The 10 vehicles most likely targeted for catalytic converter theft, and what cops are doing about it
- Bigger cars are more targeted because its catalytic converters are easier to access, making them easier to steal
- Most auto insurance with theft protection coverage will cover the cost of replacing a stolen catalytic converter
- The out-of-pocket cost of replacing a catalytic converter ranges between $1,500 to $5,000
Law enforcement officials are warning drivers of popular car models, including Ford F-Series and Chevrolet Silverado, to take extra precautions as a study of the exponentially rising number of catalytic converter thefts have been found to target those vehicles.
Using service records of catalytic converter replacements from over 60,000 service shops across the country from 2019 through the beginning of 2022 CarFax found that the following 10 vehicles are most likely to be targeted nationwide:
- 1985-2021 Ford F-Series
- 1989-2020 Honda Accord
- 2007-17 Jeep Patriot
- 1999-2021 Chevrolet Silverado
- 1990-2022 Ford Econoline
- 2007-21 Jeep Compass
- 1993-2020 Nissan Altima
- 2008-14 Dodge Avenger
- 2011-17 Chrysler 200
- 2011-19 Chevrolet Cruze
The most targeted cars differ slightly from each region of the country, with the Subaru Outback and Forester being among the top 10 targeted vehicles the West and n//Northeast.
The popularity of some of these vehicles are due to their size as vehicles with high clearance provide easier access to the auto part, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
Hybrids, including the Toyota Prius, are also heavily targeted because they contain two catalytic converters, which tend to be more valuable due to the lack of wear compared to non-hybrid vehicles, according to the NICB.
Catalytic converters, which are located underneath a vehicle and control exhaust emissions, are made with three types of valuable metals: platinum, rhodium and palladium.
The costs of these metals have skyrocketed, ranging between $12,500 and $880 per ounce, according to Danielle Naspinski, a public affairs specialist at NICB.
Combating the rise of catalytic thefts
Law enforcement agencies and insurance companies are warning car owners, especially those with some of the most-targeted vehicles, to take precautions, including parking in garages or well-lit areas, to prevent the potential theft of their vehicle’s catalytic converters.
At State Farm, the number of claims and payouts have also skyrocketed in recent years.
More than 32,000 catalytic converter thefts were reported nationally in 2021, compared to the 2,535 thefts reported in 2019. The explosion in cases led the insurance company to pay out $62.6 million for claims in 2021, more than 13 times the amount paid in 2019, said Dave Phillips, a senior public affairs specialist at State Farm.
The sharp increase has prompted local police department and auto repair shops in Minneapolis to participate in a program to combat this rise of thefts.
The program, initiated by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, offers free serial numbers tags to Minnesotans who own a vehicle among the 15 most targeted within the state as a way to potentially deter theft and track a stolen catalytic converter.
“It’s the only thing we’ve seen that actually make sense in terms of keeping a registry of these converters with a marking that has a really hard time being defaced,” Jim Kirchner, the assistant service manager at Golden Valley Tire and Service, told USA TODAY.
Using an acid solution, the state-provided tag allows the serial number and QR code to be etched onto the catalytic converter, allowing the part to be registered and later traced by police if it's stolen and recovered.
“We were anxious to join the program," Kirchner said. "While it is certainly a moneymaker for any shop to replace catalytic converters because of the sheer expense of them, it’s not something that we enjoy doing.”
Under some auto insurance plans the cost of replacing a converter is at least partly covered. However, those without theft protection might have to pay for the replacement out of pocket, which can range between $1,500 to $5,000, according to the NICB.
Other cities are working to also combat the rising crime through tags, including the Newport News and Hampton police departments in Virginia. The police departments partnered with the NICB to host an etching event where police etch unique VIN numbers on converters.
Police bust $22M catalytic converter ring
A Washington County grand jury indicted 12 people on racketeering, aggravated theft, money laundering and other charges in July after detectives in Beaverton, Oregon, identified the suspects in a $22 million, multi-state catalytic converter trafficking operation, police said.
The trafficking ring, based in Portland but spanned six states, was responsible for the theft of 44,000 catalytic converters from Washington state, California, Nevada, Texas, Oregon and New York.
Authorities in smaller communities across the country have reported recent arrests, too, though none at the same scale as the oregon case.
- Police said three men were arrested Aug. 29 after officers said the men attempted to steal a catalytic converter from a van parked at a Westborough, Massachusetts, apartment complex, according to authorities. Thefts of catalytic converters in the MetroWest and Greater Milford communities in Massachusetts have been an issue for several years, but reports have risen in the last three years, police said.
- Three men were arrested Aug. 19 by Port Huron Police in Michigan after a resident reporting seeing the suspects stealing a catalytic converter. Police located the auto part as well as a large amount of methamphetamine, according to authorities. Residents in the community 60 miles northeast of Detroit have reported 10 catalytic converter thefts in the past six months, police said.
- Two men were arrested Aug. 22 by Port St. Lucie Police Department in Florida for the theft for 13 catalytic converters, according to police. So far this year, officers there have investigated 29 incidents involving 52 stolen catalytic converters, police said.
“As far as I know this is one of the bigger cases,” Beaverton Police Detective Patrick McNair told USA TODAY. “We’re trying to find ways to combat that with the laws that we currently have.”
According to the NICB legislation tracker, at least 35 states have proposed legislation to enact new or strengthen existing laws in response to the growing number of catalytic converter thefts across the country.