A car part designed to reduce a vehicle’s trail of pollutants is a hot target for those who don’t want to leave behind any trail at all: thieves.
Catalytic converters, which form part of a vehicle’s exhaust system, convert harmful fumes into less harmful gases before releasing them into the atmosphere.
The part is tempting to thieves for three key reasons1:
- Catalytic converters are made with trace amounts of precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium, which makes them valuable to sell to scrap metal dealers.
- Most catalytic converters are unmarked, so they can’t be easily traced to an individual vehicle.
- They’re relatively easy to steal, as they can be unbolted or cut out from a vehicle’s underside in a matter of minutes. Trucks and SUVs are preferred targets because they’re higher off the ground and easier to crawl under.
What’s the going rate for this precious part?
Thieves can typically get $150 to $200 for the scrap metal, but the part can cost up to $2,000 for owners to replace. What’s more, thieves often damage other parts of the vehicle in the process of removing the catalytic converter, resulting in additional costly repairs.2
Catalyst converter theft is on the rise
Although catalytic converter theft isn’t new, by many accounts, it’s on the rise. In Canada, several cities have been hit by a string of thefts over the past year, as the price of precious metals has soared. For instance:
- In Calgary, there have been 280 reported incidents of catalytic converter thefts so far in 2020. That’s up from 200 through the entirety of 2019 and 48 in 2018.3
- In Hamilton, 66 thefts were reported in just two months: December 2019 and January 2020. That’s more than the 61 stolen converters that were reported stolen over six months in 2019.4
- In Edmonton, there have been 792 catalytic converter thefts reported to police since October 2019.5
It’s also been reported that during the COVID-19 pandemic, thieves in the Greater Toronto Area and Niagara, Ont. are targeting commercial-use vehicles at businesses that have been idled by lockdown rules.6 Pandemic or not, corporate fleets are highly vulnerable because thieves can hit multiple vehicles in a single location. If that happens, businesses suffer loss of revenue, vehicle downtime and the cost of hiring replacement vehicles.7 Victims of catalytic converter theft are able to tell something is wrong when they start up their vehicle because it makes a loud muffler-related noise.4
How to prevent catalytic converter theft
- Where possible, corporate fleets should be parked in locked, well-lit areas. Vehicle alarms and security cameras can also act as a deterrent to thieves.
- Vehicles can be parked in a way that makes it harder to access their underside, for example, against a wall or by other lower vehicles.
- Make use of products designed to deter and prevent catalytic converter theft. For example, a wire cage can be installed around the converter, and welded and bolted to the underside of the car. Another product is a strap made of Kevlar fabric with steel cables running through it, which is installed under the vehicle and is difficult to cut through.
- A mechanic can etch a license plate number or vehicle identification number into the device as a deterrent. That can make it harder for thieves to sell to some scrap yards.1, 8, 9
When it comes to commercial auto insurance, businesses need to make sure they’re in the driver’s seat. Consult with your broker to find out if your existing policy covers catalytic converter theft.
1 Motoring Research: “How to stop catalytic converter theft,” May 11, 2020
2 Forbes: “Catalytic converter thefts continue to plague car owners at every income level,” April 2, 2019
3 CTV News Calgary: “Two Calgary salvage yards charged after buying stolen catalytic converters,” April 21, 2020
4 CBC: “66 catalytic converters stolen in Hamilton over two months: police,” Feb. 6, 2020
5 Edmonton Journal: “Three charged in connection to catalytic converter thefts,” March 3, 2020
6 London Free Press: “Catalytic converter thefts costing London non-profits big money,” Feb. 20, 2020
7 Commercial Fleet: “Fleets offered protection against catalytic converter theft,” May 31, 2013
8 Honest John Kit: “10 ways to prevent catalytic converter theft,”
9 Total Landscape Care, “Thieves target trucks for catalytic converters,” Jan. 13, 2016