Sam Horvath, a Chicago resident, set off for a morning class of yoga the day following the Fourth of July. She turned on her Honda CR-V 2004 and suddenly heard something very familiar.
She heard a sound that sounded more like a lawnmower than a car engine. Her heart sank. She said, “Right away I heard the sound.”
The sound was that of theft. It was the second time her catalytic converter had been stolen during the pandemic while her crossover was parked on the street, leaving her without a crucial and costly part that reduces engine noise and prevents harmful emissions.
This is an old crime, but it has been resurgent in recent years due to criminals pursuing the precious metals within the devices for sale on the black marketplace. All it takes is a saw and up to two minutes to snag a part that can fetch several hundred dollars in a hot market for rare metals.
Here are some tips to prevent catalytic converter theft.
Theft of catalytic converters has risen nationwide since the outbreak. This is because of a shortage of rare metals, which causes a rise in the prices of the parts and makes them a tempting target. Victims of theft can have loud cars that cost as much as $3,000 to repair, which is often not covered under insurance. In certain areas, it is against the law to drive your car without a catalytic convert.
Catalytic converters are used in vehicle exhaust systems to reduce engine emission. They convert toxic gases into water vapor or carbon monoxide. These converters are located between the exhaust pipe and the engine in a car’s exhaust system.
According to the non-profit National Insurance Crime Bureau, which fights fraud for the insurance industry, vehicles that are particularly vulnerable to theft include SUVs, pickups, vans, and hybrids like the Toyota Prius.
According to NICB data, catalytic converter thefts were rare before the pandemic. They averaged 108 per month between 2018 and 2019. This rose to 282 per month in 2019, and spiked up to 1,203 per month in 2020. The number of thefts continued to rise as the years progressed, reaching 2,347 by December.
Based on a review of NICB data, and Google search reports, BeenVerified estimates that thieves stole almost 26,000 from January to May 2021. This would mean a monthly average more than 5,000.
The average criminal can steal a catalytic convert using an electric saw in 30 to 2 minutes, according to David Glawe, CEO of NICB
He said, “We have seen an increase in thefts because they are relatively easy to steal.” Then, an unscrupulous recycle center or repair shop could sell them for $150-300.” Thieves get a cut.
Ray Fisher, the president of The Automotive Service Association which represents repair shops said that the code of ethics prohibits them dealing with stolen catalytic convertors. However, he acknowledged that not all shops will adhere to these rules.
He said, “Whenever there is a bad apple it spoils all the others.”
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He pointed out that thieves can target repair shops’ lots and cause catalytic converter thefts.
Fisher stated that although repair shops try their best to preserve the vehicle, sometimes they are unable to protect it with the provisions or real estate available.
Prices for Metals Rise
As rare metals like rhodium or palladium become more expensive due to pandemic-related supply chain slowdowns and production outages, the theft of converters is a lucrative business during COVID-19. The production of nitric acids is done with rhodium, while jewelry and dental fillings are made from palladium.
Both metals are in high demand. Rhodium prices have risen from $7,100 per ounce in 2020 to $14,000. By the end of 2019, they had jumped to $27,000. The price of palladium rose from $1,967 to $2,336 an ounce last year, and reached $2.885 by May 2021. As of Tuesday morning, the price for gold was $1,814 an ounce.
Richard Gargan of BeenVerified, who studied converter thefts and is a consumer advocate said that “that makes them more valuable than gold” at this point. People park the car out of sight, believing it is safe. But underneath, there is a valuable bit of precious metal that can be taken off by someone.
It could cost you hundreds of thousands to replace your vehicle, depending on whether it is an aftermarket replacement or a brand-name one; how big the car is; as well as the labor and conversion costs. Although insurance can assist, it is only possible if your policy includes comprehensive coverage. Rate and deductible concerns are enough to discourage many from filing a claim. Theft is not covered by liability coverage.
Horvath’s comprehensive insurance meant that she only had to spend $250 to repair her catalytic converter that was taken recently. This is a difference from the $2,000 that would have been spent at Chicago shops.
Scott Boehler was not covered by his insurance when the Catalytic Converter on his Toyota Prius 2008 was taken in 2020. Boehler was in San Diego, where he was working as an agricultural product distributor and was traveling the country when the catalytic converter was stolen from his Toyota Prius.
He estimated that the repair would have cost $3,000 to replace a part in a Southern California shop.
He said, “I work full-time, I earn decent money but don’t have comprehensive insurance.” They would have totaled it.”
The vehicle was not worth the money so he went to someone to install an aftermarket part for $300. This can be a cost-saving move, however the quality of the part may not match that of the manufacturer.
To increase its efficiency, the Prius’ catalytic converter contains rare metals.
California was hard hit
According to the NICB, 2020 was a year in which Texas, California, Illinois and Minnesota were the most popular states for catalytic converter burglaries.
Glawe, the NICB CEO, said legislation to require people who sell precious metals to provide their identification could help reduce theft. He also said that proactive policing would be a good idea.
It is often difficult for black-market sellers to be found because the parts they sell are not easily identifiable or traceable. Police have been able to track down some converter thieves.
The police in Torrance, Los Angeles County intensified their efforts against the crime. Over a period of three weeks, police made 20 arrests for catalytic converter thefts. They also recovered 87 devices.
Sergeant. Mark Ponegalek stated that officers were stationed in vehicles unmarked in high-risk locations, looking out for unusual activity like double-parked cars.
It is very difficult to find the owner of a stolen catalytic converter because they don’t have serial numbers. Reinstalling a catalytic convert after it has been removed is generally against the law.
Ponegalek stated that these are not typically returned. They are useless once they have been cut.
You can follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey and subscribe to our free Daily Money newsletter here for personal finance tips and business news every Monday through Friday morning.
The original version of this article appeared on USA TODAY. Catalytic converter theft soars! Thieves strike SUVs and pickups, Prius
Publited Sat, 24 July 2021 at 19:56:29 +0000