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Pursuit of Precious Metals Spurs Catalytic Convert Thefts


Pursuit of Precious Metals Spurs Catalytic Convert Thefts

Stealing a car presents many risks. Cars can be easily identified and traced today. However, if you just steal the car’s catalytic converter – it is almost impossible to trace and the financial rewards can be in the millions. That is why such thefts are on a meteoric rise.

What a Catalytic Converter Does

Located between the exhaust manifold and rear muffler, catalytic converters have been required on gas-powered vehicles since 1975. Their function is to reduce vehicle emissions.

To do that, catalytic converters use three precious metals, Palladium, Rhodium, and Platinium to convert carbon monoxide and nitrous gases into carbon dioxide.

Rise in Catalytic Converter Theft

Car theft in general is a growth industry. Last year over one million vehicles were stolen, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). Those thefts amounted to $8.9 billion in losses.

While car theft is on the rise, stealing catalytic converters is increasing statistically even more. Vehicle thefts are up seven percent. However, catalytic converter thefts are up 1,215 percent from 2019 to 2022.

Why Catalytic Converter Thefts Are Rising

The rise in catalytic converter thefts can be attributed to the value of the precious metals in them. 

Rhodium has been trading at around $8,100; Palladium about $1,400 and Platinum has been just under $1,000, according to KITCO.com. However, thieves do not make anywhere near those prices.

Recycle centers usually pay only $50 to $250 for a catalytic converter, reports the NICB. However, certain models can go for more. 

Crooked recycling centers and dealers on the black market make the most cash from these thefts. A recent case bears that out.

Multimillion-Dollar National Ring Busted

A coordinated effort by the U. S. Justice Department, state, and local law enforcement led to the arrest in November of 21 individuals in a catalytic converter theft ring, according to the justice department.

A federal grand jury in California returned indictments for nine people. At the same time, a federal grand jury in Northern Oklahoma returned indictments against 13 people. Those indictments allege that both groups bought stolen catalytic converts from thieves and then sold them to AG Auto in New Jersey. 

After extracting the precious metals, AG Auto is alleged to have sold them to a refinery for over $545 million.

Replacement Cost

The replacement of a catalytic converter usually entails the use of a lift and special equipment. As a result, you are better off having the work done by a mechanic. Costs for such repairs range from $933 to over $4,000, according to Consumer Affairs.

The danger of trying to perform a replacement yourself is illustrated by the rising number of thieves killed trying to steal catalytic converters. Most of those deaths occurred when the car jack failed.

How to Protect Against Theft

Besides money, part of the attraction for thieves is the ease with which a catalytic converter can be taken. A cutting instrument and a jack are about all a criminal needs to get the job done.

Some companies sell covers to protect converters. However, they do not stop theft. At best, they slow the process. 

The usual precautions may help, such as keeping your vehicle in a well-lit area and installing anti-theft devices. 

Is Your Car A Prime Target

Certain vehicles are more popular with catalytic converter thieves than others. Still, more have no value, according to J. D. Powers & Associates.

Electric cars and vehicles made before 1974 do not have catalytic converters. 

Jeep, Chrysler, Ford, Dodge, and Chevrolet have less valuable converters. As a result, thieves tend to avoid them. In addition, Nissan, Mazda, Subaru, and Hyundai limit precious metals in their catalytic converters.

“The vehicles most appealing to the converter hunters are trucks and SUVs,” reports Powers, “especially the Toyota Tacoma, the Honda CRV, and the Ford F-250. Their converters are close to the edge, and it is easy to get under the car with an instrument due to the extensive clearance. 

Hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius have higher standards for cleaning emissions, so their converters are more expensive and are primarily targeted by thieves.”


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