Catalytic converters are attractive targets for thieves because they contain precious metals like platinum, palladium, and rhodium. The soaring value of these rare metals on the global market has led to an explosion in catalytic converter thefts across the United States. This leaves many drivers wondering – does my car insurance policy cover a stolen catalytic converter?
The short answer is, if you have comprehensive coverage, your insurer will typically replace a stolen catalytic converter. Comprehensive insurance covers damage from theft and other losses like vandalism, fire, hail, flood, and collisions with animals.
Below we will look at:
- What a catalytic converter is and why thieves target them
- Statistics on the rise in catalytic converter thefts
- How much it costs to replace a stolen catalytic converter
- Whether insurance covers catalytic converter theft
- Tips to prevent catalytic converter theft
What is a Catalytic Converter?
The catalytic converter is a vital emissions control device found on all gasoline-powered vehicles sold in the United States since 1975. It is located between the engine and the muffler underneath the vehicle.
Inside the catalytic converter is a honeycomb-shaped structure coated with rare precious metals like platinum, palladium, and rhodium. As exhaust gases pass through, the metals facilitate chemical reactions that convert toxic pollutants into less harmful compounds.
Catalytic converters contain 3 to 7 grams of precious metals on average. With rhodium alone selling for over $14,000 per ounce, a thief can extract $300 to $1,000 from the metals in a single converter.
Catalytic Converter Theft Statistics
Catalytic converter thefts have seen a marked increase nationwide in recent years:
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), thefts of catalytic converters quadrupled from 2019 to 2020. There were just 1,298 reported thefts in 2018, followed by 3,389 in 2019 and 14,433 in 2020.
State Farm insurance reported a 293% spike in catalytic converter theft claims from July 2020 to June 2021 compared to the year prior.
The NICB found catalytic converter thefts are most common in states like California, Texas, Minnesota, North Carolina and Illinois.
Toyota Priuses and trucks are most often targeted, with hybrids containing more precious metals and trucks’ high clearance providing easy access.
Police in some states have reported a tenfold increase in cases compared to before the pandemic. The rise is attributed to high unemployment and soaring precious metal prices.
Rhodium prices hit a record high of over $27,000 per ounce in March 2022, nearly 10 times higher than in 2016. Palladium quadrupled in price between 2016 to 2022.
With converters getting stolen at such high rates, many drivers are caught off guard by the expensive repairs.
Cost to Replace a Stolen Catalytic Converter
Replacing a stolen catalytic converter and repairing any damage can cost $1,000 to $3,000 or more. Prices depend on:
Your vehicle make and model – The converter for a Toyota Prius costs more than for a standard vehicle since it contains more precious metals. Luxury car converters also tend to cost more.
Use of OEM vs aftermarket parts – OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) converters meet federal regulations for emissions standards but cost 2-3x more than aftermarket alternatives.
Additional repairs – Thieves often cut through pipes and wires to quickly remove converters. Repairs for damaged oxygen sensors, the exhaust system, and electrical wiring can add hundreds to the total bill.
Location and mechanic rates – Prices are higher in places like New York and California where labor costs are higher. Dealerships charge more per hour than independent mechanics.
Even with a cheap replacement converter, you could end up paying your deductible plus your insurer’s increased premiums over time. That’s why it pays to take preventative measures which we’ll cover later.
Does Car Insurance Cover Catalytic Converter Theft?
Car insurance from standard carriers like State Farm, Geico, Progressive and Allstate typically covers catalytic converter theft if you have comprehensive coverage.
Comprehensive insurance pays for damage from theft, vandalism, natural disasters, fire, and collisions with animals. It’s an optional coverage, so check your policy declarations page to ensure you have it.
Here’s what comprehensive coverage does for a stolen catalytic converter:
- Pays to replace the stolen converter
- Covers labor to install the new converter
- Fixes any damage caused by the theft – cut exhaust pipes, severed wires, damage to oxygen sensors, etc.
- Subtracts your comprehensive deductible (typically $500-$1,000)
Without comprehensive coverage, you’d have to pay the full replacement cost out of pocket.
Filing an insurance claim for a stolen converter is similar to other types of theft:
- Call the police and file an incident report – This creates a formal record of the theft
- Take photos of damage & save security footage if possible
- Call your insurer and file a claim for catalytic converter theft
- Pay your deductible after the repairs are complete
Insurers are cracking down on claims due to the uptick in thefts. They may require you take preventive measures like etching VIN numbers on converters or installing locks. Check with your agent to ensure you meet any requirements.
Tips to Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft
Here are some proactive steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim:
Etch your VIN on the converter – This makes it traceable and less valuable to thieves. Many insurers like State Farm now require VIN etching.
Install a catalytic converter protection device – Aftermarket locks, cages, and plates can block access and make your converter theft-proof. Products like the CatClamp mount around the converter to prevent removal.
Choose a garage over street parking – Park in your locked garage when possible. If not, opt for a well-lit, high-traffic public area rather than side streets.
Avoid low-profile vehicles – Lifted trucks and SUVs have high ground clearance, making their converters readily accessible to thieves.
Check your car regularly – Look under your car for signs of tampering, like cut wires. Bring it in for service after noticing any unusual noises.
Add security features – Deter theft with an alarm system, motion sensor lights, cameras, or hidden GPS trackers.
Engrave windows – Etching your VIN on windows serves as a visual deterrent.
Review your insurance – Ensure you have comprehensive coverage in case theft does occur. Ask about discounts for anti-theft devices.
The Bottom Line
Catalytic converter theft is on the rise across America due to soaring precious metal prices. Comprehensive auto insurance provides coverage if your converter gets stolen, minus your deductible. But making a claim can raise your rates.
Taking preventative measures like etching your VIN, installing a protective device, and parking strategically can help avoid making an insurance claim. Review your comprehensive coverage and research anti-theft devices to ensure you don’t get caught off guard by this expensive repair.
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