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Why Do People Steal Catalytic Converters? Value & Prevention

Catalytic Converter Close up

The last time you parked your car, everything was fine. But when you started it the following day, you were met with an awful sound coming from underneath. After a quick google search, you realized that your catalytic converter was probably gone.

Catalytic converter (cat-con) theft has been happening for many years and isn’t going away. Would-be thieves love to steal cat-cons for several reasons.

First, they are easy to access; a couple of quick cuts and the part is free. Second, they contain valuable materials, and illegal chop shops will buy them without asking the thief any questions.

car and road divider

What is a Catalytic Converter?

A cat-con is your vehicle’s last line of defense against harmful emissions. As the exhaust passes through the system, a chemical reaction occurs between the precious metals contained in the honey-combed cat-con.

This reaction causes harmful hydrocarbons like carbon monoxide or nitrogen oxide to be converted into carbon dioxide, nitrogen, or even water vapor. So, they are absolutely necessary for a vehicle to meet the emissions standards it was manufactured with.

Catalytic Converter
Image Credit: Ulianenko Dmitrii, Shutterstock

Why are They Valuable

The value of a cat-con comes from the three precious metals they contain: platinum, palladium, and rhodium. There isn’t a ton of these materials in one cat-con but seeing the market value of these metals puts it into perspective.

Market Value
  • Platinum: $925 per ounce
  • Palladium: $2,219 per ounce
  • Rhodium: $5,000 per ounce

Like any precious metal, the price is constantly going up and down. However, the above prices pulled from metals daily have been stable for a while, so the extreme value of these metals—even in small amounts—demonstrates why thieves love to steal cat-cons.

How to Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft

Cat-con theft is not only inconvenient and annoying, but it can be an expensive fix. Depending on the vehicle, it can cost several thousand dollars to replace the cat-con. If you only have liability coverage on your insurance instead of comprehensive, you’ll likely have to pay out of pocket.

You can take a few steps to prevent or even discourage your vehicle from being targeted for cat-con theft.

  • Etching your vehicle identification number (VIN) or plate number onto the cat-con could help recover the part if stolen. But if you do it in an obvious spot, it may discourage a potential thief from stealing it in the first place.
  • If you can, park in a garage or a secure, well-lit location.
  • Many vehicles are equipped with an alarm. If yours isn’t, then installing one that’s calibrated to sense vibration will be a deterrent for a thief if they start messing around under your car.
  • Because a thief needs to get under your car, they might not bother attempting it if you park in a way that makes this difficult.
  • Purchasing and installing a Cat Clamp is a great way to protect your vehicle’s cat-con. This is effective because many thieves target cat-cons because they are quick and easy to get off. Installing a Cat Clamp will make it significantly more difficult for them to get the cat-con out and will likely discourage the thief.

car and road divider


The cat-con is not a part of our vehicle that we see very often—if ever. So, it pays to know what it is and why a thief may attempt to steal it. If you haven’t already been a victim of this particular theft, hopefully, we’ve provided some valuable tips to help prevent it from happening.

However, there is no way to 100% prevent cat-con theft from happening. All we can do is make it as difficult as possible for would-be thieves in hopes of discouraging them from carrying out the theft.

Featured Image Credit: Ulianenko Dmitrii, Pixabay


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