Catalytic Converters

Cat Theft 101

A catalytic converter helps change or convert harmful compounds created by a vehicle’s engine emissions into less harmful gasses. A well-maintained catalytic converter improves the efficiency and performance of your car. 

Catalytic converters contain three valuable metals (platinum, palladium and rhodium) that are necessary for the chemical reaction that enables the conversion of emissions into safer gasses. The rise in price of these metals has led to a sharp increase in theft of these unassuming devices, as thieves and sometimes sophisticated crime organizations sell them for scrap. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, catalytic converter theft increased more than 1,000% between 2018 and 2020, with thieves extracting the devices in as little as 30 seconds. 

Which vehicles are more likely to be targeted? Cars that are more energy efficient may have two catalytic converters, making them prime targets, with electric vehicles and hybrids topping the list, particularly the Toyota Pruis. Commercial vehicles and those with higher ground clearance are also targeted for the easy accessibility for thieves. 

Less than 1 Minute

to steal a catalytic converter

Prevention Tips

Replacing a stolen catalytic converter can cost thousands of dollars and often months of waiting, given high demand and short supply. The best course of action is to prevent theft before it happens.

  • Etch or paint your catalytic converter. Contact your local law enforcement department to see if they offer free catalytic converter engraving and high heat painting or have community events planned.
  • Park your vehicle in a garage or other secure area.
  • When parking your vehicle, look for parking garages and parking lots with cameras.
  • Park in a well-lit area to discourage thieves.
  • Install a catalytic converter anti-theft shield. These forms bolt over your converter and act as a deterrent to thieves whose goal is speed.


There are numerous anti-theft devices on the market, sold online and in some auto parts stores. These devices hinder the quick removal of catalytic converters, which make them unattractive to thieves. For those with good automotive maintenance and repair skills, you can install your own shield over your catalytic converter. 

Likewise, if you can safely access your converter, you may etch your license plate or VIN onto the device, making legitimate resale more difficult. 

What To Do When Your Catalytic Converter Is Stolen


Contact the authorities

If you find your catalytic converter is missing, you should immediately contact the authorities. They will check local security cameras and work to see if they can help catch the person who stole your converter. Additionally, a police report may be essential to your insurance coverage.


Contact your insurance company

Depending on your coverage, your car insurance may cover your catalytic converter replacement. You can contact your insurance agent to see what your options are and whether or not you are covered.


Visit a mechanic

Finally, you should bring your vehicle to a mechanic for service. An expert can discuss your repair options with you and prevent you from driving without your catalytic converter.

Can I drive my car without a catalytic converter?

While your car will function if your catalytic converter is stolen, an emission control device is required by law in all 50 states for a vehicle to be driven on public roadways. Your car will be very loud, with noticeable emission and smoke coming from your exhaust system, and a check engine light.