why do thieves steal catalytic converters

Catalytic converters are an attractive target for thieves, thanks to the valuable metals they contain, and the ease with which they can be stolen. Read on to find out more, and learn how to prevent yours from being stolen.   

Over the last three years, roughly 100,000 catalytic converters were stolen in the UK, averaging about 75 per day in 2022 alone. The question is: why? What is it about catalytic converters that makes them such a valuable target for thieves?


What Is a Catalytic Converter?

Catalytic converters filter a car’s exhaust emissions through a honeycomb mesh of metals such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium. This cleans the more harmful by-products of internal combustion, reducing the impact on the environment.

Thanks to environmental legislation across the 1970s and 1980s, all cars manufactured after 1993 have a catalytic converter built in to filter out harmful chemicals in the car’s exhaust emissions. Electric cars don’t have catalytic converters because they don’t need them, but hybrid cars do need converters because they still use petrol.

What Is the Value of a Catalytic Converter?

The metals used in a catalytic converter are rare, making them valuable. Thieves steal catalytic converters to resell them for up to £600 or more.

Rhodium is especially valuable due to its rarity – an ounce of rhodium can be worth over £12,000! Although there are only 1-2 grams of rhodium per converter, the 7-8 grams of precious metals in a catalytic converter means thieves only need to steal six or seven to sell to an unscrupulous scrap dealer for a pay-out of up to £4000 per troy ounce (a unit of measurement equal to just over 31g that is specific to precious metals).

READ MORE: Why Do Scrap Yards Pay So Much for Catalytic Converters?

Why Do Thieves Steal Catalytic Converters?

It’s not just the value of a catalytic converter that makes them attractive to thieves. Catalytic converters are also very easy to steal: simply jack the car up, saw it out from under the chassis, and the job’s done. This can take between five and ten minutes, but a skilled thief can steal a catalytic converter in less than two minutes. Stealing a catalytic converter doesn’t require a smashed window or a hotwired engine, both of which can trigger the car alarm, so it’s a very attractive way of making a quick buck.

Newer car models might have tilt-sensitive alarms, making them harder to steal from, but a lot of older cars do not have such protections. Even then, tilt-sensitive alarms will only activate if the car is tilted to a certain angle, which might not happen if the jack is used cautiously.

Vehicles with a high clearance off the ground, such as 4x4s are even more at risk, because a jack may not be needed to access the underside of the vehicle. Car models like the pre-2008 Honda Jazz, the Toyota Prius 2004-2016 inclusive, and the Toyota Arius 2012-2018 inclusive are particularly vulnerable because of this. As a hybrid car, the Toyota Prius is even more of a target thanks to a higher concentration of precious metals in the catalytic converter.

How To Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft

Fortunately, there are several ways of preventing catalytic converter theft:

  • Buy a clamp or cage for your catalytic converter – this makes it harder to steal in the first place, deterring opportunistic thieves who want to make a quick getaway
  • Park near a wall or fence to stop the car being jacked up
  • Park your car in a private garage
  • Invest in domestic CCTV
  • Install a car alarm if you don’t have one already
  • Register your catalytic converter and mark it with a forensic marker 
  • If the catalytic converter is only bolted on to your vehicle, you can ask a garage to weld the bolts shut

If your car has reached the end of its life, here at A&L Vehicle Recycling, we can help you get the best deal possible on scrapping. To find out more about our services, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re always happy to help!