Stories about catalytic converter theft have been all over the news as reports have recently skyrocketed — yes, I do mean skyrocketed.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), fewer than 1,300 such thefts were reported in 2018. This number jumped to more than 14,000 in 2020. The madness doesn’t stop there either. In 2021, thefts have only continued to increase.
What is a catalytic converter? What does it do?
If you’re not a car person, you probably don’t know what the catalytic converter does. That’s okay! Many people don’t.
Catalytic converters are found in the undercarriage of cars, between the engine and the muffler. They are part of the exhaust system and help convert hazardous exhaust chemicals to safer and less harmful gases.
This chemical change happens because of a few precious metals inside the converter: platinum, palladium, and rhodium. The precious metal molecules are a catalyst for the chemical conversion.
Why are catalytic converters being stolen?
The precious metals inside catalytic converters are considered “precious” for a reason. Platinum and rhodium are two of the most desperately needed metals worldwide. However, they’re very scarce, with platinum being about 30 times rarer than gold.
These metals are in high demand because they are used in electronics, oxygen sensors, computer chips, medical equipment, etc. Clearly, there’s a demand. However, their scarcity has turned people to alternative modes of sourcing.
Some of the most targeted cars are:
- Hybrids – have more precious metals in their catalytic converters.
- SUVs and Trucks – sit high off the ground and are easy to access.
- Cars made between 2000 – 2010 – less likely to have alarm systems, and their catalytic converters have more precious metals.
How can I prevent my catalytic converter from being stolen?
Similar to preventing car theft, you can avoid “cat” theft by doing just a few simple things.
- When possible, keep your vehicle parked in a closed garage.
- Park in well-lit areas with surveillance.
- If possible, adjust your car alarm to respond to vibrations.
- If you have a large car, park in areas that make undercarriage access difficult (i.e., near shrubbery, smaller cars, fences, etc.)
You can even take things a step further by:
- Purchasing and installing a catalytic converter guard.
- Asking a local body shop to etch your vehicle’s VIN onto the catalytic converter.
What should I do if my catalytic converter is stolen?
If you find yourself missing a catalytic converter, the first thing you should do is file a police report. From there, give your Leavitt Group insurance agent a call. Your car insurance may cover catalytic converter theft.