What to Do if Your Catalytic Converter Is Stolen

Updated: Nov. 13, 2023

Catalytic converters are an increasingly popular target for thieves looking to make a quick chunk of change. Here's what you need to know.

If you start your car and hear a low, loud rumble, one of the first things you should check is whether your catalytic converter has been stolen.

Catalytic converters are the part of a vehicle’s exhaust system that helps lower emissions and reduce the negative impact automobile traffic has on the environment. They also tend to pop up in the news every late winter and early spring as thefts of these unassuming little devices surge in some areas.

Here’s why catalytic converters are being stolen, what makes them so attractive to car thieves, and what you can do to prevent your vehicle’s from going missing.

Why Are Catalytic Converters Being Stolen?

Catalytic converters represent a treasure trove to potential thieves looking to make a quick buck. That’s because they use rare metals like palladium and platinum to filter your emissions and reduce vehicle pollution. Unsurprisingly, those rare metals are worth quite a bit of money. Palladium alone sells for nearly $2,500 an ounce.

But what really makes catalytic converters an appealing target is how easy they are to steal. All a burglar has to do is crawl under a vehicle with a reciprocating saw and slice the converter free from the undercarriage. In most cases, they don’t even need to jack up the car first. Plus, catalytic converters don’t carry any sort of identification number, so it’s pretty much impossible to identify them as stolen property.

Can a Car Run Without a Catalytic Converter?

The good news is, your car will run just fine without a catalytic converter. Because it filters exhaust and emissions, it doesn’t really impact your vehicle’s actual driving capabilities. However, due to environmental protection laws, you could face some hefty fines if you’re caught driving a vehicle without one.

How Much Does a Replacement Cost?

According to Advanced Auto Parts, replacement catalytic converters can cost thousands depending on the quality of the converter and your vehicle type. You’ll also have to pay for installation, unless you plan on tackling the complicated process yourself.

Fortunately, comprehensive car insurance should cover theft-related problems. If your car was insured, you’ll likely pay little out of pocket to get a new catalytic converter, depending on your deductible.

How to Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft

The best preventive measure you can take is asking your mechanic to use welding techniques to attach the converter more permanently to your undercarriage.

Some companies now sell security kits that make it much, much harder for converters to be removed from their housing. You can also have the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) engraved onto the catalytic converter to make it easier to trace.

Other methods for theft prevention will help, too. If you can’t park your car in a closed garage, make sure you leave it in a well-lit, highly-visible location.