According to the Metropolitan Police, the number of catalytic converters stolen from cars has skyrocketed in 2019. In the first half of the year, 2,894 thefts were recorded, representing an increase of 173% when compared with the 1,674 thefts recorded in the whole of 2018.
Historically, catalytic converters were stolen for the precious metals, such a palladium, platinum and rhodium, which they employ to efficiently reduce harmful pollution and meet emission standards.
Under the Scrap Metals Dealers Act 2013, it is illegal for dealers to pay cash for scrap metal of any description, but some still do.
Furthermore, with palladium and rhodium fetching £1,300 and £4,000 per ounce, respectively, the incentive for stealing catalytic converters and dealing in stolen material is plain to see. More recently, supply chain issues have caused long lead times on bona fide catalytic converters which has created a burgeoning online black market.
Obviously, all new and used cars equipped with a catalytic converter are vulnerable to theft, but of the tens of thousands of converters available, the most popular targets for thieves are those fitted to hybrid vehicles. Infrequent use of the catalytic converter in such vehicles leads to less corrosion of valuable precious metals increasing their value.
Whatever the reason for the sharp increase in catalytic converter theft, victims are invariably faced with a large bill, not just for the replacement of the catalytic converter itself, but for ‘collateral’ damage to the remainder of the vehicle.
Clumsily hacking off a catalytic converter (which is housed in box on the exhaust pipe) with a saw and cutting electrical wiring can cause thousands of pounds’ worth of irreparable damage to the underside of the car.
Inevitably, this means that drivers claim against their insurance policy, in fact, the AA has reported a tenfold increase in such claims since the start of 2019 from single figures in January, the number of claims steadily increased month-by-month, to a worrying 79 in October alone.
Recently, the motor trade, including leading manufacturers such as Honda and Toyota, has responded to the threat of catalytic converter theft by offering physical security products that prevent access to the exposed parts on the underside of the car.
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According to the BBC, Toyota is bearing the cost of providing its security device, known as ‘Catloc’, to its customers at a discounted price and actively researching further anti-theft technologies.
Elsewhere, other manufacturers have located catalytic converters in the engine bay of their most recent models, such that they are completely inaccessible to thieves.
In the absence of any such security precautions, police advise parking in a locked garage or in a well-lit location with the exhaust close to an obstruction, such as a fence or wall.
Clearly marking a catalytic converter with a serial number and protecting it with a cover, closed-circuit television and an alarm system are other precautions.