What to know about catalytic converter theft

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Being the victim of catalytic converter theft can leave you with unexpected bills and bother. And unfortunately, this kind of crime is only on the rise. But how do you know if your catalytic converter has been stolen, and how can you prevent it from happening? 

Here, we answer all your questions about this important car part. Let’s dive in.

What is a catalytic converter?

A catalytic converter is a device that controls exhaust emissions. It converts toxic exhaust fumes like carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide into less harmful substances like nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and water vapour. 

This device is fitted onto both petrol and diesel engines, as well as onto some appliances, like kerosene heaters. 

Catalytic converters are essential to your vehicle’s exhaust system, significantly contributing to more eco-friendly driving. By catalysing (that’s where the catalytic part comes from) a chemical reaction (that’s the conversion part), they decrease the harm your engine can do. Driving without one is very harmful to the environment. 

So, why do people steal catalytic converters?

Catalytic converters are stolen for the precious metals used to make them. These include the soft silver-white platinum group metals (PGMs), platinum, palladium, and rhodium. Beyond making up a part of your car’s exhaust system, these metals can be used for purposes such as dentistry, electronics, and jewellery.

Catalytic converters are quick to steal and can be sold in junkyards and online. In some cases, they’re sent out of the country. This, together with underreporting, makes it incredibly tricky for the police to solve catalytic converter crimes. Luckily, there are some steps that you can take to help prevent your car from falling victim. 

How common is catalytic converter theft in the UK?

Recent data reveals that about 28,000 catalytic converters are stolen a year in the UK. In 2022, around 75 catalytic converters were stolen every day. Because this type of theft often goes unreported, the real numbers are likely higher.

You are more or less at risk for this type of theft depending on where you live in the UK. London is the hardest hit area, recording over 40% of UK thefts in 2022. 


According to research conducted by security company ADT, other areas that are targeted include:

  • Brentwood in East Essex
  • Walsall in the West Midlands
  • Solihull, also in the West Midlands

Regardless of where you live, however, it’s important to be vigilant. 

How to tell if your catalytic converter is stolen

The Metropolitan Police warn that catalytic converters can be stolen in less than a minute. So, how do you know if this has happened to you?

Two of the telltale signs are:

  1. Your car has been raised: If you get back to your car and it’s been lifted off the ground, it’s possible that you’ve been a victim of catalytic converter theft.
  2. You hear a loud unfamiliar sound from below your car: This sound is usually quite grating and jarring.

This video from the Nottinghamshire Police shows a catalytic converter theft in action:

If your catalytic converter has been stolen, it’s important to report it. The police give the following advice on how to do so:

  • If the crime is happening now: Call 999. If it’s safe to do so, take photos of the suspects and their vehicle. Don’t approach them.
  • If the crime has already happened: Report it to the police. You can do so using their online portal or at your local police station. 

Which cars are at risk of catalytic converter theft?

The short answer is almost all cars are at risk. If your car was made somewhere after 1974 and has an internal combustion engine, it will have a catalytic converter and be at risk. Electric cars are the exception to this rule. Because they do not produce exhaust pipe emissions, they have no need for catalytic converters.

The following cars, however, are more likely to be targeted for catalytic converter theft:

  • Hybrid vehicles: If you have made the choice to go hybrid, you may be more at risk. That’s because these vehicles rely on their catalytic converters less to help keep their engines green. Less use means less corrosion of the sought-after precious metals inside. 
  • Vehicles that sit higher off the ground, like SUVs and crossovers: Quite simply, the catalytic converters of higher vehicles are easier to get to.

If you drive an older Toyota Prius or Honda Jazz, your car is also at high risk. Catalytic converter thefts in BMWs are on the rise, too.

Does insurance cover catalytic converter theft (UK)?

Replacing a catalytic converter is costly — usually amounting to a few hundred pounds. For a luxury vehicle, you could be looking at over £1,000. So what does this mean in terms of insurance?

Car insurance policies that cover theft, such as comprehensive insurance policies and those that specifically state that they include theft, are likely to cover catalytic converter theft. Not all vehicle insurance includes theft protection, however. 

If you only have third-party insurance, for example, you are only covered for the costs associated with the property and injuries of others. Theft of your own vehicle (or its parts) isn’t covered under this type of policy. 

If you’re unsure about the details of your protection, get in touch with your insurance provider to see what’s covered.

Catalytic converter theft prevention

There are a few steps to follow if you want to prevent catalytic converter theft — or at least decrease the chances of it happening.

1. Consider where you park

The best method of prevention is to park in a secure place. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible when you’re out and about, and many of us don’t have access to off-street parking at our homes.

What you can do is:

  • Park close to a wall, fence, or curb, where possible.
  • Try to park in a way that makes the exhaust system hard to reach. If it’s possible, get the catalytic converter as close to the wall, fence, or curb as possible. 
  • If you have more than one vehicle, use lower-ground vehicles to protect ones with high-ground clearance. As we have discussed, vehicles that sit higher off the ground are more vulnerable to this kind of theft.

2. Register your catalytic converter

By registering and adding a security marking to your catalytic converter, you can make it harder for thieves to dispose of it once it is stolen. When registering your catalytic converter, make sure that you use a company that is police-approved, like CATLOC.

3. Install a theft prevention system

There are various devices on the market that are specifically designed to prevent catalytic converter theft. You may want to consider an under-car car alarm system or a physical barrier that makes it difficult for thieves to get to your exhaust system.

In summary

Catalytic converter theft can cost you time, money, and hassle.

While they’re vital to keeping our roads more eco-friendly, catalytic converters are sought after as they contain precious metals that can be sold online and in junkyards. Some vehicles, like hybrids and those that sit high off the ground, are more at risk for this kind of theft. 

To protect your vehicle, try to park as safely and securely as possible. If you have access to a garage, use it. If you don’t, park in such a way as to block access to your exhaust system as much as possible. This may mean parking up against a wall, fence, or cub, or protecting high-clearance vehicles with those that sit lower on the ground. 

It’s also worth ensuring that you have the right car insurance in place in case you do become a victim of catalytic converter theft. Speak to the team at Howden about your policy today.

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