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Who Buys Stolen Catalytic Converters?

December 6th, 2022

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Your catalytic converter can be stolen by petty street thieves all the way up to people involved in a nationwide criminal operation. The stolen catalytic converters are being sold on the black market, usually to someone who knows how to extract the precious metals from inside them. Catalytic converters are top of the crop on the black market for trade. These auto parts hold high resale value, and for how easy it is to extract their expensive metals, special metal traders are mainly the ones keeping converter thefts in circulation.

Are There Laws About Buying Stolen Catalytic Converters?

Since the drastic uptick in catalytic converter thefts that began in 2020, it has become a felony to purchase, steal, or possess a stolen catalytic converter. To sell one requires a special process for legal identification purposes, and states may vary with resale regulations. States such as Texas have now committed to fining criminals up to $10,000 for stealing a catalytic converter.

How Do People Who Buy Stolen Catalytic Converters Not Get Caught?

With the thousands of catalytic converter thefts reported yearly, many of the thieves get away or are released. There has been a turn-around in the last year as crack downs on catalytic converter theft have begun to spread between state and federal law enforcement. The smaller catalytic converter crime syndicates that consist of small teams and street-wise foot soldiers are the ones who can go years without getting caught by authorities. It is difficult to bust a small team of two that works quick to remove a catalytic converter and only sell to only one or two other people they trust. There are not a lot of moving parts in smaller operations, and even if a catalytic converter is recovered, identifiable markers could be missing, making it impossible to know exactly where the catalytic converter came from, making it difficult to trace it back to find who stole it in the first place. 

How Much is a Stolen Catalytic Converter Worth?

The reason catalytic converters are so valued is because they have mainly three precious metals within their toaster-sized chamber. Rhodium, platinum, and palladium all have anti-corrosive properties and continue to increase in value. These metals are condensed into a honeycomb-shaped grid that transforms the toxic exhaust fumes from your engine into water vapor and Co2, making for a safer and healthier release into the environment.

The process of eliminating exhaust fumes into the atmosphere safely is required by law in the U.S. Though certain regulations vary state by state, the catalytic converter is an essential piece to your car's functionality, and you are likely to pass a yearly emissions test every time you update your vehicle registration.

Once a catalytic converter is separated from the undercarriage of a vehicle by a thief, it can disappear quickly, ending up in the rear garage of a body chop shop or the back yard of a scrap metal enthusiast. Catalytic converter crooks can get a few hundred dollars for the stolen part and the petty risk they take. Once the precious metals are extracted from the converter, several ounces of the metals inside can be sold for thousands. Just an ounce of rhodium is currently priced above $13,000.

However, with advancements in security and technology, there is hope that catalytic converter thefts will decline. More and more home surveillance installations are happening door to door, tracing getaway cars, or capturing criminal descriptions. Also, more and more highway and city street cameras have made it easier to track criminals. It takes a desperate crook in today's world to crawl beneath someone's vehicle with a saw in hand to steal their catalytic converter. It literally only takes a few minutes to cut the device from your exhaust pipes.

Guard Your Catalytic Converter with a Shield Plate by Cat Security

Basic home security measures can only prevent so much. But when it comes to your parked vehicle, if it is not garage-kept, it will remain at risk for catalytic converter theft. The best way to shield this vital exhaust part from thieves is to install a metal shield plate on your undercarriage. Hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius or SUVs like the Honda Element are popular targets for catalytic converter thieves, and we offer bottom protection for your undercarriage. If you're in the market for the ultimate catalytic converter shield protection for your car, truck, or SUV and do not see your model listed, get on our waiting list and sign up here.