Catalytic Converter Thefts

Your vehicle has a precious metal container infused with a precious metal that sells for about $28,000 per ounce; that’s 15 times the price of gold. The metal is Rhodium, and the container is your Catalytic converter.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau recorded 2347 thefts of emissions-cleaning devices in December 2020. This is up from 578 a year earlier. Thieves are after the precious metals in the Catalytic converter. The converter changes highly toxic pollutants in the exhaust into less harmful gases. The price of one of those metals, Rhodium, spiked as high as $30,000 per troy ounce last year due to an existing shortage exacerbated by the pandemic. A single cat contains about $400 worth of Rhodium.

The theft is typically a two-person job.

One person jacks up the car and extracts the Catalytic converter (“cat”) with a pipe cutter or a reciprocating saw. The accomplice drives the getaway car.

The crime often takes under three minutes. Thieves target vehicles with high ground clearance (no need to use a jack) and Priuses (since the engine runs intermittently, the cat is generally clean and nets a big payday).

The thief sells the part for $50 to $250, usually to a scrapper offering cash for cats, no questions asked. This middleman amasses catalytic converters, as he may need 500 or more to strike a deal with a smelter who extracts the precious metals.

The valuable metals are refined, resold on the open market, reintroduced into the manufacturing supply chain, and likely partially reconstituted inside the catalytic converter of a brand-new car. This, children, is the circle of life.

Install a Cat Clamp

The National Insurance Crime Bureau recommends vehicle owners install a catalytic converter anti-theft device. These are available from various manufacturers and can provide some level of security from theft. For example, the Cat Clamp.

The Executive vehicle should always be parked in an enclosed and secured area that is well-lit, locked, and alarmed.

If not possible and vehicles must be parked in a driveway, consider installing motion sensor security lights. While lights may not provide complete security, they may make some thieves think twice, making them leave the area and your vehicle untouched.