How to Prevent Subaru Outback Catalytic Converter Theft

Protect your Subaru Outback from catalytic converter theft by parking in a secure area, installing an anti-theft device, or tagging your cat with the VIN.
Written by John Davis
Reviewed by Jaya Anandjit
background
With catalytic converter theft growing more prevalent year by year, it's never been more important to take steps to protect your vehicle. Some of the most effective methods for deterring thieves include parking in a secure location, installing an anti-theft device, and tagging your cat with your car's VIN.
Although the Subaru Outback is not one of
the cars most targeted by catalytic converter thieves
, it's still essential that you understand the risks and take adequate steps to prevent yourself from falling victim to the crime. 
If you're unsure where to start—or your cat has been stolen already, and you're looking for the next steps—we're here to help. We'll cover everything you need to know about preventing Subaru Outback catalytic converter theft, what to do if your cat is stolen, and what kind of
car insurance
you need to protect yourself from this crime. 
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Is it easy to steal the catalytic converter from a Subaru Outback?

While catalytic converter theft is a growing problem, there is good news: the Subaru Outback is not the easiest or the most attractive target for thieves. That is mainly due to the fact that the Outback sits relatively close to the ground compared to more attractive targets, like pickup trucks and larger SUVs
Thieves commonly target vehicles with a high ground clearance, which makes it easier to slide underneath and saw off the cat. Pickup trucks, like the
Toyota Tundra
,
Toyota Tacoma
, and
Chevy Silverado
, are some of the most accessible vehicles for catalytic converter theft. Large SUVs, like the
Toyota Sequoia
and the
Toyota 4Runner
, also routinely fall victim to this crime. 
However, never underestimate the ability of a skilled cat thief. These opportunists target even small cars, and an able crew can jack your car up and remove the catalytic converter in a matter of minutes. The
Toyota Prius
is a small vehicle commonly targeted by thieves for its valuable converter. 
Your Subaru Outback has two catalytic converters—one is located close to the exhaust manifold behind the engine, and the other is underneath the car in line with the exhaust pipe. While the first one is less likely to be stolen due to its location, a determined thief could quickly jack up your vehicle and remove the second one.

Top Subaru Outback years that catalytic converter thieves target

Although the Subaru Outback isn't a particularly attractive or easy target for cat thieves, theft does occur. In fact, according to
CARFAX
, the 2007–2020 model Subaru Outbacks are common marks for cat thieves in western states like
Colorado
and in northeastern states like
Maine
Those statistics could be explained by the increased number of Subaru drivers in those areas due to harsh weather. However, the fact remains that—despite not being one of the most popular targets for catalytic converter theft overall—your Outback is not immune to theft. And you should take steps to prevent this crime whenever possible.

Why are Subaru Outback catalytic converters stolen?

Catalytic converters are popular and easy targets for thieves for a couple of reasons. The first reason has to do with the way cats are built—the internal, honeycomb-shaped catalyst is composed of highly-expensive precious metals like rhodium, platinum, and palladium. While those metals have always been costly, their value has recently skyrocketed, driving the wave of catalytic converter theft. 
Here are the prices of these materials as of March 2022:
  • Platinum: $1,128 per ounce 
  • Palladium: $2,938 per ounce 
  • Rhodium: $20,000 per ounce 
Of course, a catalytic converter contains less than one ounce of each metal. However, those high prices are only the first reason why catalytic converter theft is on the rise—the second half of the puzzle is the ease with which thieves can steal cats. Most catalytic converter thieves operate in crews, and it only takes a minute or two to crawl under the car and cut off the part with a battery-powered saw. 
Because most catalytic converters are located beneath the vehicle, small cars that sit closer to the ground are less likely to be targeted. But that's not always the case, and many thieves use jacks to make quick work of this job. 

Subaru Outback catalytic converter replacement cost

The price to replace the catalytic converters on your Subaru Outback will vary depending on your location and the car's age. However, if the worst happens and you need to replace both your cats, you can expect the cost to range from around $650 to upwards of $5,000
You can lower your costs by purchasing an aftermarket part, as opposed to an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) piece. However, the fact remains that catalytic converters are extremely expensive, and replacements can involve high labor costs. 
MORE: How to protect your car key fob from theft or damage

How to prevent catalytic converter theft from a Subaru Outback

Because catalytic converters are so expensive to replace, it's critical that you take steps to protect yourself from theft. Let's look at some of the most effective ways to keep yourself from falling victim to this crime.

Park in a secure area

The most effective way to protect your Subaru from thieves is to deny them access to your car entirely. That means parking in a secure location, like a locked garage. If you're unable to park in a garage, a well-lit driveway or parking lot with motion-activated lights or cameras is also a great way to deter criminals. 
MORE: How to tell if a parking garage is liable for a stolen or damaged vehicle

Buy a catalytic converter shield

Another effective way to prevent cat theft is installing an
anti-theft device
on your Outback. These tools are pretty basic: a metal cage or shield that covers and secures your catalytic converter. 
Popular anti-theft devices include
CatStrap
and
CatClamp
. You can purchase comparable tools from sites like Amazon or even your local auto parts store. The Subaru dealership or an independent exhaust repair shop can likely install your device or even fabricate a custom tool for your car.
That said, catalytic converter anti-theft devices are designed to be easy to install. If you're a do-it-yourselfer, you can save cash by installing your own anti-theft device. 
Finally, anti-theft devices are popular for more than just their ability to deter thieves. If you install one on your Subaru, your insurance company may provide a discount just for having one on your car!

Put your VIN on your catalytic converter 

Tagging your cat with your Outback's VIN might not stop a thief from stealing it, but it will make it easier to track and harder to sell to a scrapyard. 
The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) holds routine catalytic converter etching events. This is an excellent way to get your cat tagged if you can find one near your location. Alternatively, you can visit your dealership or a muffler shop and ask the mechanics to put your VIN on your cat. 

Invest in comprehensive insurance

One final way to protect yourself from catalytic converter theft is to purchase a quality insurance plan that includes
comprehensive coverage
. This won't make your Outback a less attractive target for thieves, but it will help protect your wallet if your cat is stolen.
If your Subaru's catalytic converter is stolen and you don't have comprehensive insurance, you'll be unable to submit a claim, and you'll likely have to cover the repair costs on your own.

What to do if your Subaru Outback's catalytic converter is stolen

If your Subaru Outback's catalytic converter is stolen, your first step should be to call the police and file a report detailing the crime. Next, check with the local authorities to find out if there is video surveillance in the area your cat was stolen—you might be able to secure footage of the thieves.
The next step is to document the theft with pictures and videos. You'll need this evidence to file a claim with your insurance company, which should be your next move. As long as you have comprehensive insurance, you should have no issues filing a claim for catalytic converter theft.
Your insurance company will help you move forward by locating a technician and scheduling the repair
Remember, even if you don't have comprehensive insurance, you'll still need to replace the cat on your Outback. If you're covering the costs yourself, consider hiring a mechanic willing to install an aftermarket part to save some cash. 

Can you drive a Subaru Outback without a catalytic converter?

Yes, you can physically drive your Subaru Outback without a catalytic converter, but you will not be able to pass an emissions test. 
Additionally, it is illegal in all 50 U.S. states to drive without a catalytic converter—even those states without emissions laws. That means if your cat is stolen, you need to prioritize replacing it as soon as possible. 
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