Catalytic Converters Are Now a Prime Target for Thieves – Here’s Why

The first sign is the thundering noise the car makes when you start it. Victims have described it variously as sounding like “loud exhaust,” a “rocket ship” or a “jackhammer”. When you hear it, you know you’ve been targeted by a catalytic converter thief.

By scrubbing some toxic gases such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide found in hot exhaust from a car’s tailpipe emissions, catalytic converters help protect the environment. The “catalysts” are precious metals including palladium and rhodium, each of which has a value higher than gold. As of July 2021, palladium is valued at $2690 per ounce; rhodium at $2175 per ounce, while gold is valued at $1800 per ounce.


The presence of these metals makes catalytic converters a very attractive target for thieves. They take only a few minutes for robbers to saw off from underneath a vehicle. And because tighter standards reducing emissions have been mandated for all vehicles produced in the United States since 1975, criminals know that they can easily find one under any car or truck. Once stolen, they cost thousands of dollars for the car’s owner to replace.

According to the NY Times1 and other sources, these crimes are accelerating. In St. Louis, catalytic converter thefts jumped from 50 in 2019 to 420 in 2020. In Lexington, S.C., sheriffs’ deputies responded to 144 catalytic converter thefts between July and December, nearly triple the number of cases during that time period the previous year. In Wichita, KS, cases practically tripled from 2019 to 2020, going from 191 to 547 converters stolen. The Illinois-based National Insurance Crime Bureau reports2 that these thefts have increased ten times since 2018, with more than 14,000 reported in 2020.


The problem is even more pervasive for hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Prius. Because they are ultra low-emissions vehicles and their gasoline engines are used less than those of regular cars, Prius catalytic converters tend to contain more of the most valuable metals. This in turn makes them a more desirable target for thieves. SUVs and trucks are also frequent victims since they are higher off the ground, making it easier for thieves to slide under the chassis.

Protect your Vehicles from Catalytic Converter Theft

Car dealerships need to fight back against this costly threat. The same is true for car rental lots, car repair shops and even parking lots where there could be liability for theft of catalytic converters.

A video surveillance system can be helpful in identifying a burglar, but not in preventing the crime. For a truly preventive approach, proactive video monitoring combines intelligent analytics with human 24/7 analysis and monitoring. Most important, trained specialists can speak directly to the intruder with a live audio warning – a proven solution that has already prevented over 80,000 crimes.


If you have vehicle inventory, you are at risk for catalytic converter theft. Fencing, alarms, video surveillance and even security guards are not enough to keep thieves away from your valuable stock. Only proactive video monitoring gives you the tools to chase away criminals with a loud audio warning before they have a chance to commit their crime.

Find out the best way to keep criminals from stealing catalytic converters – contact Netwatch today.