Data compiled by the RAC and insurer Ageas shows that thefts of the critical exhaust component jumped in 2020, accounting for 30 per cent of all theft claims made to the Ageas. That is up from the 20 per cent recorded in 2019.
Catalytic converters, which filter pollutants from a vehicle’s exhaust gases are a prime target for thieves as they are relatively easy to remove and packed with precious metals which can be stripped and traded in. The converters feature a combination of platinum, palladium and rhodium, prices of which hit a record high earlier this year, up 200 per cent on March 2020.
However, the devices are expensive to replace and in some cases their theft can see a car declared an insurance write-off. The parts themselves can cost in excess of £1,000 and the AA has estimated that repairing the damage caused by their removal can cost up to £3,000
Ageas’s data shows that most thefts have happened while cars have been parked at home, either on the driveway or the road, although in a very small number of cases thieves were brazen enough to steal them in supermarket car parks while the driver was shopping.
Robin Challand, claims director at Ageas, said: “While catalytic converters are just one component of a car, their theft can often result in a driver’s car being written off which is the last thing we want for our customers. We hope that by shining a spotlight on this type of crime, we can arm motorists with the information they need to protect their vehicles.”
RAC spokesman Simon Williams added: “Drivers are often oblivious of their vehicle’s catalytic converter being stolen. Our patrols are often called to attend cars that have suddenly become excessively noisy. On investigation it’s very often the case that the car’s catalytic converter has been stolen.
The cars most likely to suffer catalytic converter theft
The new figures from Ageas echo findings from Admiral insurance which also compiled a list of the vehicles most likely to be targeted.
Based on the claims it has handled, the Honda Jazz, Toyota Prius, Toyota Auris and Lexus RX were the most likely targets. Many of these models are hybrids, which are particular favoured by thieves as their converters don’t work as hard as in other vehicles and so the precious metals contained in them are less corroded.
How to protect your car from catalytic converter theft
Simon Williams offers some simple advice on making your vehicle a less appealing target: “Most car crime takes place at night, so it makes sense to park a vehicle in a well-lit and residential location, or ideally in a garage if available. When away from home, look for car parks that have security patrols and are covered by CCTV.”
Police forces around the country have also issue further steps you can take, including:
Park close to fences, walls or kerbs with the exhaust being closest to the barrier; this will make the theft more difficult
Avoid mounting your car on the kerb to park as it gives thieves easy access
If your catalytic converter is bolted on ask your local garage to weld the bolts to make it more difficult to remove
Consider a ‘cage clamp’ which locks around the converter or have the unit etched with a unique ID number
Speak to your car dealership about a tilt sensor that activates the alarm if someone tries to jack up your vehicle
If you see someone acting suspiciously under a vehicle, report it to the police