Does My Auto Insurance Cover Catalytic Converter Theft?

photo of catalytic converter on white backgroundThe short answer: only if you have comprehensive coverage.

But there’s much more to what has been an increasingly prominent auto-related crime in the U.S.

Telltale Signs

You’ll find the catalytic converter on the underbelly of your vehicle. Unfortunately, thieves know that too. Nationwide says trucks and SUVs are especially exposed to such thefts because they park higher from the ground. Thieves also target such models because they are larger and can be scrapped for more precious metals/more money.

As a part of the exhaust system, a catalytic converter — or, better said, lack of one — will let off a telltale sign if it’s gone. Screeching, loudness, and/or abnormal startup sounds from your car will let you know. The Ohio Insurance Institute describes it as a sound like your car is “a freight train, a dragster, or missing a muffler.”

If You’re a Victim

Just as it goes when you find your car is stolen (or a car part is stolen, like a tailgate), the comprehensive coverage portion of your auto insurance policy will compensate you — minus the deductible.

Without comprehensive insurance coverage, Nationwide estimates a replacement part can run between $300 and $1,000. 

The OII, which estimated between $200 and $1,000 for a replacement catalytic converter, also warns of higher costs if the thief damaged the exhaust system in the course of removal.

So, given all the costs that a stolen catalytic converter entails, getting comprehensive coverage could be a good idea. The Insurance Information Institute (III) says that around 3 out of every 4 American policyholders decide to opt for the additional protection in their coverage, and agents will tell you it’s one of the more valuable kinds of auto coverage to buy.

Note, though, that if you have a high comprehensive deductible, like $1,000, only a small portion of the replacement costs may be covered — or none at all.

And be sure to file a police report, with or without an insurance claim. With a claim, you’ll want police documentation to accompany it as officers start their case. Without one, you’ll still want an investigation in the hope they can recover your stolen car part.

Prevention Tips
  • Park It: Leave your car in a well-lit, crowded public area. If you’re at home, make sure it’s garaged at night. If you’re trying to protect your commercial vehicle, park it in a fenced/secured area at night or in view of lights and cameras.
  • Secure It: There are several contraptions for consumers who want to lock down their catalytic converters, from the CatClamp to the Catlock. You can also take your car to the mechanic or muffler shop, where they can weld steel locks to seal the car part to the car frame. An extra-sensitive car alarm, which sounds off to the slightest movement, can also ward off would-be thieves.
  • Track It: Etching your vehicle identification and/or license plate numbers to the catalytic converter can also help investigators track the car part when it goes missing. Scrap recyclers and thieves may also be less inclined to buy and sell the part if an ID number is scratched onto it.
Background on the Crime

If you’re a CSI geek, here's some background on why catalytic converters are the new rage amongst thieves.

It can take a saw- or blowtorch-equipped thief a short time to get under your car, do their work, and make off with a catalytic converter. Nationwide estimates it can be done “in less than a minute.” OII says “a matter of minutes.”

However long it takes, there's plenty of reason for thieves to go after this specific part. There's not only platinum in a catalytic converter but also rhodium and palladium, two other kinds of precious metals.

cartoon burglar viewed through magnifying glassThe National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) identified a noticeable spike in catalytic converter theft by mid-2008, linking it to a similar growth in platinum jewelry’s value.

And for the $100 to $150 a thief can net at a scrap yard, thieves have become increasingly clever; Nationwide warns of instances where corporate vehicle fleets were jacked of multiple catalytic convertors in one fell swoop.

But it’s not just small businesses and corporations that need to be aware. Work-a-day drivers from Illinois to Michigan to California have also reported incidents.