Mandated for all U.S. cars and trucks in 1975, catalytic converters convert harmful pollutants into less harmful emissions before they’ve left the exhaust system. Platinum, palladium, rhodium or gold are used as the catalyst.
Thieves can sell catalytic converters to metal recyclers for $20-$200. The recyclers extract the metal and resell it for thousands of dollars per ounce.
Palladium sold for about $500 an ounce in 2016. It’s currently more than $2,300 per ounce. Rhodium sold for $640 an ounce in 2017. It’s currently priced at about $17,000 per ounce.
As a result, catalytic converter theft is rampant, with pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles and sedans all vulnerable. Catalytic converters are easy to dismantle, as simple as removing screws or brackets.
Several companies now offer various locks to prevent theft but their use isn’t yet prominent.
According to a report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau, more than 14,000 catalytic converters haven stolen off vehicles this year. It represents a 977 percent increase from 2018.
CARMAX, which calculates individual catalytic converter thefts by vehicle, recently released an updated tally.
Pickup trucks are the most likely targets.
Here’s a list of the top-10 vehicle converter thefts nationwide:
1985-2021 Ford F-Series pickup trucks (F-150, F-250, etc.)
1989-2020 Honda Accord
2007-2017 Jeep Patriot
1990-2022 Ford Econoline vans
1999-2021 Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks
2005-2021 Chevrolet Equinox
1997-2020 Honda CR-V
1987-2019 Toyota Camry
2011-2017 Chrysler 200
2001-2021 Toyota Prius
James Raia, a syndicated columnist in Sacramento, California, publishes a free weekly automotive podcast and electronic newsletter. Sign-ups are available on his website, www.theweeklydriver.com. He can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.