Catalytic converters: The $2,300 theft waiting to happen to your vehicle

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Catalytic converters: The $2,300 theft waiting to happen to your vehicle
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The theft of catalytic converters is up 23% over the past seven years because of the value of one of three precious metals contained therein that can be sold for scrap.

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Catalytic converter theft is underreported

Insurance claims data shows that 25,394 catalytic converters were reported stolen from 2008 through 2015. But the National Insurance Crime Bureau notes that figure only reflects insured thefts. So the true number of catalytic converter thefts is likely much higher.

Why are thieves going after catalytic converters? Because of the commodity value of the platinum, palladium and rhodium that they can contain. 

‘Due to the platinum, palladium and rhodium in catalytic converters, they can be sold to scrap dealers [for] anywhere from $20 to $240,’ the NICB notes. ‘At the highest price point for precious metals, a catalytic converter that came from a diesel vehicle may have garnered a black market price of around $640. Installing a replacement catalytic converter may cost between $500-$2,300 [parts and labor] depending on the type.’

California led the nation in catalytic converter thefts from 2008 to 2015 with 8,072 insured thefts. Texas was next with 1,705 thefts, followed by Illinois (1,605), Ohio (1,439) and Georgia (1,215).

When it comes to major metro areas, Chicago led with 980 insured thefts during that time frame followed by Sacramento (850), Los Angeles (550), Atlanta (407) and Indianapolis (353).

What can you do to prevent catalytic converter theft from happening to you?

The NICB recommends three main approaches:

VIN etching

Many police departments will scratch the vehicle’s license plate number or VIN onto the catalytic converter’s heat shield. This is often done free of charge. Check with your local precinct for details. Local body shops may do the same for you for a fee. 

Be careful where you park

Park in well-lit places close to the entrance of buildings or shopping centers to deter thieves. Businesses with large fleets should make sure lots are secured and bright at night.

Break out your welding equipment

The NICB suggests that for those include to so, you might consider welding the catalytic converter to the vehicle frame. Just be sure that doing this won’t void your warranty!

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Theo Thimou About the author:
Theo has co-written several books with Clark Howard, including the New York Times #1 bestseller Living Large in Lean Times. As a single widowed parent of two young children, he strives to bring unique savings tips to men and women like him who must face life without their spouses. He can be reached at [email protected]
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