Thieves targeting Ford, Chevy trucks for catalytic converters, Carfax study shows

Florida lawmakers introduce new anti-theft legislation as device thefts surge

A new study by Carfax data scientists found that 153,000 catalytic converters were stolen across the country in 2022, with Ford and Chevrolet trucks being among the top 10 targets in the southern region of the U.S.

That includes states like Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.

State Sen. Linda Stewart, of Orange County, told News 6 that the motivation for these thieves is money.

“It’s a big commodity,” Stewart said. “That’s why they’re stealing them. It’s a hefty payoff.”

[TRENDING: Become a News 6 Insider]

The exhaust filter devices use platinum, palladium and rhodium, valued at hundreds — even thousands — of dollars per ounce.

On Monday, the latest market value of rhodium was roughly $7,400 an ounce, while gold was selling at under $2,000 an ounce.

In Orange County alone, 786 converters were stolen last year, more than doubling the 365 reported device thefts in 2021.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office confirmed 87 catalytic converters have already been stolen this year.

[INSIDER EXTRA: Watch how quickly a thief can steal a catalytic converter]

In Volusia County, the sheriff’s office reports of stolen catalytic converters jumped from 12 in 2021 to 45 in 2022, with 10 already stolen this year.

The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office reported 40 stolen in 2021, 99 in 2022 and as of March 27, there have been 21 reported catalytic converter thefts in 2023.

To counter the device pirates, Stewart is co-sponsoring Senate Bill 306, The Catalytic Converter Anti-Theft Act, which was introduced and sponsored by State Sen. Jim Boyd during this legislative session.

Stewart said the bill is a sign of the times and that the state needs to do something “to pull back on the thefts.”

Under the proposed legislation, the sale of fake catalytic converters — as well as stolen devices — would carry penalties of second and third-degree felonies.

Carfax Editor-in-Chief Patrick Olsen said the cost to replace the stolen exhaust devices ranges from $2,000-$4,000.

Olsen said the stolen devices are sold to professionals who melt down the parts and “recycle the precious metals.”

According to Carfax, the Ford F-Series truck is the No. 1 target for catalytic converter thefts in the southern region of the country, followed by the Mitsubishi Outlander, Honda Accord, Kia Soul, Ford Econoline, Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Silverado, Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Expedition and Toyota Tacoma.

“If they’re popular models, there’s a lot of targets to go after,” Olsen said. “There is enough money in it that it is very compelling for these thieves to go after these cars.”

According to automotive experts, the catalytic converter “filters out harmful byproducts in the exhaust gases and burns them up.” And while the main function of the device is to reduce harmful emissions, it also improves your car’s efficiency.

Olsen said the thefts happen in “broad daylight,” and his expert was able to extract a catalytic converter from a Nissan Frontier in just 66 seconds.

If you use a parking lot, police suggest car owners park vehicles in a garage or under lights to deter thefts.

Many owners have turned to etching the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the catalytic converters, and others suggest using black light or UV pens to write the VIN on these devices.

Get today’s headlines in minutes with Your Florida Daily:

About the Author:

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.