This Stash of Stolen Catalytic Converters Costs More Than Most Supercars

Not only is car theft on the rise across the country, but certain bits and pieces of your car are more likely to be stolen these days as well. Many studies show the most stolen cars like the Dodge Charger (as one example) and the areas of the country where cars are the most likely to be stolen. This information gives us some actionable steps to lower the risk of having our cars stolen. But, there has been a rash of thieves stealing catalytic converters due to these parts’ soaring prices. 

LA Sheriff found $750,000 worth of stolen catalytic converters

Car and Driver reports that in a recent raid, the LA County Sheriff’s Department recovered 250 catalytic converters with an estimated value of $750,000. For reference, that is a Ford GT40 worth of parts or maybe a higher mileage Bugatti Veyron. The raids not only led to the recovery of the parts but resulted in 19 arrests. The police also seized $100,000 in cash and a burner pistol that had been modified to be untraceable by filing down any signifying markers or numbers. 

Why are people stealing catalytic converters? 

Not only are people stealing this boring car part, but the rate of theft has gone up 400 percent in LA County in only a year. Someone from AAA told the LA Times that catalytic converter theft had gone up across the state of California 90 percent in the past year. 

So, what is it about these exhaust cleaning regulators that have thieves’ mouths watering? For one, it is a part that every fossil-fuel-burning car has to have to be road legal. This has been the case since sometime in the mid-’70s. The catalytic converter cleans the exhaust to lower a car’s emissions. So the demand is there; what about the supply? 

a catalytic converter cut open to show its insides
Catalytic converter | Harry Melchert/picture alliance via Getty Images

What Your Catalytic Converter Does and Why You Should Replace It Now

These parts’ value comes from the increasingly rare metal inside the converters that have become in high demand. Platinum, palladium, and rhodium are some metals present that can be scrapped for a good chunk of change. More catalytic converters have to be made for all new cars so they can be reused for that, or the value for the precious metals on their own can really drive prices. 

The other aspect of this steep uptick in stolen catalytic converters is that they are relatively easy to steal. They are easy to find and remove from most cars, especially SUVs and trucks. All these thieves need is a Sawzall and a minute or so to chop one out, and they can keep it moving. 

How can you keep someone from stealing your catalytic converter?

Car and Driver mentions that some mechanics will deflate car tires to lower the car enough to keep thieves from sliding up under in the would-be marks. You can also do some simple, common-sense things to help keep your car and its parts safe, like parking in well-lit areas at night and somewhere preferably with clearly spotted cameras.

The LA County Sheriff’s office has even gone so far as to recommend drivers weld the bolts onto cats or even carving your license tag number into so it can be identified or hopefully detur a would-be thief. Like any other kind of crime prevention, the best thing you can do to keep your car safe is using your head, making smart decisions, and paying attention.