Catalytic Converter Theft, according to a Three-time Victim

by Erin MartiseUpdated July 31, 2023
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catalytic converter theft

Watch out for Catalytic Converter Theft According to a Three-time Victim!

Greg W is a software developer who resides in a suburban neighborhood. He is currently the owner of a Toyota Prius, which he fondly refers to as 'Convenient and Reliable.' Sadly, “Reliable” has been the target of catalytic converter theft on three separate occasions. It must have been “Convenient” for the thief to come back three times. Greg could not believe it since his neighborhood is a relatively safe place and he often parks on the driveway. His mechanic informed him that hybrids like the Prius are specifically targeted due to the precious metals in their converters. After so many times of it being so “Inconvenient” to lose the catalytic converter, Greg decided to clear out his garage and park his car inside. The thieves must have thought Greg sold the car so they never came back again.

What is a Catalytic Converter in a Car?

Catalytic converters refer to devices used to reduce emissions in internal combustion engines. Catalytic converters use a catalyst, typically platinum, palladium, or rhodium, to induce a chemical reaction in the toxic emissions released by the engine. This chemical reaction neutralizes the toxins, allowing them to vent into the atmosphere safely.

Why Does My Car Have Multiple Catalytic Converters?

Many cars come standard with one catalytic converter. Some cars may possess multiple catalytic converters to meet emission regulation standards. Standard cars contain an exhaust system or a set of pipes that guides exhaust gasses away from the combustion in the engine. Each exhaust typically works in conjunction with one catalytic converter. Cars with dual exhaust systems carry two catalytic converters, one to neutralize the emissions that emit from each set of pipes.

Some modern and high-end cars follow more stringent emission qualifications, which require additional neutralization of toxic emissions. In such systems, one catalytic converter performs standard converter functions, and a second converter sends out a chemical mixture that neutralizes any residual harmful toxins before they vent out.

Why Does Catalytic Converter Theft Rising Rapidly?

Part of the reason is that stealing a catalytic converter is a straightforward and simple task. The perpetrators sneak beneath the vehicle and, with the aid of a saw powered by batteries, can swiftly cut through the exhaust system in mere seconds to a minute. Subsequently, the stolen catalytic converters are sold to a scrap metal dealership for a sum ranging from $150 to $300. These scrap metal yards then distribute the catalytic converter to a different entity that extracts the valuable metals and utilizes them for various other applications in the form of recycled parts.

Catalytic converter theft has been a growing problem for car owners across the country, particularly in states like Indiana, New York, and other areas with high crime rates. Crime has been on the rise, especially last year, with a surge in incidents reported to the police department. The theft of catalytic converters has become a major concern for car owners, insurance companies, and lawmakers.

Alarming Data about Catalytic Converter Thefts.

State Farm, the largest automobile insurer in the United States, has reported a staggering increase in catalytic converter theft between July 2021 and June 2022. According to the claims data, the theft of these parts has risen by an eye-opening ‌109% nationwide‌, with over ‌43,219 reported cases‌ by State Farm customers, compared to just above 20,600 in the preceding 12-month period. In the first half of 2022 alone, State Farm received over 23,000 claims regarding catalytic converter theft. The most recent data highlights that California leads the ranking of the top 5 states for this type of theft, with 24.5% of claims being filed in the Golden State, followed closely by Texas, with approximately 13.58% of claims. Illinois, Washington, and Minnesota round out the top 5 in that order.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports that in 2021, the United States saw a staggering 309,155 incidents of theft of motor vehicle parts or accessories. This information was reported by 11,794 law enforcement agencies that submitted their data to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), representing 64% of the total population. These numbers paint a sobering picture of the extent of this type of theft in the country.

Moreover, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) warns that the vast majority of catalytic converter thefts are going unresolved, with only a mere 1% of cases resulting in an arrest. The bleak statistics were obtained by the Liberal Democrats, highlighting the need for greater efforts to address this growing problem.

One of the most targeted vehicles for catalytic converter theft is ‌hybrid cars‌, such as the Toyota Prius, and SUVs. These vehicles have become an attractive target for catalytic converter thieves because they contain valuable precious metals. This has led many car owners to install anti-theft devices or park their vehicles in well-lit areas with security cameras.

