It’s been a rough year (to say the least), and with tough financial times come desperate measures. Car thieves have discovered a valuable new auto part that is easier to steal than, say, the entire vehicle itself: catalytic converters. According to CBC News, “catalytic converter thefts rise nationally as metal inside ‘more valuable than gold’.” Although it is not a new issue, cases of these types of theft are on the rise nationally, so it’s important for you to have all the facts that will help keep your car(s) safe. 

What is a catalytic converter? 

A catalytic converter is a piece of your vehicle’s exhaust system and helps to reduce the airborne pollutants that could harm us or the environment. They are known to reduce about 90% of harmful toxins and emissions that are expelled into the air, including carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides. Having a well-maintained catalytic converter in your car will positively affect the health, performance and overall efficiency of your vehicleIt is a cannister with two pipes connected to the exhaust, located underneath your car and is accessible by lying beneath it. 

Why are car thieves targeting catalytic converters? 

Ironically enough, it isn’t the catalytic converters themselves that are valuable, but the precious metals inside them that are. “It’s not a new issue…catalytic converters have been stolen for years,” says Bryan Gast, national director of investigative services at the Insurance Bureau of Canada. As the value of these precious metals has risen, so have the thefts with, intentions of being sold on the black market. These types of valuable metals include palladium, rhodium and platinum, which are “more valuable than gold right now,” according to Gast. 

Has this been an issue in Canada? 

It seems that catalytic converter theft is on a continuous rise across Canada. According to CBC News, recent studies show that “last June, 20 Canada Post vehicles were targeted by thieves in Ottawa. In July, 27 people were arrested and 68 criminal charges were laid in Hamilton following a two-week project by police” targeting this type of crime. More Canadian stats: 

  • Sudbury: 52 thefts reported between June 1 – December 31, 2020 (only 12 reported in 2019) 
  • Winnipeg: School buses were targeted 
  • Edmonton reported hundreds of cases 
  • Calgary: A man reportedly died having a vehicle fall on him in the midst of stealing a catalytic converter 
  • London, Ontario police are reporting a “significant increase” in cases over the last three months. According to driving.ca, 79 catalytic converters have been stolen since September 1, a nearly 50 per cent jump from thefts of this type in 2019. 

How will you know if you’ve been a victim of catalytic converter theft? 

It may not be obvious by looking at your vehicle, but you’ll know something is wrong the minute you start your car. Once removed, your vehicle’s engine will give off a load roaring sound which will only get louder as you accelerate. Another way to know for sure is by checking underneath your vehicle – if you have a large, canister-shaped hole in your exhaust and/or can see roughly-cut pipes, you’ve unfortunately had yours stolen. 

What does this car part typically sell for? 

Depending on the size, condition and value of the metals inside, a catalytic converter can sell for anywhere between $150 and $200 a pop. Typically, it can cost up to $2000 to replace, depending on what’s missing and the damage caused by the thief. 

Are any vehicles safe from this type of theft? 

Only electric/eco-friendly vehicles are safe from this type of theft because since they do not produce emissions, they don’t require them. 

Does my insurance cover catalytic converter theft? 

As mentioned before, a catalytic converter may be a small part of your vehicle, but replacing it can be costly: roughly between $1,000-$2,000. Also, it’s important to note that it’s illegal to remove it, purposely or by stealing it. Your insurance will most likely cover it if you have comprehensive coverage. 

The catalytic converter is initially a part of your vehicle that’s permanently installed, so the comprehensive deductible will apply. As per usual process, the insurance company will inspect the vehicle to assess all the damages and then compensate you accordingly. However, it’s important to note that cars with a liability-only policy can’t be covered for any type of theft. This means that theft of your catalytic converter would not be covered in this case. Comprehensive coverage is, most times, inexpensive to add to your policy, so be sure to talk to your isure insurance broker about your policy’s protection coverage. 

How you can prevent catalytic converter theft 

These tips may not be a guarantee, but they will definitely reduce your chances of having your catalytic converter stolen: 

  • Always park in well-lit areas, when possible. 
  • If you have one, keep your car parked in your private garage rather than your driveway. 
  • When in public, park as close to a building’s entrance or nearest road as possible. You want your car visible to high-traffic areas to reduce theft opportunities. 
  • You can purchase a security device, such as CatClamp, to protect against theft. 
  • An alternative is having your car’s security system programmed to allow vibration to set off the alarm. If a thief attempts to saw off your converter in the middle of the night, your alarm will go off. 
  • If you have the means, install security cameras on your driveway for full-time surveillance. 
  • You can have a local mechanic weld the converter to your vehicle, making it harder to steal OR have them install a protective shield/cage around it.
  • Some suggest having your VIN number engraved into your converter to make it easier to identify if stolen, and harder for thieves to sell. 

As this type of theft continues to rise in Canada, we hope that our information and tips help to ease your worries about catalytic converter theft. Contact your isure broker today for more information about your auto insurance policy and catalytic converter theft coverage. 

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