Randy Responds

Analysis of Catalytic Converter Theft Reports Reveals a Stunning Increase in California

The devices attached to the undercarriage of a car are used to regulate its emissions, but the value for thieves is all about what's inside.

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Have you been startled by that alarming tell-tale start-up roar of a vehicle that’s had its catalytic converter stolen?

If the answer is yes, you’re not alone. 

More than 8,000 Californians have reported having their catalytic converter stolen in the first five months of 2021, according to police and auto insurance data analyzed by BeenVerified. That’s a 33-percent increase for 2020 and a whopping 380-percent increase over 2019, when only 1,254 thefts were reported. 

The data also shows thieves appear to target models by Toyota, Lexus and Honda more frequently. 

In February, the NBC4 I-Team reported on the unfortunate experience of Ari Ruiz, who had his Toyota Prius’ catalytic converter stolen in December. He replaced it, only to have that one stolen a few weeks later. 

“It’s like low hanging fruit for thieves just to go after and, literally in seconds, steal something that might be able to score them several hundred dollars,” said BeenVerified spokesperson Kerry Sherin. 

Thieves don't take the pandemic off, targeting something on cars. Randy Mac reported on NBC4 News on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021.

The devices help regulate a car’s emissions. Their value is in the precious metals they contain. 

“Anything from like platinum, rhodium and palladium, all of which we’ve seen huge increases as far as their unit price over the last year,” Sherin said. 

The metals can be redeemed for dollars at a scrap yard. 

The thefts are so common, they created a new business for Ariel Flores of “One Stop Auto.” The business installs cages to protect your car’s undercarriage, deterring thieves. 

“So if they get underneath this car they’ll look at it and say, ‘Nah,’ and go to the next car,” Flores said.

Some police departments suggest owners engrave their car’s VIN on the catalytic converter in case it is stolen and recovered. In some later model cars, the vehicle’s alarm system can be adjusted to detect vibration, Sherin said. 

If you park on the street, a security camera might be a good investment. 

Replacing a catalytic converter can add up to hundreds of dollars. Make sure you have adequate insurance coverage. 

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