How often is a catalyst stolen?
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), catalytic converter thefts rose from 3,389 reported thefts in 2018 to 14,443 in 2020. That's a 977% increase in just two years. This dramatic rise in thefts can be attributed to the economic downturn in 2020. With the American economy dipping, thefts rose, and so the instances of catalytic converters being stolen has skyrocketed. The NICB also reported that on average, 108 catalytic converter thefts occurred each month in 2021.
In addition, the largest U.S. auto insurer, State Farm, reported that it paid out over $21 million in the first half of 2021 for catalytic converter theft claims. This figure is up from the $12 million that the insurer paid out in the last half of 2020. The rise in stolen catalytic converters has been attributed to the increasing market value of the precious metals that coat the component, namely platinum, rhodium, and palladium. Rhodium, for example, goes for about $13,700 an ounce, and palladium is now a little less than $2,000 per ounce.
Unfortunately, not all auto insurance policies cover the theft of the converter. However, the drastic increase stolen auto parts as well as for vehicles themselves have contributed to rising comprehensive auto insurance policy costs. Thieves typically target bigger vehicles like large pickups and delivery vehicles because their undercarriage is higher from the ground and provides easier reach to the catalytic converter.
To help prevent catalytic converter theft, drivers can install a sensitive alarm system, engrave their vehicle's VIN number on the catalytic converter, park in well-lit areas or garages, and install catalytic converter anti-theft devices available from various manufacturers. In addition, ten states have passed laws in 2021 to tamp down the market for catalytic converters by requiring multiple forms of personal identifying information for anyone trying to sell used converters, including proof of vehicle ownership.
Overall, catalytic converter theft is a growing problem in the US, with the number of thefts increasing by 977% between 2018 and 2020. The economic downturn in 2020, the increasing market value of the precious metals that coat the component, and the ease of access to the converter are some of the primary contributing factors. Drivers can take preventative measures to protect their vehicles, but it is also important to make sure that their auto insurance policies cover the theft of the converter.