Catalytic converter theft has become a pervasive and concerning issue across the United States in recent years. The notable surge in incidents nationwide has cost car owners and company fleets millions of dollars in replacements and repairs.
This steady rise of criminal activity is mainly driven by the rising prices of precious metals found within the emission control system known as your catalytic converter. The catalytic converter, or "cat," is located beneath the undercarriage of a car where the exhaust pipes run from the engine to your tailpipe. The metals like Rhodium, palladium, and platinum used to purify your engine's toxic exhaust have skyrocketed in price per ounce since the beginning of the global pandemic.
Currently, in 2023, each of these pricey metals is worth more than $1000 per ounce. Because your car is left in a vulnerable spot when parked outside of a garage, thieves can cut off your catalytic converter in just minutes and be off to resell it to a scrap metal dealer.
What Type of Vehicles Have Their Catalytic Converter Stolen The Most?
From hybrid car models to pickup trucks and family SUVs, all gas-powered vehicles can be targeted for their catalytic converters. Some cars are targeted more than others for their catalytic converters. For example, some model trims of the Toyota Prius have two catalytic converter bodies, which means twice the amount of expensive metals to be extracted. Also, larger vehicles like the Ford F-150 will hold a bigger converter body which is more valuable to a thief.
Stealing catalytic converters is a quick buck for crooks who are ballsy enough to sneak beneath your vehicle to cut the converter body off your car. Thieves have been known to strike anywhere and everywhere, from mall parking lots or garages to home driveways or grocery store parking lots. These criminals tend to work in teams or trios and have been known to steal several catalytic converters in one night, which can make them hundreds or thousands of dollars from scrap metal dealers.
States with Highest Rate of Catalytic Converter Crime
So, how did we as a country get here? The handling of the pandemic certainly played a considerable part in lawlessness and economic inflation. With signs of a possible recession in the U.S. for the tail end of 2023 into 2024 and a hike in gas prices and food, criminals are still risking it all to keep these catalytic converter theft rings afloat. Catalytic converter crime has risen 1,215% between 2019 and 2023 according to NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association).
State governments across the country have begun to fight back against catalytic converter crimes with new legislation known as the PART Act, (Preventing Auto Recycling Theft), which grants a VIN stamping program and gives harsher penalties to catalytic converter thieves. These penalties vary state by state, however, and though they are steered toward reducing the rise in catalytic converter crimes, it is too early to tell if state laws have made an impact. But like other laws, criminals will break them. Especially if the penalty results in a slap on the wrist.
The catalytic converter crime wave continues rising in 2023. With a 207% nationwide increase in stolen cat cases compared to 2021, the top five states for catalytic converter theft are New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Washington. The crime wave continues in America because of the lack of identification markings on catalytic converters of older cars, making it tough for owners to recover. Because many cars are parked outside, crooks can read the routines of the vehicle and or homeowners before choosing the perfect time to hit.
Taking Action to Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft in 2023
Many drivers won't depend on the state to protect the value and well-being of their vehicles. In more ways than none, new state legislation for stopping catalytic converter crimes acts as a band-aid on a bullet wound. Don't count on the police to protect your vehicle either because their only responsibility is to write the investigative report after the fact that you've fallen victim to a catalytic converter theft. This leaves the responsibility of protecting your car's undercarriage in your hands.
Protecting your vehicle's catalytic converter is a necessity in today's climate. You can take several measures to deter thieves and safeguard your converter, such as parking in well-lit areas, utilizing secure or guarded parking facilities, and engraving identification marks on the unit. The best option you can take for the ultimate undercarriage protection, though, is installing a catalytic converter shield guard. A cat shield for your car, truck, or SUV provides an effective physical barrier, which makes it considerably more difficult for criminals to access and remove the converter with a saw.
Crime is unpredictable, and when your car becomes victimized for its catalytic converter, you'll be left saying, "I never thought this could happen to me." Cat theft continues to plague American vehicle owners, and because of the economic woes and the escalating prices of precious metals, criminals will continue to capitalize on the high market value of platinum, palladium, and rhodium.
Vehicle owners must remain vigilant and choose preventive measures to guard their car's undercarriage. Consider the installation of a catalytic converter shield guard to deter thieves when they slide beneath your vehicle during the night.