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Catalytic Converter Thefts See a Welcome Downward Shift Nationwide

POR: adam karner
Catalytic Converter on the underside of a automobile

There are a number of important components that allow your vehicle to operate, and each individual piece serves a purpose. Given the intricacies of these pieces, the value is naturally high. Unfortunately, some people choose to take advantage of this and break the law to steal those expensive components. The last thing any driver needs is to realize that something quite important has been stolen from their vehicle while it was parked.

In the past, the most commonly stolen component on a vehicle was the conversor catalítico, which is a crucial piece of a vehicle. Fortunately, though, catalytic converter theft has been on the decline throughout 2023, and 2024 is looking even more promising. Learn everything you need to know about the factors influencing this trend and how to protect the catalytic converter on your own vehicle.

What Is a Catalytic Converter?

For those unfamiliar with the part, a catalytic converter is a part of the exhaust system on a vehicle and helps to regulate emissions. Specifically, the catalytic converter helps to do this by reducing the number of toxic pollutants that are emitted in the air as a result of your vehicle’s functioning. This is done by converting those toxic pollutants into far less harmful chemicals such as water vapor or carbon dioxide.

Emissions enter what is known as the catalyst chamber of the catalytic converter, which houses, you guessed it, the catalyst. When the harmful chemicals are blown over this catalyst, it sparks a chemical reaction that converts those chemicals into their non-harmful variants. These new gasses are then released via the exhaust port on your vehicle. For those who are curious, should you look under your car and follow the tailpipe, you should see what looks like a rectangular metal box with a pipe on either end; this is the catalytic converter.

Catalytic Converter Theft Stats and Figures

At first glance, it may seem odd that catalytic converters are one of the most stolen components reported to police departments around the world. The reason they are targeted, though, is because the materials that make up catalytic converts are precious metals. Palladium, platinum, and rhodium are some common metals that exist within a catalytic converter, meaning a thief could earn a couple hundred dollars, or potentially more, by selling the item.

This value resulted in catalytic converter thefts skyrocketing in recent years, with around 40,000 more catalytic converters being stolen in 2022 as compared to 2020, per the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s consolidated report. California and Texas, in particular, report some of the most stolen catalytic converters.

While 2023 started out as a non-promising year in terms of the number of catalytic converters stolen, things have actually begun to turn around. The total number of catalytic converters reported stolen during the first half of the year was just recently compiled, and the data shows that theft is down 43% as compared to last year and is starting to return to pre-pandemic levels.

The Primary Factors Leading to the Decline in Theft

Seeing that catalytic converter theft is on the decline ought to give many drivers hope, but the factors that are causing this decline are also important to look at. Auto theft of catalytic converters has been falling primarily due to the following:

Increased Police Crackdowns

As law enforcement agencies around the United States began to grow wise to the fact that catalytic converters were being targeted at an increasing rate, sting operations to break apart theft rings began. Law enforcement agencies have also been recommending products such as anti-theft devices which have challenged thieves.

Legislative Changes

One unique way the government has been tackling the problem is to enact new legislation that cracks down not on thieves but on a different group entirely: scrap metal recyclers. These individuals buy recycled material from others and then recycle the material for their own purpose, but tracing down the source of the material along with other due diligence items has been made mandatory in many states. This legislation has impacted thieves who can’t prove where they got the items.

Public Awareness and Defensive Measures

A major reason catalytic converter theft kept occurring was that few people knew that it was happening. People would park in a parking lot in a relatively unsafe part of town and believe that their car was fine because nothing appeared wrong with it. Then, only after a little while they will have noticed their car running oddly when it’s too late to track down when the theft occurred. Drivers are also now taking simple defensive measures, such as the anti-theft device or even parking their cars indoors, to ensure that they are not a victim of this criminal act.

Changes in Commodity Prices

Finally, changes in commodity prices have drastically impacted catalytic converter thefts. In short, it’s simply not as profitable for thieves to steal catalytic converters anymore. Palladium and platinum prices, in particular, have fallen drastically. Where a thief could have made a couple hundred bucks off of their actions in the past, they may now only make one hundred dollars max.

