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Catalytic converter theft is a common maintenance problem for vehicle owners worldwide. The epidemic of sticky fingers and stolen catalytic converters is commonplace in the United States, and the price of a replacement catalytic converter is a real problem for drivers. What’s more, some popular cars tend to get targeted more often than others. Here are some of the most common sedans in criminals’ crosshairs.

What car has the most catalytic converters stolen?

A tech works on a vehicle beside a catalytic converter to prevent it from being stolen.
A tech works on a vehicle’s exhaust system | Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Unsurprisingly, the best-selling vehicle in the United States also boasts the highest frequency of catalytic converter thefts. That’s right; the Ford F-Series leads the trend of “cat” thievery. However, many other vehicles, including passenger cars, made the list of frequent victims. 

  • Honda Accord
  • Toyota Prius
  • Chevrolet Cruze

According to Car and Driver, the Honda Accord is the most frequent victim of catalytic converter theft, ranking No. 2 of all vehicles nationwide. That’s especially unfortunate for owners of the popular Honda sedan, as the price of a replacement for a stolen catalytic converter can cost around $2,700, per RepairPal. Labor costs are minimal, given the non-invasive nature of replacement. However, the unit replacement cost is typically quite high. 

Following the Honda Accord, the forever popular Toyota Prius is the second most targeted car on the list and No. 3 overall. The little hybrid hatchback is a hot target for theft, ranking above the Honda CR-V and Ford Explorer. Finally, the now-discontinued Chevrolet Cruze is the No. 3 most targeted car, ranking behind large trucks like the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Silverado. 

How much scrap is a catalytic converter worth?

A catalytic converter is worth upwards of $1,500, making it a lucrative target for opportunists. In fact, law enforcement agencies will periodically uncover multi-million dollar stashes of catalytic converters.

Furthermore, the ease and speed with which some thieves can acquire a cat establishes it as a low-effort/high-return theft. In many cases, especially for trucks with ground clearance, a thief will cut the component right out of the exhaust system, typically between the mid-pipe section and muffler.

What’s more, considering it’s just two sections of pipe, seasoned thieves can make off with a cat in seconds.  

Why is a catalytic converter worth money?

Used car parts shouldn’t be worth too much money, right? Well, in the case of a catalytic converter, the component conceals precious metals like rhodium, palladium, and platinum. As a result, there is a market for stolen cats. 

The cat itself is valuable, but the metals within make the risk worth it for many criminals. For instance, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) put the value of rhodium at nearly $15,000 per ounce in 2020. Considering cats typically employ a gram or two of the sought-after material, 14 stolen cats could yield a sizable payday. 

Can a car run without a catalytic converter?

A tech adds a license plate number to a vehicle's catalytic converter to prevent theft and price of replacement.
A tech adds a license plate number to a vehicle’s catalytic converter | Mindy Schauer, Digital First Media, Orange County Register via Getty Images

Somebody Robbed the Wienermobile, and They Didn’t Steal Any Hot Dogs

You can run a car without a catalytic converter. After all, that’s likely how you would discover that the piece is missing. However, the car’s harmful emissions will multiply, and the exhaust system will be louder. 

If you’re concerned about theft, you can use an anti-theft device. However, most devices are either expensive or too easy to defeat. Ultimately, the best anti-theft tactic is to make your vehicle more difficult to target, like parking it behind a gate or in a locked garage. Vigilance is key, considering the price of a catalytic converter replacement for a stolen unit.

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