Catalytic converter thefts are on the rise across the US. Here’s why

Trucks, hybrid cars most common targets

Central Florida continues to see increase in catalytic converter thefts
Central Florida continues to see increase in catalytic converter thefts

ORLANDO, Fla. – Across the country and here in Central Florida, thefts of catalytic converters have skyrocketed in recent months. Orlando police have said they have seen the number of catalytic converters taken from cars and trucks quadruple over the last six months.

There are a few reasons thieves are targeting those car parts.

A catalytic converter is a portion of a car or truck’s exhaust system, which works to reduce the vehicle’s output of toxic gases. The converters use three precious metals as the catalyst for that reaction: platinum, palladium and rhodium.

Those precious metals are the main reason the converters are being targeted, but why the sudden uptick? Like so many other things happening in our world, the answer involves the COVID-19 pandemic.

The price per ounce of those three precious metals has spiked. As of this writing, platinum is worth $1,243 per ounce, palladium is $2,691.53 per ounce and rhodium is worth $25,850 per ounce.

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People looking to protect their wealth during the pandemic bought up stockpiles of these precious metals, according to a report by Reuters, driving up the price.

Crooks can sell the catalytic converters to recyclers for $50 to $250, according to Edmunds.

The other advantage for thieves is that catalytic converters are easy to swipe.

“Removing a catalytic converter takes only minutes using some basic, readily available, battery-operated tools from a local hardware store,” said David Glawe, President and CEO of the National Insurance Crime Bureau on the organization’s website.

Basically, thieves can just slide underneath a vehicle and cut the converter right off the exhaust. Sanford police said two men were recently able to steal 15 converters using a handsaw. The business estimates the cost of the damages from the thefts at $169,000, police said.

Despite the apparent ease that any catalytic converter can be stolen, thieves appear to have preferences when it comes to the vehicles they target.

A recent report from Motortrend said that hybrid cars, like the Toyota Prius, are often targeted because their gas emissions are much lower. Lower emissions mean more precious metal is still intact.

The same report points out that trucks are frequent targets as well, with manufacturers assuming that the high profile makes the catalytic converters more accessible.

What makes this worse for car owners is that catalytic converters are required on all vehicles in the U.S. and have been since 1975, according to Edmunds, and a replacement can cost more than $1,000.

So, what can you do to protect your car and your wallet?

The NICB offers the following tips on its website:

  • Park in a garage or secure parking area
  • Install a bright, motion sensor light to dissuade thieves
  • Park fleet vehicles in a secured, alarmed and well-lit yard
  • Always lock vehicles and set alarms
  • Install an anti-theft device on your exhaust, which can range in price from about $130 to more than $400

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