AAA and police agencies across the country are warning motorists about the sharp increase in the theft of catalytic converters. Thieves have been targeting both commercial and private vehicles, costing victims hundreds—if not thousands—of dollars, especially if they are not adequately insured.
Located between the engine and the muffler on the underside of a vehicle, a catalytic converter neutralizes harmful gases in engine exhaust. Thieves target catalytic converters for their rhodium, palladium and platinum, all of which are more valuable than gold. Catalytic converters can be stolen in as little as 90 seconds by using just a hand-operated cutting tool.
The prevalence of certain vehicle makes and models and the relatively easy access to their catalytic converters make them prime targets for this type of theft. Among the most targeted vehicles, according to studies by Carfax, are the Ford F-series pickup, Honda Accord, Toyota Prius and Honda CR-V.
COMBATTING THE COST OF THEFT
Drivers filed 1,298 claims for catalytic converter theft in 2018, but that number soared to 16,660 theft claims in 2020 and skyrocketed to 64,701 in 2022, according to data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).
A stolen catalytic converter represents a major inconvenience and expense for vehicle owners. Replacing catalytic converters can cost between $1,500 and $5,000 or more (depending on the type of vehicle), and insurance may not cover stolen parts.
“Only comprehensive auto insurance will cover the expense of replacing a stolen catalytic converter,” says Jim Lardear, director of Public Affairs, AAA Club Alliance. “Even then, if the insured has a high deductible, they are faced with a big out-of-pocket expense.”
Over the past several years, state legislatures have begun to address the issue by proposing new restrictions on metal recyclers and those who sell detached catalytic converters. So far in 2023, the NICB is tracking 94 bills across 39 states, with 12 bills already enacted.
Here’s how you can help protect your vehicle from catalytic converter theft:
- Install an antitheft device over your catalytic converter, such as a shield, cage or steel cables.
- Park in a garage or well-lit area whenever possible.
- Install motion detector lights that are triggered by any activity near your parked vehicle.
- Get comprehensive insurance, or consider lowering your deductible, especially if you live in a theft-prone area.
To discuss your car insurance coverage needs, contact your AAA insurance advisor or go to AAA.com/insurance.