A catalytic converter is almost like magic—it converts the toxic chemicals that your car would otherwise emit into relatively harmless gasses.
Unfortunately, catalytic converter theft is common, and it can be costly to replace. Depending on what model vehicle you own, and whether or not it's an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) part, a stolen catalytic converter can be sold for $100 or more.
It's part of your vehicle's exhaust system and is located between the engine and the muffler, usually on the passenger side. Thieves can quickly reach under your car, cut off the catalytic converter, and be on their way in less than a minute.
- If your catalytic converter is stolen, you should immediately contact the police, then your insurance provider.
- Your insurance may cover the replacement costs, but you'll still be on the hook for your deductible.
- There are a few preventive steps you can take to keep your catalytic converter from being stolen.
What to Do If You Your Catalytic Converter Was Stolen
If a piece of your car is stolen, you should treat it the same as if your vehicle or any other property was stolen. You should verify that it truly was stolen—sometimes they can fall off. Once verified, you should call the police (without moving your car if at all possible) so that you can get a report to send to your insurance company.
After filing a report with the police, call your insurance company to report the theft to them. Depending on your coverage, they may or may not cover the cost of the repair.
Will Your Car Insurance Cover the Theft?
Car insurance policies cover stolen catalytic converters if you have comprehensive coverage on your car. Comprehensive coverage is a higher level of coverage than what's required by most states.
Your deductible will apply if you have one on your comprehensive coverage. Your deductible is the amount you're responsible for paying for an issue that's covered by your auto insurance. Most people carry at least a $100 deductible, with $500 deductibles becoming more common. To find out what your deductible is, check your insurance declaration page or call your insurance agent.
While the part itself can be only a few hundred dollars to replace, repairing your car could cost upwards of $1,000, depending on the damage left behind by the thief and your vehicle's year, make, and model.
Most car insurance policies will cover an after-market part. To get an OEM catalytic converter, you'll need to have selected OEM coverage on your insurance policy, or you'll have to pay the difference in costs. There is little practical difference between an OEM and an aftermarket part—it just comes down to personal preference and how much you’re willing to spend.
How to Know If Your Catalytic Converter Was Stolen
You shouldn't drive your vehicle without the catalytic converter. Even the most unsuspecting drivers will probably tell something is wrong if the converter is missing. The muffler gets disconnected when a catalytic converter is removed, making your vehicle sound very loud. Toxic fumes will likely be easy to smell without it, too.
You can also check to see if it was stolen by looking underneath your car. Your catalytic converter connects two pieces of piping in your exhaust system. If you see signs of cutting and a gaping space where it seems like there shouldn't be one, your catalytic converter may have been stolen.
It's dangerous to both you and the environment to drive without this part. Take your car to the repair shop or call a towing service immediately if you think your catalytic converter has been stolen.
Tips for Preventing Catalytic Converter Theft
Be aware that catalytic converter thieves prefer vehicles that are raised off the ground. They have easier access with a higher vehicle versus a low-riding car. You may also be vulnerable if you regularly park for long periods at shopping centers, factories, and mass commuter parking lots. Mass commuter parking lots seem to be the most susceptible. Here are a few more tips to prevent a stolen catalytic converter:
- Stick to parking in busy, well-lit areas of any parking lot.
- Engrave your VIN or license plate number into the converter to make it traceable.
- Park in a closed, locked garage.
- Install video surveillance outside your home.
- Get your catalytic converter welded to your vehicle's frame at a muffler shop or install a catalytic converter anti-theft device.
- Install a sensitive alarm on your vehicle.
Having anything stolen is upsetting. Contact the police and file a report if you're a victim of catalytic converter theft. Contact your insurance company immediately as well. Do what you can to help prevent theft. If you are still concerned with future thefts, consider lowering the comprehensive deductible on your car insurance to reduce your out-of-pocket expenses.