The Impact on Vehicle Owners

The fact that catalytic converter thefts are falling in frequency is more than just good news to hear. This news actually has a tangible impact on vehicle owners around the world. First and foremost, drivers can now have more peace of mind when going out on the road and leaving their vehicle to go shopping, on a hike, to work, or whatever a person may be doing. In addition to this, though, there will likely be fewer insurance claims filed on a yearly basis.

While fewer insurance claims may not seem like something major, everybody’s insurance premiums will fall slightly, making it more affordable. This means that some drivers may be able to afford a more comprehensive contract that gives them more protection. Finally, the mere fact that catalytic converter theft is falling simply goes to show the power of community vigilance when it comes to reducing crime around the country; if it works for this crime, it can work for other types as well.

5 Best Theft Prevention Tips for Car Owners

Policeman with female driver near her carWhile catalytic converter theft may be on the decline compared to historical levels, there were still over 20,000 reported thefts in the first six months of 2023. This means that while the danger isn’t as prominent, it isn’t quite gone. Therefore, learning some best practices for theft prevention can help any driver ensure their vehicle stays protected:

1. Park in well-lit areas near a building entrance.

For a thief with serious skills and the right tools, a catalytic converter can be removed in as little as a few minutes. However, in a brightly lit area that is heavily trafficked, a few minutes is all it may take for somebody to notice a person tinkering around underneath someone’s vehicle and walking away with a metal box. While this strategy isn’t foolproof, parking your vehicle in an area with plenty of light and near other people is a quick way to reduce your risk of being a victim of theft.

2. Install an anti-theft device.

Catalytic converter anti-theft devices work as a sort of shield that protects the park by engulfing it. While these anti-theft devices can be broken by a skilled thief, it will take them far longer to crack than if there wasn’t one installed. Most catalytic converter thieves are looking for a quick score that doesn’t take them much time in order to reduce their risk of being caught, and simply having an anti-theft device may deter them.

3. Regularly move where your vehicle is parked.

Most thieves don’t choose a vehicle at random to steal a catalytic converter from. In most cases, they take the time to stake out a potential victim and get to know their habits, where they park, and how long they are away from their vehicle. By moving your SUV to a different spot, switching whether you drive your Ford, Honda, or some other car daily, or even walking to work some days, you can reduce the risk of being a target.

4. Park in a closed garage.

The easiest and simplest tip you can follow to reduce your risk of being a victim of catalytic converter theft is to park inside a closed garage, ideally one that locks. After all, a thief can’t steal something they can’t access in the first place. While this may not be possible for everyone, do your best to park in a place where your vehicle cannot be easily accessed.

5. Paint your catalytic converter.

Finally, one unique tip to reduce your chances of theft is to paint your catalytic converter a bright and noticeable color. First of all, this will make your catalytic converter identifiable should it wrongly end up in an auto parts store or in the hands of law enforcement. Second, thieves will need to scrap that paint off if they want to sell the part for the highest value, and this is far too much effort than it is worth for most.

Secure Your Vehicle With Endurance Auto Warranty

For the most part, catalytic converter theft will be covered under comprehensive auto insurance, assuming you have this type on your vehicle. Insurance will not offer coverage for mechanical breakdowns, which are an inevitability, even on newer vehicles. To protect yourself from the high cost of repairs caused by a breakdown, invest in an extended warranty contract that can provide you with coverage.

Endurance offers a variety of custom plans to choose from, ranging from our Supreme Plus plan, offering high-level state coverage designed for older vehicles all the way up to near manufacturer-level coverage with our Supreme plan. Common systems such as the air conditioning, engine, and transmission are covered across all plans, meaning even basic protection can make a difference for most people. Each plan also comes with extras like 24/7 roadside assistance, towing, and lockout services.

In addition to these standard perks, all new Endurance Warranty customers can choose to receive the Paquete de beneficios Élite for a small activation fee, which offers key fob replacement, reimbursements for up to two tires per year, and $1,000 in total loss protection.

To learn more about how Endurance can protect your vehicle, give our award-winning customer service team a call at (800) 253-8203 a Solicite una cotización GRATIS. Tú también puedes tienda en linea to get your price immediately!

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