The Average Cost to Replace a Catalytic Converter Estimates

The Environmental Protection Agency emphasizes the significance of a catalytic converter as the paramount pollutants control device in a vehicle in recent years. The agency imposes stringent regulations and replacement requirements to ensure its optimal performance, including potential penalties of up to ‌$25,000‌ for improper installation if local law enforcement spot one. Although it's possible to install a new converter yourself, it's advisable to seek the services of a knowledgeable technician, as most of the cost associated with replacement pertains to the part and not labor. reports that the cost of a catalytic converter replacement varies depending on various factors such as the location, make, and model of the vehicle. According to RepairPal, the average cost as of 2014 ranged from ‌$539 to $875‌, with the part costing anywhere from ‌$341 to $624‌, and labor charges averaging ‌$198 to $251‌. provides a free cost estimation and comparison service to help you get an estimate for your specific needs.

Catalytic Converter Replacement Cost

Typically, the total cost to replace a catalytic converter in ‌2023‌ is between ‌$900 to $3,000‌ including parts and labor. Mechanics charge an hourly rate between ‌$70 to $150‌ depending on experience and the complexity of the job.

How long will catalytic converter replacement take?

Catalytic converter replacement can take anywhere from ‌1 to 2 hours‌.

The replacement time varies due to:

  • Vehicle Design
  • Whether associated components are being replaced at the same time (e.g. water pump)


  • These are estimated costs and actual costs may vary.
  • Always seek out a trusted professional for a specific quote based on your specific vehicle and situation.
  • The cost of replacing a timing belt can vary widely depending on:
    • The vehicle make and model
    • The specific complexity of the task
    • Where you live.

How to Tell If a Catalytic Converter Is Missing

Catalytic converters are filters that are connected to your vehicle's exhaust system to reduce the number of harmful emissions. Every gas engine car in the United States of America is required to have an adequate catalytic converter on its exhaust system. The catalytic converter is connected to the exhaust pipes that are coming from the headers. Then it is connected by another exhaust pipe to the muffler, where the exhaust gases are released.

  • Check for Smoke from the Muffler

Look at the exhaust smoke coming out of the muffler. When a catalytic converter is not installed, you will see medium to dark smoke coming out of your muffler. Also, the smell of the burned gasoline will be considerably more potent in a car without a catalytic converter than in a car with one.

  • Check for Sound from the Exhaust

Listen to the exhaust. The catalytic converter helps reduce the sound in a car, just like the muffler. A car without a catalytic converter will have a loud exhaust note.

  • Check under the Car for the Exhaust System

Check the exhaust system under your car. The catalytic converter will look like a bulge somewhere in the middle of the exhaust piping in between the muffler and where the headers connect to the exhaust downpipes. If the bulge is not there, you do not have a catalytic converter.

How Much Labor to Replace a Catalytic Converter?

Catalytic converters vary wildly in price depending on the vehicle you are driving. Cars can also have one or more catalytic converters, and each converter on the car like Honda can be hundreds of dollars more or less than another one. Despite the unpredictability in prices of the actual components, labor to replace your catalytic converter should be fairly straightforward. Call a local mechanic and ask what he charges per hour for labor if you got your catalytic converter stolen. About $60 to $120 per hour is usually a fair price for labor as of 2010. Dealerships, however, may charge more. Check auto repairs estimate websites like or for an idea of what it will cost to replace your catalytic converter. Choose your make and model of car and type in or click on "catalytic converter." This website will give you an average price for both parts and labor for your job. It will also recommend shops in your neighborhood. As of late 2022, consumers could expect to pay anywhere from $900 to $3500 on labor to replace one catalytic converter at a shop. The work should take from one to two hours for a typical converter replacement.

Preventing Catalytic Converter Theft

To prevent the theft of catalytic converters, car owners can take several steps to protect their vehicles. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) recommends parking in a well-lit area/parking lot, installing security cameras, and using anti-theft devices. Additionally, car owners should take note of their license plate number and vehicle identification number, which can be helpful in the event of theft. It's important to note that catalytic converters contain precious metals that make them a sought-after item on the black market. As a result, the theft of these converters has become more frequent, and it's advisable to have comprehensive coverage as part of your auto insurance policy. This type of coverage would protect you from theft and vandalism of your vehicle, including your catalytic converter. It's worth considering if you own a new car or a hybrid vehicle, which tends to be more susceptible to catalytic converter theft. Scrap metal dealers also contribute to the demand for stolen converters, and it's essential to be cautious when disposing of your old converter.


While theft prevention measures can help, there's still a risk of catalytic converter theft. In the event of theft, car owners can file a claim with their insurance company. However, it's important to note that in many cases, car insurance policies come with a deductible, which may increase the cost of repairing the damage. Despite the efforts of law enforcement and lawmakers, catalytic converter theft remains a persistent problem. While there have been efforts to crack down on crime, such as the security cameras, it continues to occur. In light of this, car owners should take precautions to protect their vehicles and ensure they are not targeted by catalytic converter thieves.

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