A new report based on insurance claims data released by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), the nation’s premier non-profit organization dedicated to identifying, preventing, and deterring insurance fraud and crime, shows a surge in catalytic converter thefts across the country. In total, the nation experienced more than 64,000 catalytic converter thefts in 2022. Leading the country are California and Texas, which experienced more than 32,000 catalytic converter thefts last year.
“This new data is just a snapshot of an underreported crime that affects communities across the nation,” said David J. Glawe, President and CEO of NICB. “While a catalytic converter can be removed in just a few minutes, for vehicle owners, the cost is much more than the replacement parts. Victims must find alternate transportation, schedule necessary repairs, and may face loss of work as a result.”
Based on insurance claims, thefts of catalytic converters increased significantly from 2020 through 2022. Insurance claims for these thefts increased from 16,660 claims in 2020 to 64,701 in 2022. Catalytic converter theft claims had an upward trend trajectory throughout 2020 and 2021 and theft claims in 2022 were significantly higher than in previous years. Mandated in the U.S. since 1975, catalytic converters neutralize harmful gases in engine exhaust that contribute to air pollution and smog and are bolted to the underside of cars or trucks as part of their exhaust system. Catalytic converters contain platinum, rhodium, and palladium, rare earth metals that are more valuable than gold. Often metal recyclers pay between $50 to $250 for a catalytic converter and up to $800 for one removed from a hybrid vehicle. Replacing catalytic converters is not cheap. It can cost between $1,000 and $3,500 or more to replace a catalytic converter that is stolen, depending on the type of vehicle.
“In addition to law enforcement actions and possible legislative solutions to prevent catalytic converter thefts, vehicle owners can also take important steps to keep their property safe,” Glawe said. “The first is to park in well-lit areas or in a garage monitored by cameras. Vehicle owners can also consider installing a catalytic converter anti-theft device, which can make removing a converter extremely difficult and time-consuming. Finally, owners can etch their unique Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) on catalytic converters, which can make it easier to track if it is stolen.”
Legislative efforts are also underway to address the rising number of catalytic converter thefts. New bills and amendments are being introduced to increase requirements of catalytic converters sellers, impose due diligence obligations on metal recycling entities, and establish penalties for unauthorized sellers and buyers engaging in fraudulent practices related to catalytic converter purchases. In 2022, NICB’s Office of Strategy, Policy, and Government Affairs tracked 163 legislative bills across 37 states, with 31 bills enacted. So far in 2023, 94 bills are being tracked across 39 states, with 12 bills already enacted.