Does car insurance cover catalytic converter theft?

Yes, catalytic converter theft is covered by your comprehensive insurance.

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Rachael Brennan

Rachael Brennan

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

Rachael Brennan is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in MoneyGeek, Clearsurance, Adweek, Boston Globe, The Ladders, and AutoInsurance.com.

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According to the Congressional Research Service, 14,433 catalytic converters were stolen in 2020. [1] A combination of the valuable metals used inside catalytic converters and supply chain issues that make catalytic converters harder to get have spurred an increase in catalytic converter theft across the country.

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Drivers who have comprehensive coverage as part of their car insurance policy are covered for catalytic converter theft.

Key takeaways

  • A catalytic converter is part of your car’s exhaust system that reduces harmful emissions.

  • People steal catalytic converters because they contain valuable metals like platinum, rhodium, and palladium.

  • Catalytic converter theft is covered under your comprehensive coverage.

Does car insurance cover catalytic converter theft?

Catalytic converter theft is covered under your comprehensive coverage. Drivers who have their catalytic converter stolen can file a comprehensive claim and it will likely be covered, though you should check the details of your policy to verify what is and is not covered. 

Your comprehensive deductible will apply to the claim, so if you have a $1,000 deductible and it costs $1,500 to replace the catalytic converter, the insurance company will write you a check for $500 and you will be expected to pay the rest out of pocket. Drivers who don’t have comprehensive insurance won’t be covered for any kind of car theft and will have to pay out of pocket to get a replacement.

What is a catalytic converter?

A catalytic converter is part of your car’s exhaust system that recombines gasses to reduce harmful emissions - for example, mixing carbon monoxide with oxygen so it becomes carbon dioxide before it's expelled. Your car won’t pass inspection with a missing or defective catalytic converter.

Why do people steal catalytic converters?

There are several reasons why people steal catalytic converters, including:

  • They are valuable: There are extremely valuable metals, like platinum, rhodium, and palladium, inside a catalytic converter. 

  • They are easy to steal: The catalytic converter is easy to access on most cars, which makes them an easy target for thieves.

  • It isn’t obvious when they are stolen: You wouldn’t know a car was missing a catalytic converter by looking at it, which means someone could steal a catalytic converter from a car sitting in a driveway or parking lot and it likely wouldn’t be discovered until the owner took the car to the shop to find out why their check engine light came on. 

How can I tell if my catalytic converter has been stolen?

Driving a car without a catalytic converter is a very different experience than driving a car with a catalytic converter, so you should feel the difference as soon as you start driving the car. The car won’t drive smoothly, it will accelerate loudly, and it will generally sputter and jolt as you speed up while driving. 

Additionally, your check engine light coming on is one of the most obvious signs your catalytic converter is missing.

What to do if your catalytic converter is stolen

If you discover that your catalytic converter has been stolen, there are several steps to take to make sure it gets replaced properly, including:

  1. Contact the police: You’ll need to file an official report so you have the necessary paperwork to file a claim against your comprehensive insurance.

  2. Get a quote for repairs: Reach out to your mechanic and get a quote for the cost to replace your catalytic converter. Depending on how the catalytic converter was removed from your car, there may be other damages that were caused by the theft that need to be included in your quote.

  3. File a claim with your insurance: If you have comprehensive insurance coverage, you can file a comprehensive claim with your insurance company to cover the damage. If you don’t have comprehensive insurance, you’ll need to pay for the repair out-of-pocket.

How to prevent catalytic converter theft

There are several steps you can take to prevent someone from stealing your catalytic converter: 

  • Park carefully: When you are deciding where to park, choose a spot close to a wall and park with your exhaust pipe next to the wall to make it hard to reach. If you can’t do that, try to park in a well-lit area or an area with surveillance cameras.

  • Get an alarm: A car alarm that responds to vibrations can let you know if someone is trying to steal your catalytic converter.

  • Get a catalytic converter lock: There are several types of cage-like locks that fit around your catalytic converter, making it more difficult and time consuming for a thief to try to steal it. 

Frequently asked questions

What happens to your car if someone steals your catalytic converter?

A car without a functional catalytic converter will make a loud sound as you accelerate, drive rough, and sputter as you change speeds. A car with a missing or defunct catalytic converter also doesn’t filter exhaust properly, which means it won’t pass inspection.

How much does it cost to replace a catalytic converter that was stolen?

According to the NICB, a new catalytic converter can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000. There are some available for as little as $300-$400, but those often don’t work at all and, when they do, they wear out very quickly.

Which cars are most likely to have the catalytic converter stolen?

The more expensive a catalytic converter is to replace, the more likely it is to be targeted by thieves, but many catalytic converter thefts are simply crimes of opportunity. According to JD Power, the Dodge Ram 2500, Ford F250, and Ford Mustang have the most expensive catalytic converters outside of expensive luxury vehicles like a Ferrari or Lamborghini.

Can a car run without a catalytic converter?

Yes, a car can run without a catalytic converter, but in most states it is illegal and your car won’t pass inspection without one. If your catalytic converter is stolen or stops working your car will still drive, but you’ll need to make getting a new one a priority to avoid breaking the law.

References

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  1. Congressional Research Service

    . "

    Addressing Catalytic Converter Theft

    ." Accessed August 03, 2022.

Author

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

Rachael Brennan

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

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Rachael Brennan is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in MoneyGeek, Clearsurance, Adweek, Boston Globe, The Ladders, and AutoInsurance.com.

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