What to Do If Your Catalytic Converter Was Stolen

Catalytic Converter
••• Clive Streeter/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

A catalytic converter is almost like magic – it converts the toxic chemicals your car would otherwise emit into relatively harmless gasses. 

Unfortunately, catalytic converters are a popular target of thieves – and they can be costly to replace. Depending on what model vehicle you own and whether or not it's an OEM part, a stolen catalytic converter can be sold from $50 to $200. It is 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 vehicle and cut off the catalytic converter and be on their way in less than a minute.

How to Know If Your Catalytic Converter Was Stolen

First thing you should now, your vehicle should not be driven without the catalytic converter. Even the most unsuspecting driver will probably be able to tell right away something is wrong with their vehicle if the converter is missing. The muffler gets disconnected when a catalytic converter is taken, which will make your vehicle sound very loud. Toxic fumes will likely be easy to smell without it, too. 

It is dangerous to both you and the environment to drive without this part. Take your car to the repair shop if you think your catalytic converter has been stolen, or better yet, call a towing service like AAA so that you don’t pollute more in the process.

Will Your Car Insurance Cover the Theft?

Stolen catalytic converters are covered by car insurance policies if you have comprehensive coverage on your car. Your deductible will apply if you have one on your comprehensive coverage. Most people carry a minimum of $100 deductible, with $500 deductibles becoming more and 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. In order to get an OEM catalytic converter, you will need to have selected OEM coverage on your insurance policy or pay the difference in cost out-of-pocket. There is little practical difference between an OEM and after-market price – it just comes down to personal preference and how much you’re willing to spend. 

Tips for preventing catalytic converter theft

Be aware catalytic converter thieves prefer vehicles which are raised off the ground. They have easier access versus a low riding car. You are also a thieve's dream vehicle if you regularly park for long periods of time at shopping centers, factories, and mass commuter parking lots. Mass commuter parking lots seem to be the most susceptible. 

  • 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
  • Get your catalytic converter welded to your vehicle's frame at a muffler shop
  • Install a sensitive alarm on your vehicle

Getting anything stolen from you is upsetting. Definitely, contact the police if you are a victim of catalytic converter theft. Do what you can to help prevent theft. If you are still concerned with future thefts, consider lowering your comprehensive deductible on your car insurance to reduce your out-of-pocket expense.