Catalytic converter

Why is Catalytic Converter Theft on the Rise?

The theft of catalytic converters is on the rise, the BBC revealed that in 2018, over 2,000 thefts were recorded, and in 2019 that figure jumped to 13,000 catalytic converters being recorded as stolen in the UK. According to Admiral, January 2020 received 400 claims of catalytic converters being stolen. This could be down to lockdown and the volume of parked cars left vulnerable to thieves, and also the increase of metal prices. Catalytic converters are also easily accessed at the front of a vehicle and with enough know-how, are simple to remove and sell on for the profit.

A diagram displaying where a vehicle's catalytic converter is usually found
Image: placement of catalytic converter, source: West Yorkshire Police

What is a Catalytic Converter?

Catalytic converters are a vital part of a vehicle’s healthy operation, they take harmful gasses in the exhaust, like carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons and turn them into less harmful gasses such as carbon dioxide and water vapor. They are one of the most valuable parts of the vehicle’s exhaust system, making them a popular part for car thieves to target. 

Why are Catalytic Converters Stolen?

Catalytic converters are made up of precious metals including: rhodium, platinum and palladium, all of which hold a lot of salvage value. Because of this, it makes catalytic converters a target for thieves. A catalytic converter can be sold to dodgy dealers or stripped of the metal content and sold for its scrap value. The price of precious metals have rocketed over the past 12 months, with pallidum being worth £1,300 per ounce and rhodium £4,000 per ounce, this makes the current scrap catalytic converter price much higher than usual.
It comes as no surprise that when the price of precious metals rises, unfortunately the volume of thefts increases too.

Robbed in Plain Sight

A thief in the know needs just a few tools and a matter of minutes to remove the converter from the exhaust system – making parked cars the prime target. This was the case for a member of the Scrap Car Comparison team. 

Whilst doing their weekly shop at Sainsbury’s in February 2020, our colleague popped into the supermarket for a few essentials, they were in and out in roughly 10 minutes. 

However, in that time two thieves had pulled up alongside the parked car and slid underneath to remove the catalytic converter – in broad daylight! Unknowingly, our colleague returned to the vehicle with their shopping and drove off. The car was very loud and acceleration was slow, they quickly realised something was wrong and stopped the vehicle to inspect. 
After going back into the store to check the CCTV to find out what may have happened to their vehicle, the thieves were spotted and their routine exposed. 

The thieves waited, watching in their van for the right vehicle to be parked and left unattended, only then did they park alongside the car and swoop in with their tools taking the converter clean off. Within minutes they managed to cut the converter and return to their van, driving into a new space minimising suspicion. However, there they sat, waiting to target another vehicle in the car park.

This is a true story, and happened in broad daylight in a busy supermarket car park – proving that all vehicles can be vulnerable to thieves! 

A shopping trolley sits in an empty parking space in a car park, with a car parked nearby

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Catalytic Converter Theft Prevention 

There are anti-theft precautions you can take to stop thieves from striking, whether you’re out and about, taking the kids to school, doing your weekly food shopping or even if your vehicle is parked at home – your vehicle will be vulnerable at given times. Here are some top tips to prevent catalytic converter theft:

  • When out and about, park in busy well-lit areas.
  • Where possible, park in areas with CCTV.
  • Park in front of a car or wall to make the front of your car harder to access.
  • Consider a ‘cat clamp’ on the catalytic converter to prevent removal, prices start from £99.
  • For Toyotas in particular, consider a ‘catloc’ device for £200-250 to stop thieves interfering.
  • Invest in a Thatcham approved alarm, detecting vehicles being jacked up for theft.
  • If your vehicle is high-risk or worth more, consider marking the converter with a unique mark so it can be traced back to your vehicle easier.
  • If you park on your driveway at home, consider installing security cameras.
  • Be cautious of people working under vehicles, if you see something suspicious – report it to the police.
Close up of a catalytic converter and other parts of the vehicle's exhaust system

Most Targeted Vehicles for Catalytic Converter Theft

Any vehicle could be targeted and it could happen when your vehicle is parked almost anywhere. Hybrid vehicles are particularly at risk as they have two sources of power, this means that the catalytic converter is used less frequently than a petrol or diesel vehicle. As the converter is used less in a hybrid vehicle, it’s likely to be in a better condition with the metals not having corroded as much. This means that the metals are worth more, which becomes more appealing to thieves.
SUVs and vans are also at a higher risk as they are higher from the ground, meaning a thief has more room to slide under, remove the catalytic converter and slide back out.

According to Admiral, the make and models most likely to fall victim to catalytic converter thieves are:

  • Honda Jazz
  • Honda CR-V
  • Toyota Prius
  • Toyota Auris
  • Lexus RX
A Honda CR-V photographed in front of a lake and mountains
Image: Honda CR-V, source:

How to Replace a Stolen Catalytic Converter

If your catalytic converter is stolen, replacing it can set you back between £200-£1000, and if the police stop you and you are missing your catalytic converter you could be fined up to £1000 for driving around emitting unfiltered, toxic gasses into the air, which would also result in an MOT failure.
Your insurance will cover or help in the cost of replacing a catalytic converter, however check your insurance policy to see if you are covered.

 Scrap Car Comparison

If you’re having issues with your catalytic converter, or yours is missing and you don’t want the hassle of replacing it, see how much your car or van could be worth with our scrap car quote calculator. In just 30 seconds you can compare the most competitive scrap and salvage prices. We’ll find the right buyer for you, regardless of the condition of your vehicle, or where in the UK you are. We’ll collect on a day and time that suits you, plus give you a hand with the paperwork!

If you’re unsure of the process or have any questions, our skilled in-house team is always happy to help. Get in touch with us today for more information, or get started with your own no-obligation, personalised quote over the phone at 03333 44 99 50 or via our online quote generator.

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