Does Insurance Cover Catalytic Converter Theft?

Car theft has spiked 10.9% during the pandemic according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau's 2020 Hot Spots report. This represents one car theft every 36 seconds, and catalytic converter theft has increasingly become one of the most common opportunistic vehicle-related crimes. As long as the value of the precious metals found in catalytic converters continues to rise along with supply chain issues, catalytic converter theft will as well. In fact, these crimes have risen so much that Washington lawmakers like Sen. Jeff Wilson have introduced a bill to fight these thefts. This bill seeks to ban scrap metal dealers from buying stolen catalytic converters, citing that they can only buy directly from car owners or commercial businesses.

Does Insurance Cover Catalytic Converter Theft?

Your insurance will typically cover catalytic converter theft if your auto policy includes comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive coverage will cover the costs of replacing a stolen catalytic converter and any damages the theft incurred. However, not all comprehensive coverage policies are the same, so it's best to make sure your policy will protect you from theft — hopefully before any theft has occurred!

Catalytic converter theft is on the rise and may continue to rise.

What Is a Catalytic Converter?

Catalytic converters are an essential element to your car's exhaust system that minimizes dangerous emissions to make your vehicle more environmentally friendly and less pollutant. It has been a requirement for all vehicles since 1975 and is made up of a metal honeycomb that filters and transforms hazardous compounds in the exhaust into a safer gas. Since catalytic converters convert pollutants into a harmless gas, they are an essential component in our fight for a cleaner world.

Why Do People Steal Catalytic Converters?

People steal catalytic converters for the resale value of their components. Catalytic converters contain precious metals — palladium, platinum and rhodium — that scrap metal dealers can extract and resell. Palladium is skyrocketing in price and can cost from $2K to $5K an ounce, while rhodium is around $22K an ounce — making these two precious metals more valuable than gold, price-wise. Depending on the car and the condition of the catalytic converter, thieves can get quite a big payout for a relatively easy theft.

Additionally, catalytic converters are relatively easy to steal for experienced thieves and it is impossible to track them if they are stolen. It's no wonder that catalytic converter theft has surged dramatically in recent years — increasing by over 400% in 2021 alone.

How Does a Catalytic Converter Get Stolen?

Stealing a catalytic converter is easier than you might think. Thieves can get under the car and saw through the exhaust system or remove the bolts holding the converter to your car. Theft can occur in just under two minutes with easily acquired tools. Thieves then sell it to a scrap metal yard, which will then sell it to someone else who can remove and recycle the precious metals.

Which Cars Are Most Targeted for Catalytic Converter Theft?

The most commonly targeted cars for catalytic converter theft within the last three years are:

Many thieves target tall cars like SUVs and trucks since they are easier to access. If you happen to own any of these cars, you may want to read on to learn how to take extra precautions to keep your car safe. Read on to learn more about the most frequently stolen cars here.

Catalytic Converter Theft - Full Coverage Car Insurance

How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Stolen Catalytic Converter?

Replacing a stolen catalytic converter costs much more than what thieves get from scrap yards. On average, with parts and labor, costs can range between $900 and $3,000. The actual costs depend on how much your insurance will cover, your mechanic, and your vehicle type. Since catalytic converters are the last line of defense against dangerous exhaust emissions, you would have to replace one very quickly if it has been stolen.

Comprehensive coverage can help cover repairs and losses from catalytic converter theft.

How To Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft

Your exhaust system contains precious metals that thieves want to sell for a profit. Here are some ways to protect yourself and prevent catalytic converter theft:

  • Paint your catalytic converter orange to make it more visible or place a cage around it

  • Park in a well-lit area with the exhaust pipe as close to a wall as possible to make it less easy to gain access to

  • Engrave your VIN (vehicle identification number) or license plate number on the catalytic converter

  • Ensure that your alarm or anti-theft device is set to respond to vibrations

  • Install motion-sensitive sensors and cameras in your driveway


How can I tell if my catalytic converter has been stolen?

Since the catalytic converter is located under your car, you may not notice it visually, but there are tell-tale signs that it is gone. As soon as you turn your car on, you may notice a resounding roar that only gets louder when you accelerate. You may hear sputtering noises, smell exhaust and notice spotty acceleration that may indicate that something is wrong.

Is it worth replacing a catalytic converter?

While your car can run just fine without a catalytic converter, you would still need to replace it since it filters the exhaust. You could be charged with heavy penalties and fines due to environmental protection laws if you are caught driving a car without one.  Plus, you wouldn't be able to pass safety and emissions inspections without a catalytic converter.

Which cars are least likely to have catalytic converters stolen?

Cars that are least likely to have catalytic converters stolen are ones with fewer precious metals — and therefore scrapyard value. Some examples include electric cars, cars made before 1974, diesel catalytic converters, Subaru, Ford, Hyundai, Dodge, Mazda, Nissan sedans and minivans.

Shop Around for Comprehensive Car Insurance To Protect Yourself

Catalytic converter theft is on the rise and may continue to rise. Unfortunately, it is an essential component of your vehicle and would need to be replaced fairly quickly after a theft. Considering the cost to replace and repair any damage, it may be in your best interest to protect yourself with comprehensive auto insurance — just in case. Plus, comprehensive coverage can help cover repairs and losses like vandalism, theft, hail and other damages that are not related to a collision. Even if you own your car outright, it's never a bad idea to consider additional protection, especially if you can't spare $1K to replace your catalytic converter.

Compare quotes from several insurance carriers to ensure that you get the best deal on your auto insurance overall. SmartFinancial can help you view free car insurance quotes in just minutes after you enter your zip code below and fill out a brief questionnaire.

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