What BMW Owners Need to Know About Catalytic Converter Theft

The catalytic converter on a BMW is hidden near the engine, making it more difficult for thieves to steal. Read more here!
Written by Brittni Brinn
Reviewed by Hillary Kobayashi
The catalytic converters on most BMWs are hidden near the engine, making them harder to access. Although this provides some security against catalytic converter theft, you can also cut down on the risk of your cat getting stolen by parking facing the wall or installing anti-theft devices.
If you’re driving a BMW, you can breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to your
catalytic converter
. Most Bimmer models have their cat neatly tucked away in the engine compartment, which makes it more difficult to remove. However, there is still a chance your cat could be stolen.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide to your BMW’s catalytic converter, complete with tips on how to keep your BMW protected against theft.
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Why are BMW catalytic converters being stolen?

Over the past few years, the rate of catalytic converter thefts across America has exploded. A lot of it has to do with the high-value metals a catalytic converter uses to convert toxic gasses in a car’s exhaust to harmless compounds. Luckily, BMWs are not likely to have their cats lifted—although some models are more at risk than others.
There’s one type of BMW that is a more attractive target for catalytic converter thieves: Hybrids. From the
3 Series
to the
, BMW has plenty of hybrid models to choose from. Hybrid catalytic converters contain more precious metal matter than their combustion counterparts—for some thieves, that payoff makes the extra work worth it.

What is a catalytic converter?

The cat is part of your car’s emission system—when the exhaust from your engine passes through the catalytic converter, it changes the toxic components into safe gasses that can be released into the atmosphere. Regardless of your vehicle’s brand, catalytic converters are required by law in most states. 
The catalytic converter has a metal honeycomb-like filter inside of it that is coated with palladium, platinum, rhodium, and other rare metals. The pandemic caused a spike in the value of these materials, making them an attractive source of income for thieves. A stolen catalytic converter can sell for up to $2,000
In other vehicles, catalytic converters are usually accessible from underneath the car. A thief can easily slide underneath a truck or SUV, cut out the cat, and run off before anyone notices! For a BMW, removing the cat from beside the engine is a lot more work—but it can still be stolen.
If there’s
a lot of exhaust noise
or you notice black smoke or strong smells coming from your BMW’s tailpipe, it could mean that your catalytic converter was lifted while you were away from your vehicle. 

The BMW models most targeted by catalytic converter thieves

Although BMWs aren’t going to make the
cars most targeted by catalytic converter thieves
list, you may still have to deal with your BMW’s catalytic converter going missing during a trip to the supermarket.
To give you an idea of which vehicles are most at risk, here are the top five vehicles targeted by catalytic converter thieves:
The only risky element for BMWs is that the hybrid models may be at a slightly higher risk. But because the catalytic converter is tucked safely by your BMW’s engine, it has a little more added protection. European manufacturers, like
also design their vehicles this way.

BMW catalytic converter replacement costs

Unfortunately, catalytic converter theft can still happen, even if you drive a BMW. And, unfortunately, they are not cheap to replace. Here are the average replacement costs for current BMW models: 
Average cost to replace catalytic converter
$2,109 – $2,261
$2,877 – $3,090
BMW Series 7
$1,945 – $2,050
$1,945 – $2,057
$1,913 – $2,003
$2,122 – $2,242
BMW 4 Series
$3,466 – $3,581
BMW 2 Series
$2,741 – $2,809
$1,818 – $1,913
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If you have
OEM coverage
, you may get some relief from the full cost of a BMW catalytic converter, but if you don’t, you can shave some money off your repair bill by going with an aftermarket part. Any way you slice it, replacing a cat is an expensive business.

How to protect your BMW catalytic converter from theft

Thankfully, there are some easy and relatively inexpensive ways to protect your catalytic converter. For example, since your BMW’s cat is located near the engine, you can park your car facing a wall to make accessing the cat even more difficult.
Here are some other ways to keep your BMW safe from catalytic converter bandits: 
  • Park in a well-lit and secure area. If you can swing it,
    a locked garage
    is going to be the safest place to park your BMW. However, parking in a well-lit area with lots of people around is a surefire way to deter thieves. And if you park in an area with a surveillance camera, even better!
  • Invest in anti-theft devices. Cat shields and locks are easy to find these days and aren’t that expensive. These cages or plates can add an extra layer of protection around your cat. Whether you go with professional installation or a DIY job, make sure the device you purchase is compatible with your BMW.
  • Tag the cat with your
    . Etching your BMW vehicle identification number on your cat can go a long way in deterring thieves and increases the chances of your catalytic converter being recovered. 
  • Spray paint the cat. Using high-heat paint to mark your catalytic converter is another way to make your cat more recognizable—which is useful when it comes to deterring thieves and tracking down the part if it is stolen. 
  • Install a camera or security system. A motion light over your driveway or alley can make a huge difference in making your parking space a safe one. And with a camera in place, you’ll have evidence in case your catalytic converter is stolen.
  • Carry
    comprehensive car insurance
    . This one won’t prevent theft, but it will make replacing a missing cat less of a financial burden. In the case of theft, you’ll be able to
    file a claim
    with your insurance company. 
There’s another element that helps your BMW avoid cat theft: camouflage. Some thieves who are not familiar with BMWs may confuse the resonator with the cat since they look similar and the resonator is located underneath the vehicle.

What to do if you see someone stealing a BMW catalytic converter

If you see someone stealing a catalytic converter, contact the police right away. Even if the targeted car isn’t yours, a police report will increase the chances of the part being recovered and will be essential documentation for filing a comprehensive insurance claim. 
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On average, you’ll have to pay between $1,800 and $3,600 to replace a BMW’s catalytic converter. The exact cost will depend on your vehicle model and if you decide to go with an original part or an aftermarket option.
If you have comprehensive car insurance, then yes! Otherwise, you’ll have to pay for the replacement out of your own pocket.
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