Why Do People Steal Catalytic Converters? Here's How You Can Prevent the Theft

Why do people steal catalytic converters? They can be gone in seconds and cost hundreds of dollars to replace. Here's why someone may target yours.

Kori Williams - Author

Apr. 12 2022, Published 1:37 p.m. ET

Owning a car can be a freeing experience for so many people. Being able to go wherever you want basically whenever is what drives so many of us to get a license. Even though there are different maintenance costs and insurance payments that go along with it, unfortunately, there are more depressing downsides that owners have to look out for.

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Of course, car theft is a problem. But there are also people who will steal particular parts from them. Catalytic converters, or devices on vehicles that make toxins from exhaust less harmful, are one of these parts. Although they have an important role to play in your safety, there's a trend of their being stolen? But why? There's one main motivation for these thieves.

Why do people steal catalytic converters?

According to multiple sources, money is the main motivation for people stealing catalytic converters. According to NJ.com, they have precious metals like platinum and rhodium in them that have value on the black market. Cars.com also mention that the devices have palladium.

Aaron Harker, owner of Aaron’s Custom Exhaust in North Carolina, told WECT that people can extract the metals at junkyards to make a profit.

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A Mechanic Working on a Vehicle
Source: Getty Images

Kevin Doyle from Mad Hatter Muffler shop works on replacing a catalytic converter.

What's even worse is that catalytic converters can be stolen in seconds and cost hundreds of dollars to replace. At the time of the interview with WECT in 2021, Harker was replacing one on a truck that could cost the owner about $600 to replace but could be worth around $800 on the black market.

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Even though a catalytic converter can be stolen quickly, you will also notice when it's gone just as fast. Daniel Bostic, manager of Black’s Tire & Auto Daniel Bostic in North Carolina, told WECT that once you start the car's engine, you will start to hear a loud rattle. "It would almost sound like the car’s about to blow up," he said.

How do you prevent people from stealing catalytic converters?

Unfortunately, sources say that it can be difficult to prevent people from stealing catalytic converters unless you have your vehicle in a secure place that only the car's owner and approved people can access. But, you can buy something called a Cat Shield for your car. "It goes right below your catalytic converter, kind of like a splash guard for underneath your vehicle," said Bostic. "It just sits there and guards those converters for you."

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But a Cat Shield can be pricey as well. It can also cost hundreds of dollars, and if you're not car savvy, you will have to have a professional install it for you.

Some states also have programs that allow you to register your catalytic converter.

On top of those other options, the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office in North Carolina suggests among other things that owners have a professional weld their catalytic converter to their car. Some mechanics will also install a shield over the device.

It'a also said that you should try your best to park in well-lit areas, and in a garage if possible. It's also a good idea to park close to an entrance so you can spot problems easier.

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