The rise in catalytic converter thefts in America has been a nuisance for law enforcement agencies and car owners for the past several years. Now new data from Carfax shows just how bad the problem has gotten.
The vehicle data company, known for tracking repairs and accidents on vehicles across the country, looked at catalytic converter replacements from millions of service records to come up with an estimated number of thefts in 2022: 153,000 — a 2% increase from the year prior.
The number is pretty alarming, and Carfax suggests the problem has been underreported in the past.
Whereas most reports regarding the total number of catalytic converters look at only insurance claims, Carfax says its data scientists looked at all replacements, taking into account ones that were replaced due to deterioration, defectivity or recalls, and came up with the 153,000 figure.
Carfax said it believes theft numbers reported to media outlets are vastly underestimating the full scope of the problem, because many car owners don’t file insurance claims. The possible explanation for that is because some drivers don’t have full coverage on older vehicles or some don’t have insurance at all.
For those that don’t have the full coverage to get their catalytic converters replaced, they could be looking at a repair cost of around $2,000 or $3,000 — possibly even more.
The critical piece of automobile tech is used to filter out harmful byproducts from your car’s exhaust. They use precious metals like platinum, palladium and rhodium to accomplish this. Those metals can sell for hundreds to thousands of dollars per ounce.
A catalytic converter can be sold for anywhere from $25 to $300 for an average vehicle, Carfax says, and up to $1,400 for hybrid vehicles.
Catalytic converters in hybrids tend to have more precious metals than the standard vehicle, which is why hybrids are some of the most-targeted vehicles for catalytic converter thefts. The most targeted vehicle for these thefts in California is the most popular hybrid on the road: the Toyota Prius.
Law enforcement officials say you can greatly reduce your chances of having your catalytic converter stolen by following some simple tips, including parking in well-lit areas or inside covered garages, keeping tabs on where your vehicle is parked, installing an aftermarket security device or have a local dealer etch your VIN number on the vehicle part.
If your converter is stolen, you’ll notice right away. Your vehicle will be loud, sluggish and smelly and the check engine light will likely come on. If that happens, call local authorities and check with your insurance provider to see if replacement is covered.
Some vehicles are more likely to fall victim to thieves and Carfax has compiled a list of which vehicles are targeted most frequently.
Ford F-Series pickups were the most targeted vehicles in the nation, as well as in the Midwest and across the South. The Prius was the big victim in the west, and the Honda CRV was the No. 1 target in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states.
For a complete list of targeted cars, click here.