It’s been a rough few years (to say the least), and with tough financial times come desperate measures. Car thieves continue to target a key auto part that is easier to steal than, say, the entire vehicle itself: catalytic convertersAccording 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. Catalytic converters in your car will positively affect the health, performance and overall efficiency of your vehicleIt is a canister with two pipes connecting to the exhaust, 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. 

Complicating Auto Parts Shortage 

It seems that catalytic converter theft remains prevalent  across Canada. According to CBC News, recent studies show that in June of 2020, “20 Canada Post vehicles were targeted by thieves in Ottawa. In July, 27 people were arrested resulting in 68 criminal charges in Hamilton following a two-week project by police” targeting this type of crime. In recent news, a Kitchener businessman reported two catalytic converters were stolen from cars in his parking lot last week.  Last year, seven vehicles in his lot had catalytic converters stolen.

In another incident, Daniel Tuka, president of Essential Image, reported theft of his vehicle’s converter. The catalytic converter was replaced, but not before he was faced with a financial setback and a delay to get it fixed. Tuka remarked, “My vehicle cost nearly $5,000 to repair. And if you have a fleet of trucks it can be compounded even worse,” he said. “The materials and things like that are not readily available so we waited on parts and stuff like that.”

Not Slowing Down

Waterloo regional police data shows that in 2021, 634 catalytic converter thefts and attempts between Jan. 1 to Oct. 7.  In 2022 during that same timeframe, there had been 237.  More Canadian stats: 

  • Sudbury: 52 thefts between June 1 – December 31, 2020 (only 12 reported in 2019) 
  • Winnipeg: Targeting school buses  
  •  Hundreds of cases in Edmonton, Alberta.
  • Calgary: A man reportedly died having a vehicle fall on him in the midst of stealing a catalytic converter 

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. 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 –  a large, canister-shaped hole in your exhaust and/or roughly-cut pipes are proof. 

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 damages while removing it. 

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? 

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. 

As the catalytic converter is a permanent feature of your vehicle, therefore your comprehensive deductible applies. Your insurance company will inspect the vehicle, assessing all the damages. Afterwards, they will compensate you accordingly. However, it’s important to note that cars with a liability-only policy don’t have coverage 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. 
  • Invest in a dash cam – Parking mode is a feature of some dash cams that allows them to continue recording while your car is not moving.  Basic dash cams without a parking mode will turn off while your car’s engine is off.
  • Park in your private garage rather than your driveway. 
  • Leave your vehicle as close to a building’s entrance or road as possible. You want your car to be visible in high-traffic areas, reducing theft opportunities. 
  • Purchase a security device, such as CatClamp, to protect against theft. 
  • Programming your car’s security system 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. 
  • Install security cameras on your driveway for full-time surveillance. 
  • Welding the converter to your vehicle makes it harder to steal. You can also install a protective shield/cage around it.
  • Engrave your VIN number into your converter to make it easier to identify if stolen, and harder for thieves to sell. 

As this type of theft continues 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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