Protect your car against catalytic converter theft

Thursday, July 1, 2021by  PEMCO Insurance

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Unusually high rates of catalytic converter theft continue across the Northwest and the nation as thieves plunder the emission-control devices to sell as scrap metal. PEMCO's seen a 2,156% increase in catalytic converter theft claims in the past year, 361 thefts vs. 16. Prime targets include Toyota Priuses (they're lightweight and easy to jack up) and high-clearance vehicles like pickups and SUVs, which offer easier access to the part.

The catalytic converter is positioned on your car's undercarriage near the muffler and exhaust pipe. Its value to thieves isn't so much in the device itself, but in the precious metals (platinum, palladium and rhodium) it contains, which have soared in value recently.

GettyImages-1315005619.jpgA thief gets between $100 and $200 per catalytic converter on the scrap-metal market. But vehicle repair costs are typically 10 times more!

With the right kind of saw, a practiced thief can remove a catalytic converter in under two minutes, meaning they usually get away unseen. And even if caught with a trunk full of catalytic converters, thieves are hard to arrest because catalytic converters don't have identifying marks on them (like VINs) that trace back to a particular car.

Here's what you can do to help safeguard your car:

1. Park inside your garage at home

Otherwise, choose well-lighted, visible parking spots within view of security cameras. The wee hours between 3 and 5 a.m. are prime times for any kind of auto theft.

2. Adjust your car alarm's sensitivity 

So it can detect vibration (like sawing).

3. Ask your mechanic about installing a catalytic converter protective shield.

On Amazon, part prices start at $135.

4. Call the police if you see anyone suspicious near or under your car. 

Don't confront the person yourself.

And if you're a victim of catalytic converter theft:

1. Safety first. 

Ensure the thief is long gone before you closely examine your vehicle.

2. Don't attempt to drive the car.

You'll know if you're a victim – your car will be extremely loud and you may smell exhaust fumes. Have it towed for repair.

3. Notify the police. 

Use the non-emergency number or, depending on your city, you may be able to file a report online. While you may not get your catalytic converter back, reporting helps local law enforcement maintain accurate crime statistics and can alert them to trends. Keep a copy of your report or at least get the number so you can include it if you file an insurance claim.

4. Call PEMCO. 

If you selected Comprehensive coverage on your policy, we can get your car towed to a repair shop and help you get it fixed. Your deductible applies. If you don't have Comprehensive but you do have PEMCO Towing & Labor Reimbursement, you still can use it for your tow, no deductible required. You can report a claim 24/7 online at, or call us at 1-800-GO-PEMCO (1-800-467-3626). 

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Comments on this post

personDon Kiehn07/21/2021 09:06 PM
The problem starts with the shady recyclers who buy stolen converters. ( not requiring proof of a legitimate reason to possess the item, such as a receipt for a new replacement or a business license related to replacing  converters. Also lack of law enforcement to address this issue.
personLee07/17/2021 12:42 PM
Common sense says, why isn't someone making it harder for thieves to sell them?
personGinger07/16/2021 02:13 AM
Pemco must have stats on vulnerable or popular makes/models/years. Can you help by telling us who's at most risk? I did lots of research and even asked my car dealer and couldn't find any good data on my car. The absence of a customized theft shield for my car suggests it's not popular enough to make a custom kit for my car but that's only a rough guide.
personJamelle Langford07/12/2021 05:55 PM
Shields do not work. We had several work trucks with cable shields and they just cut right through them.
personClaudia McClain07/06/2021 07:20 PM
I just had my catalytic converter stolen from my Ford Escape during daylight hours when it was parked no more than 20 feet from the front door of my office which has large windows facing the parking lot.  The thieves are getting so brazen!  I definitely plan to have my mechanic install a shield when the converter is replaced.  Sadly, I’ve been waiting on the part for over 3 weeks!
personPaula 07/05/2021 09:47 AM
Happy to know this as I doubt I would have even called to see if it was covered. So thanks for the news!
personRandy07/02/2021 03:57 PM
My daughter’s 2006 Prius was recently a victim of catalytic converter theft (covered by a different insurer).  I own a 2007 Prius.  I’ve done quite a bit of research since then and found there are ways to add shock and tilt sensors to factory alarm systems.  I also found some recommendations from various law enforcement websites to spray paint the cat a bright red or orange and use an engraving tool to etch the VIN into the cat.  That makes it traceable if recovered and may be enough to deter the thief.
personJohn Smith07/02/2021 07:58 AM
That's a picture of a muffler, not a catalytic converter.
personMark munson07/01/2021 10:05 PM
PEMCO already paid for one catalytic converters for us.  We have two Prius cars.  And no garage!  Wouldn’t it be more profitable to help pay for shields for our cars than paying the $3000 for replacement?
personScoter Pischel07/01/2021 09:36 PM
I own a Prius, park in garage when at home. This is the first I heard they are an easy target. How about partnering with a security installer and a guard installer and the vehicle owner to better protect the vehicle and share the costs?
personErik Olson07/01/2021 06:54 PM
Thank you for the notice. I had no idea this was a theft trend!

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