How Much Is A Catalytic Converter Worth?

Catalytic converters are a critical part of a vehicle and contain some precious metals. How much is a catalytic converter worth?

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Catalytic converters range in value from $50 to $250, with some vehicles storing enough heavy metal in their exhaust system to make them worth upwards of $2,000. The high price of catalytic converters comes from their use of expensive, precious metals used to filter the exhaust.

We’ll discuss what makes catalytic converters so valuable. We’ll also explain how to protect your catalytic converter and what to do if someone steals the catalytic converter right off your vehicle.

Why are catalytic converters so valuable?

Catalytic converters can carry amounts of metals that are considered precious. Within the catalytic converter, the task of these precious metals is to purify vehicle exhaust, at least somewhat, before it actually leaves via the vehicle’s tailpipes. 

Not a lot of metals have this capability, so the ones that do are rather expensive and usually used only in small amounts. Let’s review which metals are in a typical catalytic converter:

  • Silver. Silver is fairly basic and the least desired metal within the catalytic converter
  • Platinum: Platinum is more valuable than silver and can be valued at around $1000 per ounce
  • Gold: Converters do have some gold, and depending on the market, can be worth around $1600 per ounce or more
  • Palladium: Around $2,400 per ounce
  • Rhodium: It’s hard to believe, but it can be worth over $16,000 per ounce.

The more expensive the metal gets, the harder it is to find in the earth – and the less of it is used within the converter. Rhodium is the ultimate tough metal. In conditions that would melt gold, silver, and platinium, rhodium remains unscathed.

Because metals like rhodium and palladium don’t need replacement, they make prime candidates for a product like a vehicle that tries to be known for not needing parts or service.

When whole, a catalytic converter can be worth anywhere from $50 to over $2000 for the converter on an exotic vehicle with lots of metals inside.

Unfortunately, supply chain issues make the value of catalytic converters higher. The cost of the precious metals used in converters is high, making them a bigger target for theft that happens to be sitting on streets of driveways.

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Which catalytic converters are most valuable?

We won’t go into specifics about years, makes and models. We should say that the catalytic converters in higher end luxury vehicles tend to both have higher amounts of precious metal and be more expensive to replace in part because the original parts are very expensive – and so is the labor to install a new one.

You might be surprised to know that larger trucks also often have two catalytic converters meant to purify their exhaust, making them a target not just because of their precious metal amounts – but because a thief only has to target one vehicle to get two catalytic converters.

Value also isn’t the most important factor thieves use when deciding which vehicles to target. Lots of the most targeted vehicles are larger trucks because of their multiple converters, and because they are easy to get under and access.

Hybrid vehicles (those that use gas and electric) are also heavily targeted because their focus tends to be in reducing environmental impact, so they might use more metals within the catalytic converter to prevent further emissions.

Who buys catalytic converters?

While seeing a news report or police bulletin probably lead you here and explain part of this: There are lots of catalytic converter thefts happening all across the country.

Unfortunately, stealing a catalytic converter can be as simple as a thief getting under a vehicle with a small saw and cutting the converter off. 

While most thieves tend to try this at night because of the loud sound of cutting metal, some are brazen enough to try it during the day. The catalytic converter can then be sold to a scrapyard or some place that seeks precious metals  – they just dismantle the converter and get the metals out.

In some states and cities, legislators are making laws that require a scrap yard keep identification for catalytic converter sellers and any serial numbers on the parts they sell. The shop who buys a catalytic converter would be held partially responsible and be under more intense scrutiny. 

Unfortunately, scrapyards can make a relatively quick dollar on these precious metals, so thieves have a quick outlet to sell after they steal one. They often pay cash too, which is more difficult to trace.

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How do I protect my catalytic converter?

Protecting your catalytic converter might be necessary for a couple of reasons. First, they are expensive to replace in most cases.

Second, there is a shortage on the parts and metals to replace them, and your vehicle will be loud and annoying without a catalytic converter installed.

Cages

You can purchase a cage that makes your catalytic converter very difficult if not impossible to steal. A cage around your catalytic converter will at the very least slow a thief way down with the need to either cut the cage (good luck) or find a way to squeeze a catalytic converter around the cage somehow. 

Sadly, these aren’t especially cheap, but can be worth it if you live in an area with lots of converter theft – as they can run $150 or more though it is possible to install them yourself.

Alarms

Alarms are a bit cheaper and detect movement around your converter. Note that the catalytic converter won’t move during regular driving, so don’t worry about that. The one downside to the alarm is that someone has to actually hear it for it to be effective.

Park in the light

A luxury vehicle or lifted truck parked in the dark is a great target for a catalytic converter thief because, without light, it’ll be hard to see someone sneaking underneath. 

Use your garage

If you have a garage and a vehicle with a very valuable catalytic converter, parking in your garage will definitely help ward off potential thieves.

What should I do if my catalytic converter is stolen?

Call the police. If you have comprehensive insurance on your vehicle, your insurance might also cover the cost of replacing the catalytic converter and you should check with them before paying a service center directly.

How can I tell if my catalytic converter is missing?

The catalytic converter is part of the vehicle’s exhaust system, so your vehicle will be louder than normal when starting. Your vehicle will also smell worse than normal because part of the converter’s job is to mute the smell of exhaust.

Generally, driving without a catalytic converter is also illegal and the sounds made might get you pulled over for driving without one – even if its not your fault it was stolen.

Key Takeaways

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  • Catalytic converters can be worth from $50 on up to thousands depending on the amount of metal in the catalytic converter
  • The car parts contain precious metals for the purpose of purifying exhaust coming from a vehicle and meeting emissions standards.
  • Their value makes them a target for frequent theft
  • Parking your vehicle in your garage, or a well-lit location helps. Putting a cage on your catalytic converter prevents theft too.

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