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Why Do People Steal Catalytic Converters?

January 16th, 2023

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According to December 2021 data from P&C trade associations, the property and casualty organizations for insurance companies, auto parts theft has become one of the five major challenges that auto insurers are now facing. The data shows that claims filings are skyrocketing, and those paid out by State Farm in early 2021 have totaled more than $21 million.

Consider further data from between July 2020 and June 2021, and the main reason for the spike in claims becomes obvious: catalytic converters are being stolen. In fact, according to claims analytics from State Farm, catalytic converter theft has risen nearly 300% nationwide, leading to more than $33 million in insurance payouts in 12 months. A year before claims payouts were less than $9 million. The trend isn't changing, either. What's the explanation? It hinges on a series of important questions.

Why Do People Steal Catalytic Converters?

They're high-value on the black market for auto parts, and they can be "bought cheap and paid dearly for," i.e., sold at a profit that only increases for the buyers and sellers involved.

Where Do Thieves Sell Catalytic Converters?

They sell them to both junkyards and private companies, and for what's almost purely profit; those resellers then become vendors to an unwitting public, which buys them at inflated cost (and further profit to the resellers).

Why are Catalytic Converters So Valuable?

The market prices of the platinum-group metals (PGMs) they contain -- namely, platinum, rhodium, and palladium -- are volatile. When they increase, catalytic converter prices do, too. In fact, converters become a lot more expensive.

What's the Cost to Replace a Stolen Catalytic Converter?

It can vary according to average converter and repair costs, but it's generally high anyway. Repairs often range from the upper-hundreds of dollars to several thousand when you factor in parts and labor. The catalytic converter itself usually makes up most of that number, which can be anywhere from $900 to $2,500 total. Insurance costs can compound, too.

Does Insurance Cover Stolen Catalytic Converters?

That depends. Comprehensive auto insurance coverage typically, but not always, pays for catalytic converter replacement plus the repairs for any damage caused by the often forcible removal of one. Renters' insurance generally won't, though.

Plus, even if you've got good insurance, you may end up paying a different kind of price: the time and effort spent filing a claim and waiting for it to get processed, and the insurance deductible. Some deductibles can cost as much as, if not more than, a catalytic converter itself. If your vehicle has taken its maximum depreciation hit, then, after compounding parts, labor, insurance, and other loss from time and effort, the total cost could end up being equal to or even higher than the vehicle's value.

Now, consider "collateral damage" -- figuring out that it's financially better to sell your car than have repairs done on it. That's even more work, time, effort, and money spent for you. That involves dealership visits, trade-in and financing/loan or leasing paperwork, new insurance for that, finding a loaner car for short-term transportation, dumping money gas for it, and so on.

Want to learn more about how you can deter catalytic converter theft? Cat Security™ is here to help. Feel free to get to know who we are and what we do and be sure to check out our frequently asked questions. Of course, if you have any of your own, you're more than welcome to get in touch with our experts.