Catalytic Converter Thefts on the Rise
People typically lock their cars when they park them to safeguard personal items and components inside the vehicle. Increasingly, however, criminals are less interested in what’s inside the car than they are in what’s underneath it inside the catalytic converter.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau has reported that thefts of catalytic converters jumped by 325% in 2020 compared to 2019.
Reported claims rose by more than 11,000 in 2020, and not all claims get reported.
If the catalytic converter on your vehicle is stolen, it can cost you on average up to $2,000 to replace it, and it is illegal to drive your vehicle without one. The resulting gap in your exhaust system also makes the vehicle run poorly until it is fixed. Depending on what type of insurance you have, it may or may not cover the theft.
Where’s the attraction for thieves?
A vehicle’s catalytic converter takes in exhaust from your vehicle’s engine. It then converts the harmful chemicals in the exhaust to carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water vapor. This reduces harmful emissions that go into the air. Federal law has required vehicles to include catalytic converters since the 1975 model year.
The devices contain a “honeycomb” structure that, when heated up, causes a chemical reaction that converts the harmful gasses to less dangerous ones. The converter is made of three rare and expensive metals. These are 1) platinum, 2) palladium and 3) rhodium. Catalytic converters are attracting thieves because of the high prices fetched by these metals.
Rhodium sells for more than $15,000 an ounce, while palladium goes for more than $2,100 an ounce and platinum is worth more than $1,000 an ounce.
Online sellers of stolen catalytic converters can fetch up to $1,500; thieves net an average of $200 per unit.
Theft of catalytic converters is a low-risk crime. A thief who knows what he’s doing can remove one in less than 3 minutes!
Manufacturers do not stamp serial numbers or other identifiers on them, so a stolen catalytic converter is extremely difficult to trace.
Given the increase in the rate of violent crimes, police are being forced to make choices. They’re giving less priority to property crimes. As a
result, the odds of catching a catalytic converter thief are extremely low.
The Cost To You . . . “Out Of Pocket” and “Off The Road”
In addition to the cost of purchasing and installing a new catalytic converter, if you’re the victim of a converter theft, you may have a long wait before you can use your vehicle. Supply chain disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic means it can now take weeks for a new unit to arrive.
If the catalytic converter on your vehicle is stolen, your auto insurance MAY pay part of the cost of replacing it –– assuming you purchased
comprehensive coverage. This insurance benefit or feature covers you for loss of or damage to the vehicle from causes other than collision — a cracked windshield, theft of property you kept inside your vehicle, etc. However
You’re still responsible for paying the deductible. In some cases, the deductible may be almost as much as the cost of replacing the converter. Call us to discuss before you consider submitting a claim.
Protecting your vehicle
You should also report the theft to the police, even if it seems unlikely that you will recover the stolen unit.
There are four (4) steps you can take to manage the risk of becoming a victim of this crime:
1) Park only in well-lit garages or parking lots
2) Engrave your vehicle identification number (VIN) on the converter — as BIG as possible!
3) Install a catalytic converter anti-theft device
4) Install an alarm system on your vehicle
Some states are considering legislation that will crack down on catalytic converter theft. But any newly enacted laws will take some time to have an effect.
In the meantime, expect the trend of increasing thefts of catalytic converters to continue while precious metal prices and economic pressures to commit crimes remain high and converters can be sold with relative ease and very little risk of getting caught.
Take the above suggestions to reduce your risk, and be ready to report a theft to the police and your insurance company if it happens to you.Filed Under: Independent Contractors