Catalytic converters have high rates of theft — but why? Learn everything you need to know below.
Catalytic Converters, Explained
On the most basic level, your catalytic converter transforms potentially harmful pollutants and emissions into safe gasses.
There are three dangerous compounds produced in your car: carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxide. The catalytic converter lives between the engine and the muffler within the exhaust system. It uses precious metals — “catalysts” — to create chemical reactions that convert these harmful toxins into harmless substances.
Why People Steal Catalytic Converters
People steal catalytic converters for one simple reason — to sell them.
There are two main markets for catalytic converters. The first is shady auto shops. Replacing a broken catalytic converter can cost a lot of money for a customer, and if their vehicle is older, they may not want to invest in a new one since their car has low resale value. If an auto shop can get catalytic converters for older car models on the cheap — say, because they buy them from someone who stole them — then they can offer them to customers at a steep discount.
But more commonly, catalytic converters are stolen for the precious metals they contain. These metals (palladium, rhodium, and platinum) are in limited supply and have high demand, so they sell for very high prices. Most people who steal catalytic converters are selling them to metal dealers.
Catalytic Converter Replacements
If your catalytic converter is stolen, you’ll obviously need a replacement. Thankfully, when theft is involved your insurance company will often cover the costs.