance or specialised converters costing even more.

The catalytic converter is fitted inside your exhaust pipe before the muffler and looks like a steel shell with a honeycomb structure inside. If you need to replace your catalytic converter, it’s probably best to consult with a local mechanic or supplier to get an accurate quote and find a suitable part for your vehicle first, before buying a replacement.

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