Catalytic converter theft increasing; Here’s why it’s stolen

Catalytic Converter Thefts

Credit: Channel 5

It’s becoming a more common shocker as people put their key in the ignition and start up their car and hear a loud roar. Did your exhaust pipe rust out or become disconnected? Probably not, it’s likely you’ve been hit by rampant catalytic converter theft that is increasing across the country. Most people don’t know that stolen catalytic converters are becoming more common as prices of precious metals stay high and catalytic converter recycling keeps paying high scrap values for them.

The scrap yards and recycling centers are really what’s fueling this growing theft ring while they pay top dollar for sawed off catalytic converters. The going rate for a scrapped catalytic converter goes for around $100 – $250 depending the size and what type of vehicle it is from. Thefts are being reported all over the United States by local news stations as thiefs crawl under the cars and cut the car part off in broad daylight and a lot of situations.

Catalytic converters contain three precious metals that are extremely valuable that cause them to get stolen. The expensive precious metals that are often in catalytic converters are platinum, palladium and rhodium. The prices of these rare metals have gone up right along with other more common investing metals like gold and silver bullion.

What is even more interesting is to take a look at search trend behavior using Google trend analysis on keywords like:

  • catalytic converter stolen & catalytic converter
  • catalytic converter recycling & catalytic converter scrap

Catalytic Converter Trends

catalytic converter search key

Match these colors up with the graph lines above

When pairing these trends together you’ll notice the biggest time of catalytic converter theft was in 2008 when the price of the precious metals platinum, palladium and rhodium had a big runup before the stock market collapse and recession of 2008. You can see how all these thefts align with private metal prices going up in 2008 and again the private metals runup in 2011. In addition to that trend in 2011 the trends have been picking up quite a bit with a current spike in December 2011 for catalytic converter thefts aligning right with a big rise in people searching for catalytic converter scrap and recycling.

Platinum Prices With Catalytic Converter Thefts

If you’re curious about the hotspots in the country where catalytic converter theft is rampant and out of control you can look at this regional map which shows that Arizona, California, Ohio, Illinois, Georgia and Texas are the ones getting the most searches on the specific keyword. Most of the states where the theft is the highest like California, Nevada and Texas emissions smog tests are very stringent and check frequently whether people have catalytic converters installed and working.

Catalytic Converter Theft Search Volume By State

What do all these trends going together tell you? What they seem to tell us is that if there were more stringent regulations on catalytic converter recycling, metal recycling and scrap values people wouldn’t be stealing these easy targets that are sitting in easy places on cars waiting to be sawed off.

Prime locations for stealing catalytic converters are:

Corporate parking lots with lots of cars sitting for the entire day, shopping mall parking lots and places where people may commute whether on a train, bus or airplane. If your car is sitting for long periods you are susceptible to getting your catalytic converter stolen. SUVs, Trucks and vehicles that sit up high are typically the easiest to get to the catalytic converter. Police have mentioned that common cars for catalytic converter thefts are Chevrolet Cavaliers, Pontiac Grand Ams and Pontiac Sunfires.

Nationwide Insurance offers some smart steps for preventing catalytic converter theft:

Preventing catalytic converter theft on your vehicle is a matter of common sense and some research.

  1. Always park in well-lighted areas.
  2. At shopping centers and other similar parking lots, park close the entrance of the building, or near the access road where there’s a lot of traffic.
  3. If you own or work at a business or factory, park within a fenced area that’s busy during the day and secured at night.
  4. Engrave your license plate number on the converter to make it traceable. This can act as a catalytic converter theft deterrent and help with local police investigations.
  5. Purchase a vehicle security system, and make sure its set to triggered with just the slightest motion.
  6. Visit a local muffler shop and have the converter secured to the vehicle’s frame with a couple of pieces of hardened steel welded to the frame.
  7. Check out the different types of catalytic converter theft deterrent systems at your local auto parts store or on the Internet.

In an article revealing a theft ring in the Chicago metro area the three authors also mention a common setup of how thieves setup to throw people off when they’re in the act. The article is titled Catalytic Converter thefts on the rise and states, “Many potential witnesses are deceived by the thieves because they use a ruse to fool citizens into thinking that they have a stalled vehicle with the hood up, parked next to the target vehicle. Meanwhile the offender is under the target vehicle cutting the converter.” The information was provided in an interview of a burglary team tactical officer named Jim Cornelison. Mr. Cornelison says he has certainly seen an increasing rate in theft of catalytic converters.

Products available to prevent catalytic converter theft:

There is a product that is manufactured that you can install on your car to prevent catalytic converter stealing on just about any vehicle. The product is called the Catlock 2.0 made by Monat Technologies. You can purchase the product at Amazon and have it shipped and install it in 10 minutes with no special tools. The description of their product says, Catalytic Converter Theft Prevention“The most effective way to prevent converter theft is not to ‘park in a well lit area’, to ‘beware of your surroundings’ or to ‘etch your VIN # into you cat’ like news articles will recommend. The #1 way to protect your converter is purchasing and installing a converter lock, like the industry-leading Catlock from Monat Technologies. The Catlock has been protecting converters since 2008 and is sold across the U.S. and U.K. It is as effective as more expensive, similar devices on the market and is simpler and takes less time to install. The Catlock and the newest model, The Catlock 2.0 which boasts 100% Grade 8 hardware and 2 aircraft quality steel cables both have a money-back guarantee. If your converter is stolen while being protected by a Catlock we will refund you the purchase price of your Catlock or Catlock 2.0. So what are you waiting for? If you have a truck, van or SUV purchase a Catlock 2.0 today and sleep well tonight knowing your converter is safely beneath your vehicle and not in the hands of thieves.”

Here are some recent videos about catalytic converter thefts around the country:

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