Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insuran...

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Chris Harrigan has an economic degree from Limestone College and an MBA from Clemson University. He previously managed auto insurance claims for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Currently, he is using his business and insurance expertise to provide insurance data analysis and visualizations to enhance the user experience.

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Reviewed by Chris Harrigan
Former Auto Insurance Claims Manager Chris Harrigan

UPDATED: Feb 22, 2022

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Key Takeaways

  • Catalytic converters include valuable metals that attract thieves who wish to grind down the metals and sell them for as much as $30,000 per ounce
  • Comprehensive coverage includes cases of theft, vandalism, and weather-related incidents that are outside of driver control
  • Each car insurance company has different costs for comprehensive coverage, but the average is approximately $100 to $300 annually, or $8 to $25 a month

May car owners would agree that vehicle protections take much thought. Between key fobs and security alarms, car protection can seem like a lot to handle for many drivers. Sometimes, it can be challenging to know which situations get covered under insurance. Comprehensive car insurance has considerable advantages for those with specific concerns about theft and vandalism.

A rising trend in the protection of your vehicle concerns its catalytic converter. Catalytic converter theft may leave some owners panicked for answers with their insurance companies, but drivers can rest assured that there are many options. Car insurance companies have put in provisions across the board to handle the rising threat of catalytic converter thieves and offer advice on spotting tampering or theft.

Nerves aside, we are here to help. Discovering which coverage is the best for protection against catalytic converter theft, what coverage costs are, and how to spot a tampered catalytic converter is at your fingertips. Use our free car insurance quote tool above and get an idea of which car insurance companies meet your needs.

Comprehensive Coverage Includes Catalytic Converter Theft

Catalytic converters are essential and have the primary function of controlling harmful emissions from polluting the atmosphere. This vital component was added to vehicle manufacturing in the 1970s and has become a mandatory part of the automobile industry.

In the several decades since the introduction of catalytic converters, their engineering and manufacturing have improved consistently. As such, more and more precious metals have been incorporated into the creation of catalytic converters, leaving thieves more inclined to steal them.

Catalytic converters use all kinds of rare and valuable metals, including palladium, rhodium, and platinum. Rhodium – a metal ten times more profitable than platinum – makes the theft of a car’s catalytic converter worth the risk for many thieves since just an ounce of these metals can produce a cumulative of around $30,000 per ounce.

The rising risk of having your car’s catalytic converter stolen is emotionally challenging, but there is some relief. Many insurance companies like State Farm, Progressive, AAA, and Farmers Insurance have comprehensive coverage – which is coverage for circumstances outside of a car owner’s control.

Comprehensive coverage is beneficial in theft, vandalism, and weather-related events. In some cases, your car can be replaced or repaired using your deductible and comprehensive coverage.

The cost of comprehensive coverage varies depending on the company used and the state of residence. Generally, this coverage has an approximate annual cost of $100 – $300. This relatively low cost is light on the wallet and has the high potential of easing much stress and discomfort from potential theft or vandalism.

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Signs of a Stolen Catalytic Converter

The number of catalytic converter thefts in the United States jumped from around 3,000 to nearly 14,500 over a single year. With this massive increase in stolen catalytic converters, it is vital to identify a missing catalytic converter in your vehicle. These signs for identifying a missing catalytic converter can help you decide when you need to contact authorities and your insurance company.

The catalytic converter is responsible for handling the emissions of a car. Thus, the initial tell of a stolen catalytic converter is a very loud startup and running sound. An engine of a missing catalytic converter will sound much louder than a usual motor. A typical engine will not draw too much attention. However, if your motor is noisier, it is time to look for other signs.

You may also smell the emissions coming from your vehicle when the catalytic converter is missing. This foul smell should be almost immediately noticeable and emits from the car’s exhaust line. The large hole of a missing catalytic converter will contribute to both the noise and the smell. Without the catalytic converter to stop these emissions, the scent will not be that of a typical car but instead much more pungent.

Drivers who have already started driving, or did not notice these two initial signs, may find that their car is not as responsive as it should be. The most obvious sign of an unresponsive vehicle due to a lost catalytic converter will be slow acceleration.

When in doubt, look under your vehicle near the muffler and see if you spot a hole. You may also want to look for abrasions and other evidence of tampering. If a hole and evidence of tampering are present, your catalytic converter is likely missing.

What to do if Your Catalytic Converter Has Been Stolen

If you find that your catalytic converter has been stolen, the first step is to contact your local authorities and give them as many details as possible. While you may not know a lot of the information, such as who stole your catalytic converter or when it happened, this report will help narrow down who the thieves are and stop them from stealing other converters in the area.

Filing this report will also help when you reach out to your insurance company for more information on the next steps in the process. If you have comprehensive coverage, your insurance company will help you through the next steps in repairing or replacing your car, as needed.

How to Prevent Future Catalytic Converter Thefts

Since the cost of fixing a vehicle after catalytic converter theft without your insurance company’s assistance can easily be more than several thousand dollars, it is imperative to decrease the risk of future thefts as much as possible. 

Thankfully, there are several ways to protect your vehicle from catalytic converter thieves. The first and foremost is to install a security system in your car. Many vehicles come from the factory with security systems inside, but older models may not have this feature. Installing one that includes lights and indicators can deter thieves who will not find setting off the car’s alarms worth the hassle.

A bonus with installing an alarm is that some insurance companies may offer a car alarm insurance discount.

Since the catalytic converter is located at the back of the car, near the muffler, parking with the vehicle’s rear close to a wall will make your car harder prey. If your car’s rear is inaccessible, thieves will be less likely to target your vehicle since the converter will be harder to get.

If concerned that your converter is at risk of being stolen, you may want to have a professional engrave your catalytic converter with your car’s vehicle identification number or VIN. A vehicle identification number is a number or code assigned to every automobile during manufacturing.

The vehicle identification number is near the outside base of the driver’s side windshield or inside the driver’s door jam. This code holds a lot of information, including who your previous auto insurance company was, any history of car theft, or your car’s manufacturing or recall information.

Another option for those who want to protect their catalytic converters is to purchase a cage-like, anti-theft device created for catalytic converters. These can deter potential thieves and keep your vehicle safe while it is out of your sight.

The Bottom Line: Does insurance cover catalytic converter theft?

Looking for the best possible coverage for catalytic converter theft can be difficult, but we can make it easier. Now that you know what a catalytic converter is, what it does, and how to tell if yours has been stolen, you can evaluate your risks and decide if comprehensive coverage is right for you.

The additional and inexpensive cost of comprehensive coverage can save car owners discomfort and stress. If you seek to protect your vehicle from potential theft, vandalism, or damage to your catalytic converter, use your ZIP code in our free car insurance comparison tool to browse the comprehensive coverage available on the market.