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The Crackdown on Catalytic Converter Theft

By Alex Sirek | Last updated on

Over the past two years, thefts of catalytic converters have skyrocketed. The thefts of these emission control devices have increased by roughly 300% each year, and tens of thousands of drivers have been forced to pay for replacements.

However, this epidemic of car-part theft has caught the attention of public officials and lawmakers, who are responding with new bills, laws, and regulations.

The Impacts of Catalytic Converter Theft

Replacing a stolen catalytic converter isn't cheap. Victims of these thefts often pay up to $3000 (!) to replace the stolen converter. Also, auto insurance often doesn't even cover your expenses, or your deductible may be so high that it's simply easier to avoid filing a claim for these thefts.

Why Are Catalytic Converters Stolen so Often?

As the case of a man with a whopping 1,200 catalytic converters in his possession points out, thieves covet the car part. But what about the catalytic converter makes it so desirable? In large part, it's the ease of theft and the likelihood of a lucrative return on investment.

Just about any would-be thief can steal a catalytic converter. It takes little to no automotive knowledge to remove one; they are typically not welded to the vehicle and thus are quite easy to remove.

Because they are not marked with a factory serial number, catalytic converters are incredibly difficult to trace once they have been stolen. Once a converter has been removed, its origin is anyone's guess.

Unfortunately, scrap dealers are willing to pay quite a bit of money for them. Catalytic converters contain many valuable metals that sell well on the black market and to reputable metal dealers. Just one converter can earn the seller up to $150, depending on the make and model of the car it was stolen from.

What Has the Government Done To Curb These Thefts?

Desperate cries for the thefts to end have not fallen on deaf ears. This year, 150 bills aiming to curb catalytic converter thefts have been introduced in 36 states and enacted in 16 states.

Various methods of enforcement have been proposed. They include requiring metal dealers to keep a record of catalytic converters they have purchased, providing law enforcement with metal theft-specific trainings, and even requiring vehicles to have their catalytic converters marked with a vehicle identification number (VIN) during production.

Many of the proposed and enacted measures crack down on both metal sellers and the thieves themselves. By preventing the sale of these stolen converters, lawmakers hope to deter criminals from attempting to steal these car parts.

What You Can Do

Many things can be done to prevent your catalytic converter from even being stolen. While parking your car in a garage is ideal, if you must park on the street it is important to do it in very visible and well-lit areas. You can also purchase an alarm or physical barrier for additional protection.

To make your catalytic converter more traceable if it is stolen, you can etch your license-plate number onto the converter itself.

You may want to do some research into your state's local laws regarding catalytic converter theft. Only 16 states have passed these legislative measures, so it could be helpful to contact your local lawmakers and encourage them to pass more regulations on the sale of catalytic converters.

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