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Containing precious metals more valuable than Gold, the catalytic converter fitted to your vehicle is attractive to thieves.

By James Billings
Practice Leader, Fleet Risk Solutions

Catalytic converters (CATs) form part of a vehicle’s exhaust system and its function is to reduce the emission of pollutants before leaving the exhaust pipe.

It does this by taking the gases produced and converting them into water vapour and less harmful emissions, via a series of chemical reactions triggered by precious metals, including Rhodium, Palladium and Platinum.  Catalytic converters are found in all vehicles with the exception of fully ‘electric’ vehicles. 

A surge in the price of precious metals over recent years has driven an increase in the theft of catalytic converters for sale on the black market, as thieves have become all too aware of the small fortune stored beneath your vehicle. Rhodium is the most valuable of all precious metals and is currently valued at more than 10 times the price of Gold.   

Stealing catalytic converters is a crime of opportunity; an experienced thief can do it within minutes and they can steal dozens within an hour.  While the metals inside a catalytic converter can sell from about $150 to $200 a piece, the victim of this crime can expect to pay upwards of $5000. This is based on the cost of the CAT replacement parts, other repairs which may be necessary due to how the CAT was stolen, as well as the costs incurred to rent another vehicle while their own is being fixed.  Fortunately, for those with comprehensive coverage on their automobile insurance policy, these costs can be reimbursable, excepting the deductible.

Several provinces have put legislation into effect to reduce the frequency of this crime.  Most recently, in British Columbia, metal dealers and recyclers are now required to report each transaction, including seller information to the police.  Amongst other things, the legislation in Alberta creates requirements for all payments to be made using traceable forms of currency, such as electronic transfers or cheques.   Generally, the goal with the provincial legislations being introduced is to provide “barriers to those who seek to steal and sell metal items for quick cash.[i]”  Unfortunately, legislation by itself is not proving enough to solve this growing problem.

A Growing Problem

CAT thefts are a concerning and growing problem across many parts of Canada.

For example, in Calgary, police said converter thefts rose from 300 reported incidents in 2020 to 1,014 in just the first eight months of 2021[ii].

Meanwhile, in Edmonton, there were 2,484 reported catalytic converter thefts between November 2020 and October 2021 — an increase from 1,697 over the same period the previous year[iii].

In Manitoba, stats maintained by Manitoba Public Insurance show that catalytic converter thefts have increased by 450 per cent year over year, with 400 in 2020, to more than 2,200 in the first 11 months of 2021[iv].

This is comparable to the experience in British Columbia, where data maintained by the Insurance Corporation of BC shows that claims for stolen CATs were close to 2,000 in 2021, costing the provincial agency more than $4M.[v]

Insurance claims

QBE is a business insurance specialist. Our claims data shows that vans are prime targets, perhaps unsurprisingly as they provide easier access for thieves due to the higher ground clearance. The same applies to taller 4x4s and SUVs.

Hybrid cars are also heavily targeted as they have a higher concentration of precious metals. As do models such as Honda Fit, Honda Accord, Toyota Prius, and the Toyota Corolla.

A thief armed with an angle grinder can remove a CAT from beneath a vehicle in just a couple of minutes. And they can be quite brazen about it, often operating in broad daylight in car parks or while vehicles are parked outside the business or home.

Reduce the risk

There are some things you can do to help reduce the risk of CAT theft, including:


  • Where possible park your vehicle in a garage, a fenced-off area or in a well-lit, busy location.
  • Park vehicles in the field of view CCTV security camera system if your business or home has one. This may help to alert you of a potential intruder and capture useful footage which can be used by the police.
  • When away from home, try to use car parks that are well-lit and have security measures such as manned security, security lighting or CCTV.
  • Park with the hood faced towards a wall.  With the CAT being near the front of the vehicle, you will be restricting the space available, making it harder for a thief to crawl under the vehicle.
  • For high-clearance vehicles such as vans and 4x4s, where possible, park against/near walls or other vehicles.
  • Where you have a fleet of vehicles, consider parking the low clearance vehicles in such a way to block the high clearance vehicles This will help to obstruct access underneath. 


  • Consider installing a vibration alarm - These alarms are designed to activate if the vehicle is lifted or tilted, with the noise they emit being a particularly effective deterrent.
  • Weld your CAT to your vehicle - If your CAT is bolted on, your local garage may be able to weld the bolts to make it more difficult to remove.
  • Install a CAT lock - There are various CAT locks available on the market that act as a deterrent, with some being more effective than others. They typically use a boron chain and clamp to secure the exhaust system to a point on the chassis. Other options include a ‘cage clamp’ which locks around the converter to make it more difficult to remove. The ‘lock’ approach will likely require a larger investment than the welding option above (around a few hundred dollars), but it will make it easier to replace the converter if it has other issues not related to it being stolen.
  • Have your VIN etched or engraved onto your CAT - For about $30, a kit sold by Vehicle Road Safety Solutions (VRSS) will allow you to purchase your identification number embedded on a piece of tape. From there, you or your vehicle technician can swab a chemical over it, etching that number onto your CAT. Through a central database app, authorities can track that converter to your vehicle. To be a deterrent to thieves, they would need to notice the engraving or etching before they attempt to steal your CAT. So, while this approach won’t always stop your CAT from being stolen, it does make it more likely that the thief to be caught when they try to sell the part to someone else.  It also improves the chances that your stolen CAT will be returned to you.

Above all, be alert. If you see someone acting suspiciously, including if you see anyone underneath a vehicle or around a residence/business at odd hours of the day or night, contact the police. If safe to do so, try to obtain as much information as possible to help the police, including any vehicle registration numbers.













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James Billings

James Billings

Practice Leader