Catalytic converter thefts soaring nationwide

Catalytic converter thefts soaring nationwide

By Anita Byer, Setnor Byer Insurance & Risk

Thieves in search of precious metals have caused catalytic converter thefts to soar nationwide. The National Insurance Crime Bureau analyzed insurance claims involving catalytic converters and found a dramatic increase in the number of thefts across the United States. According to the NICB, there was a 325 percent increase in thefts from 2019 to 2020. In 2021, catalytic converter theft claims increased 1,215 percent compared to 2019. Here’s what you need to know about the recent surge in catalytic converter thefts.

What is a catalytic converter? A catalytic converter is part of an automobile’s exhaust system. It contains a catalyst designed to convert environmentally harmful exhaust into less harmful gasses. Catalytic converters are located on the underside of a vehicle and look like a large metal box with two pipes coming out of it.

Why do thieves steal catalytic converters? Money. These devices rely on precious metals to convert a car’s exhaust into less harmful gasses. By precious, we mean expensive. Catalytic converters contain platinum ($891 per ounce), palladium ($2,219 per ounce) and rhodium ($14,250 per ounce). It’s easy to understand why catalytic converters are stolen once you know what’s inside.

Which vehicles are thieves targeting? According to Carfax, thefts are not limited to certain types of vehicles or manufacturers. Although multiple vehicles are being targeted, some patterns have emerged. According to Kelley Blue Book, hybrid cars seem to be at greater risk because the precious metals inside the catalytic converter last longer than they do in gas-powered vehicles. Newer cars are more likely to be targeted than older ones for the same reason. Personal and commercial trucks and SUVs seem to be targeted more frequently, not necessarily because they are more valuable, but because they are higher off the ground, which makes then easier to steal. Unfortunately, no car is safe.

What can you do to protect your catalytic converter from being stolen? The NICB recommends installing a catalytic converter anti-theft device, which are readily available from various manufacturers. Kelley Blue Book offers the following tips to reduce the likelihood of theft.

  • Get your catalytic converter etched. Identifying numbers make it easier to determine a converter’s rightful owner. It also makes it much harder for the converter’s wrongful owner to sell it for quick cash.
  • Whenever possible, park your car indoors, in a well-lighted area or in an area covered by surveillance cameras.
  • Install a dashboard camera or anti-theft device. Though nothing is foolproof, thieves are less likely to target vehicles with obvious security measures.

What’s being done to address the problem? A number of states have proposed legislation to help reduce the number of catalytic converter thefts. According to the NICB, in 2021, twenty-six states proposed bills to address the problem, including ten states that either enacted new legislation or revised existing legislation. Legislation is also being considered at the federal level. In January 2022, the Preventing Auto Recycling Theft Act was introduced in Congress.

Is a stolen catalytic converter covered by insurance? A stolen catalytic converter may be covered under the comprehensive portion of your personal or commercial auto insurance policy. This coverage generally covers damage to a vehicle caused by something other than a collision. Each policy, however, contains various exclusions that may affect coverage.

If you’re not sure whether your current auto insurance policy covers a stolen catalytic converter, please contact us.