Catalytic converter theft has become an increasingly pervasive problem for car owners throughout the United States. For example, in 2021, Minnesota lawmakers introduced a bill designed to crack down on crimes involving catalytic converters by preventing anyone but licensed scrap dealers from buying used converters and making it illegal for scrap dealers to pay cash for these parts.
Perhaps you may wonder why anyone would want to steal a catalytic converter in the first place. And more importantly – would your insurance cover the theft if it happened to you? The information below will answer those and other questions you may have.
What is a catalytic converter, and how does it work?
Your catalytic converter is a key part of your car’s emissions system. It’s designed to reduce the amount of harmful pollution your vehicle emits from its tailpipe by transforming carbon monoxide and other gaseous compounds into water vapor and carbon dioxide.
Catalytic converters often look similar to mufflers and come in oblong or cylindrical shapes. You can find it somewhere between the engine and the muffler (usually closer to the engine).
This part is called a “catalytic” converter because of what it contains. Inside a converter, you’ll find ceramic coated with various precious metals, such as rhodium, platinum, and palladium. These metals are the “catalysts” that produce a chemical reaction with the harmful gases from your car’s emissions system, thus converting them into more environmentally friendly substances.
Catalytic converters first appeared on American-made cars in 1975 and since then have become a standard component for modern vehicles of all sorts.
Why would anyone steal a catalytic converter?
There are two basic reasons why thieves may target catalytic converters: (1) their value as scrap metal and (2) their value as replacement car parts.
1. Scrap metal
Scrap yards may offer anywhere from $200 to over $1,000 for a used catalytic converter. Then, they can strip off and separate the respective metals and sell them at a profit. For example, palladium may sell for thousands of dollars per ounce. Obviously, unethical metal recyclers make up a big market for thieves looking for a quick payout.
2. Replacement parts
Shady mechanics and repair shops are other “customers” interested in stolen catalytic converters. Instead of paying full price for a replacement part and only profiting from labor, some dishonest mechanics will buy stolen parts at a discounted cost, and then charge the car owner for a brand-new replacement part plus labor. As you can imagine, catalytic converters from popular models (like Camrys and Priuses) are in especially high demand.
How do thieves steal catalytic converters?
Unfortunately, thieves often focus on catalytic converters because of how easy they are to steal. In most cases, a portable reciprocating saw and a few minutes to himself are all a criminal needs. The thief can quickly cut off the converter from the rest of the vehicle and slip away without anyone noticing. This is especially easy if the thief targets a truck or SUV (which sits higher off the ground, making the converter easier to access).
If your catalytic converter has been stolen, you will likely not realize it — until you start up your car. Then you’ll hear a very loud, gurgling sound coming from your exhaust, which will only get louder the faster you accelerate.
Will your car insurance cover catalytic converter theft?
It can cost well over $1,000 to replace a stolen catalytic converter on your vehicle. (Of course, the cost will be even higher if the criminal damages other car parts during the theft.) With that in mind, it’s no surprise that many car owners are concerned about whether their insurance policy covers this particular type of loss.
Will your insurance cover catalytic converter theft? The answer is: it depends. In general, the only standard insurance policy that will cover the theft of a catalytic converter is comprehensive coverage.
Comprehensive coverage encompasses all types of damage to your vehicle not caused by an accident or collision with another vehicle. These may include damage from a snow or ice storm, vandalism, and theft (either of the whole vehicle or a vehicle part).
If your car was damaged during the theft to the point that it’s no longer drivable, then other policies may kick in. For instance, gap insurance or new car replacement insurance may come into the picture (for financed or leased vehicles).
If you have comprehensive coverage on your vehicle, then it’s very likely that a catalytic converter theft would be covered. However, there’s no reason to leave that to chance. If you have questions about what is specifically included in your coverage, then it’s always a good idea to reach out to your insurance agent for more information.
At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we have the knowledge and experience to help you navigate all of your auto insurance needs. We can make sure that you’re covered in the event of a catalytic converter theft. Contact us today to learn more.