Electric vehicles and car models produced before 1975 are generally the only cars that do not have a catalytic converter.
It’s probably happened to an acquaintance of yours by now. If not, you’ve seen it on the news. Someone returns to their car, starts it up, and notices it’s suddenly very loud—plus, the check engine light is on. Their catalytic converter was stolen.
Frustratingly, this car part earns thieves a pretty penny at the scrap yard. But many people don’t know what a catalytic converter actually does or which cars are (and are not) at risk of having the catalytic converter stolen.
Look no further—we have answers. Here are the cars that are more susceptible to catalytic converter theft and those that don’t have catalytic converters at all.
What is a catalytic converter?
The purpose of the catalytic converter is to “convert” toxic pollutants like hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrous oxide into less toxic chemicals like carbon dioxide and water. By doing so, it lessens the damaging impact of a car’s exhaust emissions as it burns fuel.
The catalytic converter is typically located between the engine and the muffler. As the car burns fuel in the engine, harmful gasses move through the catalytic converter to become less harmful, before emitting out the exhaust pipe. Cars with a single exhaust pipe tend to have one catalytic converter, while dual exhaust vehicles tend to have two.
So, why do people steal catalytic converters, anyway? They’re filled with valuable metals. Certain converters use platinum, rhodium, and palladium to catalyze chemical reactions. Each of these metals can be extremely lucrative in the scrap yard. In fact, one standard catalytic converter can earn up to $300, while a hybrid catalytic converter can get as much as $1,400.
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Which cars don’t have catalytic converters?
Catalytic converters are a result of regulations from the Clean Air Act and efforts from the EPA to reduce carbon emissions. Most gas-powered vehicles produced since 1975 are therefore equipped with catalytic converters in their exhaust system. But models manufactured prior to 1975 may not have them.
Electric cars also don’t have catalytic converters. Though hybrid vehicles still need the converter to filter out fumes when using fuel, electric cars don’t use fuel, so they have no need to filter out toxic emissions.
To completely avoid the stress of catalytic converter theft, you may therefore want to consider an electric alternative. Depending on what you’re looking for, here are a few popular converter-less EV options you may be interested in:
Bottom Line Almost every car with an internal combustion engine is going to have a catalytic converter. So unless your car is electric or produced before 1975—you’ll want to be wary of catalytic converter thieves.
Which cars are less likely to have catalytic converters stolen?
You don’t have to go electric to lower your catalytic converter theft risk. Some brands have adapted to rising crime rates by placing catalytic converters inside the engine compartment, making them more difficult to steal.
Hondaare just a few brands that have made these adjustments.
At the end of the day,
cars most targeted by converter thieveshave two things in common: easy access and more valuable metals. SUVs and pickups are at higher risk because of this—their higher ground clearance makes it that much easier for a jack and angle grinder to make quick work of detaching your converter.
Toyota Priushas been a common victim as well, thanks to its hybrid converter’s higher concentration of palladium. Hybrids and luxury cars tend to have more valuable car parts, and the catalytic converter is no exception here.
How to protect your car against catalytic converter theft
Let’s say you have a
Toyota Tacoma. Not only is your pickup’s catalytic converter easier to access, but its larger size also contains more precious metals. What now?
Fortunately, you don’t have to hide your Tacoma in a locked garage for the rest of its life. Here are some effective safety precautions you can take to ease your mind:
- Park smart—Your catalytic converter’s safety increases significantly if you park in well-lit areas, ideally with security cameras. Motion-sensing lights and home security systems can also help dissuade thieves around your home if you park outside.
- Install anti-theft devices—You can usually buy an aftermarket anti-theft device geared toward catalytic converter theft prevention for your model. These often appear as metal shields, cages, or plating that bolts over the converter into the frame. They cost around $350 to install professionally.
- Mark your part—Etching your license plate number into your converter makes it easier for law enforcement to identify your car’s part, which can turn away potential thieves. You can get this done at many repair shops and dealers, sometimes even for free!
- Purchase comprehensive coverage—If all else fails,comprehensive car insurancecan pay for a stolen catalytic converter replacement (minus your deductible). Since this can cost between $1,000 and $3,000, it’s a much softer blow if you know your insurance company can at least cover some of it.
Pro Tip Converter thieves tend to have specific models and model years they target. If you find that your vehicle is at higher risk, definitely look into arming yourself with better insurance and better safety tech.
The bottom line
Catalytic converter theft is no victimless crime. Replacements often cost more than the part itself, and that’s not factoring in the
expenses of towing your car(not to mention, the stress). Ease your mind by taking proper precautions and investing in appropriate insurance coverage.
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What cars most often have catalytic converters stolen?
SUVs, pickups, and hybrid cars tend to fall victim to catalytic converter theft more frequently thanks to easily accessible converters and/or more palladium, platinum, and rhodium inside the converter.
That said, catalytic converter thieves often look for specific models and years that contain higher amounts of valuable metals—1985-2021 Ford F-series, 1989-2020 Honda Accords, and 2007-2017 Jeep Patriots are amongst the most commonly targeted.
Why do people steal catalytic converters?
Catalytic converters are frequently stolen because they contain valuable metals that sell for as much as $1,000 in scrap yards. Palladium, platinum, and rhodium are the most commonly coveted materials, which are used to catalyze chemical reactions in the exhaust pipe.