How to Prevent Nissan Altima Catalytic Converter Theft

Parking in a well-lit area is just one way to prevent catalytic converter theft. Get several more tips here.
Written by Christelle Agustin
Reviewed by Jessa Claeys
background
Older Nissan Altimas are top targets for catalytic converter thieves. To prevent your catalytic converter from being stolen, park in a well-surveilled area, buy a cat shield, and get your VIN etched onto your converter. 
The pricey payout for a stolen catalytic converter is irresistibly tempting to many thieves. And unfortunately, Nissan Altimas are common prey. If you’re worried about being the next target, take preventative measures. 
Here, we’ll go over how easy it is to steal Nissan Altima catalytic converters, how to prevent theft, what to do if yours gets stolen, and which type of
car insurance
will cover it.
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Is it easy to steal the catalytic converter from a Nissan Altima?

The ease with which a Nissan Altima catalytic converter (aka cat) can be stolen depends on the model year.
If you have an Altima from 1993 to 2001, the catalytic converter is exposed and visible, right underneath the vehicle. That’s an easy steal to experienced thieves, taking just a few seconds to a couple of minutes to saw off.
If you have a newer Altima from 2002 to 2023, breathe a sigh of relief because the catalytic converter is safe and sound under the hood. Popping the hood open isn’t all it takes to steal the cat, either. The thief would have to loosen several bolts and remove the alternator just to lift the heat shield off. 
Fortunately, most cat thieves prefer pickup trucks and SUVs thanks to their high ground clearance. Thieves will have to exert more effort to crawl underneath the 4 to 5 inches of ground clearance the Altima hardly provides.

Top Nissan Altima years that catalytic converter thieves target

The catalytic converters that are easiest to steal can be found on first- and second-gen Nissan Altimas. If you have an Altima from ‘93 to 2001, you’ll need to take extra precautions because your catalytic converter can easily be spotted in the undercarriage. 
No need to fret, though—there are several ways to discourage thieves that we’ll go over in just a moment!

Why are Nissan Altima catalytic converters stolen?

Removing catalytic converters from cars isn’t just a mischievous prank on drivers—it’s a lucrative way to make good cash.
Catalytic converters transform harmful emissions like carbon monoxide into more breathable elements like water and carbon dioxide. This process is made possible by a filter made from platinum, rhodium, and palladium. Alone, these metals are already valuable, but together, the pot is that much sweeter.
As of December 2022, the metals found in your Nissan Altima’s catalytic converter are worth:
  • Platinum: $1,023 per ounce
  • Rhodium: $12,400 per ounce
  • Palladium: $1,791 per ounce
While catalytic converters typically carry less than an ounce of each metal, they’re still enough to have an appeal.

Nissan catalytic converter replacement cost

According to
RepairPal
, Nissan Altima catalytic converters cost an estimated $1,998 to $2,045 to replace. However, you can find aftermarket
Nissan
cats for anywhere from $186 to nearly $400. Just remember that any issues that arise from installing an aftermarket part will void your Altima’s warranty!

How to prevent catalytic converter theft from a Nissan Altima

Stealing a catalytic converter is sneaky business, so we’ve got some tips that can help prevent prying hands from taking your Altima’s cat.

Park in a secure area

Lights, camera, action. Literally.
Parking your car in a well-lit area with surveillance cameras and people around is the best deterrent. Surrounding your vehicle with as many eyes as possible, whether that’s from passing strangers or the little eye of a camera, will help cast unwanted attention on a potential thief.
If you’re in a residential area, your best bet is either a garage, a driveway with motion-activated lights and security cameras, or curb parking by a street lamp.

Buy a catalytic converter shield

A catalytic converter shield is a great way to spoil a cat-theft mission. Some companies like
Toyota
make their own cat shields that are bolted over catalytic converters. While Nissan isn’t one of those companies, there are universal catalytic converter security kits that will surround your cat with wires. It may be a flimsier alternative, but it can hinder thieves from doing their dirty work.

Put your VIN on the catalytic converter

Having a
Nissan VIN
that can be traced back to you will make it more difficult for a thief to sell your catalytic converter—and you may even get it back. You can do VIN etching yourself with an affordable $30 metal engraver. 
If you prefer a professional touch, contact your local auto shops and ask if they provide VIN etching services. You’ll be surprised to know that some of them do it for free!

Invest in comprehensive insurance

Look out for your future self and invest in
comprehensive insurance
. When you upgrade to this coverage, damage from severe weather events, vandalism, and—most importantly—theft will be paid for by your provider. You won’t have to worry about the weighty cost of a catalytic converter when insurance has your back. 

What to do if your Nissan Altima’s catalytic converter is stolen 

First, contact the police. Filing a police report will get the theft on file and keep others alert. In addition, the police will have the resources to ask witnesses and pull security footage from businesses, homes, and other areas to track down the person responsible for stealing your catalytic converter.
Next, if you have comprehensive coverage, you can file an insurance claim. On top of providing information about the theft (i.e., your location, time of the theft, the severity of the damage, etc.), you can provide the police report to strengthen your claim. 
In addition, be sure to go over the
checklist for filing a car insurance claim report
to expedite the claims process!
Once your claim has been approved, you can schedule an appointment at the auto shop. However, before your insurance kicks in, you’ll have to pay a deductible. The price you pay should only be a fraction of the entire cat replacement—your provider will cover the rest.
What if you don’t have comprehensive coverage? We hate to break it to you, but without comprehensive insurance, you’ll have to pay for a replacement catalytic converter out of pocket. At least this incident is a good reminder for you to upgrade to a
full-coverage insurance
policy so that you won’t have to sweat over future mishaps.
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Can you drive a Nissan Altima without a catalytic converter?

Catalytic converters haven’t always been around. Widespread use in cars began in the mid-1970s. While your Nissan Altima likely came equipped with a cat, it is possible to drive your vehicle without one—but it’s not advised
With today’s better environmental practices (and a worsening climate), the catalytic converter helps to convert toxic gases into elements like water and carbon dioxide. On top of that, driving without a catalytic converter is illegal in some states—particularly those that require you to pass emissions testing.
We know catalytic converters cost a lot, but it certainly prevents you from breathing in harmful emissions. Plus, it allows you to keep driving legally and to pass emissions testing when it comes time to renew your vehicle registration again.
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