Skip to main content

Catalytic converter theft has been on the rise over the past year and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon. Thieves are targeting trucks, SUVs, and more specifically the Toyota Prius as their main targets. The precious metals inside these emission-control devices are the primary reason that thieves steal them since the converters can be sold for a lot of money.

Considering a car’s catalytic converter is an easy target and can be stolen within minutes, many owners are left wondering what to do. In order to minimize some of the risks, here are five ways to prevent thieves from stealing your car’s catalytic converter.

Find out if your specific vehicle is a target

A red 2012 Toyota Prius, one of KBB's picks for the best affordable used cars
2012 Toyota Prius | Toyota

One of the first ways to prevent catalytic converter theft is to know if your specific make and model is a target in the first place. According to Nerd Wallet, Ford trucks, the Honda Element, and the Toyota Prius are prime targets. The Prius is popular due to being an ultra-low emissions vehicle, as its catalytic converter contains more precious metals like rhodium, palladium, and platinum.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that if your car is a Honda Civic, then it’s less susceptible to being tampered with. But if your car is not one of the primary targets, then you might not need to worry as much.

Install a catalytic converter anti-theft device on your car

If your car does happen to be one of the primary targets for catalytic converter theft, or if you just want to protect it, then you can always invest in an anti-theft device. There are a few different devices on the market and they can vary in terms of pricing and applications. However, they all work well in keeping thieves at bay.

Some of the more popular devices include:

  • A metal plate that installs over the catalytic converter itself. One popular device is called the Cat Security Cat Shield, which can cost anywhere from $160 to $500, depending on the vehicle.
  • A cage made of rebar and steel that makes it harder for thieves to cut through.
  • A set of stainless steel cables that wrap around the catalytic converter and attach to the car’s frame.

If you do go with any of these devices, then you can install them at home or have a professional install it for you. Of course, the labor rates can vary.

Paint the catalytic converter

Kevin Doyle from Mad Hatter Muffler shop works on replacing a catalytic converter.
Kevin Doyle from Mad Hatter Muffler shop works on replacing a catalytic converter. | (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Nerd Wallet recommends painting your car’s catalytic converter a bright, fluorescent orange using high-temp paint. You can pick up a can of high-temp paint from your local hardware store and then inscribe your car’s VIN on the converter itself. Doing so will make the converter traceable when stolen, which can deter thieves from the get-go.

Make your car alarm more sensitive

Another way to deter theft is to turn up the sensitivity on your car’s alarm system, if possible. By doing so, it will be triggered if a thief happens to crawl underneath your car. Also, there is always the option of installing a motion-sensor camera on your car’s dashboard in order to catch the thief in the act.

Make sure that you have full-coverage insurance

An employee places a catalytic converter into a trolley.
An employee places a catalytic converter into a trolley. | Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Protect Your Catalytic Converter – More Thieves Want Them

While your car insurance might not actually deter theft, Nerd Wallet suggests making sure that your car is fully covered. Automotive parts are covered under the “comprehensive” part of your insurance policy, so in case the converter gets stolen, you’ll be covered.

If your catalytic converter does get stolen

In the event that your car’s catalytic converter does get stolen, here are few steps that you can take:

  • File a police report so that your local police department can track the theft
  • Contact your insurance company and send them pictures of the damage
  • Find a mechanic in order to get a new catalytic converter installed
  • Get a catalytic converter anti-theft device installed

It’s never a fun time when your car gets vandalized, however, there are a few steps to prevent it from happening. Remember to be vigilant and do what you can to protect your car and its catalytic converter. Otherwise, you may get a very loud surprise when you start your car up one morning in addition to a hefty repair bill.