What Volvo Owners Need To Know About Catalytic Converter Theft

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The secure location of the catalytic converter on most modern Volvos makes it almost impossible to steal. And they may become a total non-target of thieves altogether as Volvo transitions to becoming a fully-electric automaker.
Over the past couple of years, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has been reporting alarming statistics about the exponential rise of catalytic converter theft. If your catalytic converter is stolen, you could have expensive
car repairs
to deal with, especially if the theft isn’t covered by your
car insurance
. Luckily, Volvo owners don’t have much to worry about! Allow us to explain.

Why are Volvo catalytic converters being stolen?

Newsflash—they’re not! Volvo catalytic converters are stolen at a much lower rate than some other automotive brands for two reasons:
  • Location of catalytic converter: Most modern Volvos have their catalytic converter near the engine bay, rather than on the underside of the vehicle (like many other car models). The location is technically for functional reasons—catalytic converters perform better further up the exhaust system due to higher temperatures. But this location also makes the catalytic converter nearly impossible for thieves to access. 
  • Volvo’s electric future: Since electric vehicles are zero-emissions, there’s no need for a catalytic converter. Volvo currently has two electric vehicles, the C40 and EX90. But they have plans to be a fully-electric automaker by 2030, at while point they’ll become a complete non-target for catalytic converter thieves.
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What is a catalytic converter?

The catalytic converter is part of the exhaust system and is responsible for reducing harmful emissions that your engine produces. But why the heck do thieves want it?
The inside of a catalytic converter is coated in a mixture of precious metals, including platinum, palladium, and rhodium. When exhaust gas from the engine enters the catalytic converter, it undergoes a chemical reaction after exposure to the precious metals. As a result, the reaction causes the exhaust gas to become much less toxic before being released out of the tailpipe.
But this still doesn’t answer the question of why thieves want it. Well, as of January 2023, the precious metals contained inside the catalytic converter were trading at historically high levels—see the prices below as of early 2023:
  • Rhodium: $12,400 per ounce (0.035 – 0.071 ounces in a cat)
  • Palladium: $1,620 per ounce (0.071 – 0.247 ounces in a cat)
  • Platinum: $1,015 per ounce (0.106 – 0.247 ounces in a cat)
The thieves then sell the catalytic converter to a scrap metal dealer or recycling center to extract the precious metals for a profit.

The Volvo models most targeted by catalytic converter thieves

There is a chance that older Volvo models have an underbody catalytic converter. But, any Volvo you buy from the dealership today is designed with a catalytic converter secured in the engine bay, so they’re rarely a target of thieves.
However, any Volvo hybrid or PHEV may be targeted at a slightly higher rate. That’s because their catalytic converters contain higher concentrations of precious metals, helping them meet stricter emissions standards. That said, Volvo hybrids also have their catalytic converter in the engine bay—just like the gas models. Thieves would rather just target a
Toyota Prius
, which is a hybrid and has an easily accessible underbody catalytic converter.
And, of course, Volvo electric vehicles won’t be targeted at all since they don’t have catalytic converters. For the time being, this is just the Volvo C40 and Volvo EX90, but Volvo expects 50% of global sales to be EVs by 2025 and 100% by 2030.

Volvo catalytic converter replacement costs

If somehow a thief somehow manages to steal your Volvo catalytic converter, here is how much RepairPal claims it will cost to replace (prices reflect gas models, will vary for hybrids):
Average cost to replace catalytic converter
N/A (est. close to XC60 or XC90)
$2,157 – $2,257
$2,153 – $2,225
$1,966 – $2,077
$1,586 – $1,664
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How to protect your Volvo catalytic converter from theft

Considering the natural protection your Volvo’s engine bay provides for the catalytic converter, buying an anti-theft device is probably unnecessary. But if you still want another degree of protection, here are some simple ways to make your Volvo less of a target than it already is:
  • Park in a secure or well-lit area. Many states have updated legislation to increase the penalties for catalytic converter theft—so it’s not in the thief’s best interest to get caught. As a result, it’s doubtful that your Volvo will be targeted if it’s
    parked in a locked garage
    or a well-lit public area.
  • Etch your VIN into the catalytic converter. Scrap metal dealers and recycling centers will refuse to purchase a catalytic converter with an etched VIN. This indicates that the catalytic converter is stolen, and they don’t want that liability!
  • Buy a camera or security system. A motion-activated light can sometimes be enough to deter thieves. And if worst comes to worst, a camera system could help you recover a stolen catalytic converter. 
  • Purchase comprehensive car insurance. A thief has no idea what type of insurance coverage your Volvo has—so this doesn’t directly deter them. But, you will be able to file a claim with your insurance company through your comprehensive coverage to help reimburse you for replacement costs (minus any deductibles).

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

If you catch a thief in the act of stealing a Volo catalytic converter (or after the deed is already done), you’ll want to contact the authorities immediately.
Whether it’s your vehicle or another driver’s, a police report can raise the chances of recovering the part. It will also provide helpful information for a comprehensive insurance claim.
MORE: How to file an insurance claim with no police report
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Depending on the model, the estimated cost to replace a Volvo catalytic converter is between $1,500 and $2,500. Of course, this can also vary dramatically based on local labor rates and whether or not you use aftermarket parts.
Only if you have
comprehensive coverage
! This optional coverage protects your vehicle from damage that doesn’t involve a collision with another car. Examples can include falling objects, inclement weather, hitting an animal, and even theft (whether it be the whole car or just a part of it).
Reviewed by Amy Bobinger.
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