/ Motoring

Have you had your catalytic converter stolen?

With case reports increasing, catalytic converter theft appears to be a growing problem. Have you been a victim? We want to hear from you.

Last month the BBC reported a surge in the number of catalytic converters being stolen in London. In August last year it said thefts in England and Wales had risen sixfold.

I’ve noticed an increasing number of posts on social media about the thefts: it’s clear that this is a problem that’s getting worse, not better.

 

They’re not just being taken under cover of darkness, either. People are reporting having their catalytic converters stolen in supermarket car parks and even while parked up in broad daylight. One local resident reported the thieves cheerfully waving as they drove off. 

Those affected are, understandably, angry. Angry there’s nothing they can do about it, bar get a crime number to pass on to their insurance company. Angry that the thieves are so brazen. Angry that it all seems to be so easy for them.

Why are catalytic converter thefts rising?

To get a better understanding of the problem, we spoke with one of the garages on our Which? Trusted Traders scheme. We put the following five questions to IN’n’OUT Autocentres:

🔧 1. Why is this issue growing so rapidly?

It’s always been an issue, but a jump from 2,000 reported cases in 2018 across England & Wales to 13,000 in 2019 shows it’s growing rapidly. Following on from repeated lockdowns the likelihood is that theft has increased as cars have been stationary in streets and driveways and not used for weeks. Fewer people out at night time can make thefts easier.

🔧 2. How are catalytic converters being removed without anyone noticing?

Unfortunately they are easy to remove, particularly on large vans and SUVs/4X4s as thieves can get under those vehicles more easily. Again with people being homebound in the evenings due to lockdown there are fewer people on the streets, making it easier to do.

🔧 3. What happens to a catalytic converter after it’s stolen?

They get sold for the scrap value or the second-hand market. Prices have rocketed for rhodium, platinum and palladium, with palladium selling more per gram than gold last year.

🔧 4. How much could victims be forced to pay for repairs?

It could be as little £200 depending on the car and the damage caused, or in some cases even into four figures.

🔧 5. What can be done to prevent catalytic converter theft?

We’d recommend parking the car in a garage if possible or a well-lit area, have a catlock device fitted, ensure your car alarm is set.

Have you been a victim?

Have you been affected by catalytic converter theft?
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Have you had your catalytic converter stolen? If so, we’d like to hear from you.

How did your insurance company approach the issue? Did you report the incident to the police? How did the police then deal with the situation?

Let us know in the comments. Alternatively, if you’d rather let us know privately you can reach us by email on conversation.comments@which.co.uk

Comments

I don’t actually drive but I know several folk who do and at least one of them is a well experienced diy mechanic and welder and surely it should be possible to weld a nice thick steel plate over the area where the cat converter is fitted so as to make it far harder to steal, and I think vehicle manufacturers should be doing far more to make such a valuable item far more difficult to steal. Most thieves like a quick and easy job and it seems to me that the vehicle builders are making the theft far too easy. And if welding in that area isn’t practical for safety reasons, or because of too much delicate stuff nearby then what about fitting a plate in place with bolts and sheer nuts, preferably stainless so they don’t corrode and get seized on. Obviously they would be more difficult to remove when work needs doing, like when the cat needs replacing but it can be done as I’ve removed sheer nuts before now, but it’s hard to do and it takes time and it needs special tools but it would be just what the thieves don’t need. And of course not all car owners are have such ability to fit such a thing and it would be a garage job so why not mention this suggestion to some of the garages in your Which? trusted traders scheme?

I don’t know anyone who has had a catalytic converter stolen.

Are the stolen catalytic converters being sold for reuse or for scrap? Either way, there must be other criminals involved in handling the stolen property.

Here is information about where most thefts occur: https://www.autoexpress.co.uk/news/105620/worst-towns-and-cities-catalytic-converter-thefts-revealed

We have had 6 stolen on my road alone,I know of 5 others locally.

My Toyota Prius catalytic was stolen from my Driveway in evening about 7pm, all was recorded on ring camera when reported to police they were only interested it noting it down and generating crime report and that’s we thought would be it, but few weeks local community police came to our house just to discuss same thing and there is really nothing they could do.

We went to insurer directline and they were fantastic, gave us replacement car, booked repair with their garage but as wait list and time to wait was longer for parts, we told them parts are available with local Toyota garage and they towed our car to toyota garage instead of their repair place and it was all done in 4weeks.

Problem was insurer were not ready to pay more to get catlock fitted despite of know, same cars are getting targeted more than once. Even part payment 50%.
So as it was too much stress to go through all this again we decided to go for catlock from Toyota for 250£ and so far we have not been targeted again in 2 years

Thanks for posting, Rajesh. I’m sorry to hear that your catalytic converter was stolen and to learn that a catlock can be used to prevent theft. I have heard of thefts but did not know that security devices existed.

I don’t think many insurers would pay to have one fitted, any more than they would fund installation of an alarm or immobiliser, even though it might avoid future claims. I’m sorry that the police took no action. I well remember when windows of my car were smashed while I was attending a function in a city centre on a Friday evening. All that happened was the details were recorded.

Freddy says:
15 April 2021

Same happened to me. Police not interested beyond noting it down and generating a letter telling me that there is nothing they could do to help.

Bez says:
13 April 2021

Several cars of the same make Honda Jazz were targeted in one night in our town. One of them was mine. I was quoted £1000 to replace it – not worth it only to be stolen again. The insurance company wrote the car off.

Robin says:
14 April 2021

I have had the catalytic converter stolen from my Toyota. It cost roughly £2,000 to have it replaced which was covered by my insurance and carried out quicker than my local Toyota garage could do by the insurance companies nominated repairer. I have subsequently had a “Catlock” fitted by Toyota costing me £250. However the garage Manager hastened to say that a Catlock only slows the criminals down and does not ensure the security of the catalytic converter.

A welded plate as part of the basic body design sounds like a good idea but could make it difficult, if not impossible for exhaust replacement.

I’m told that the criminals are particularly keen on hybrid cars as the Cat-converter is likely to be contaminated less but perhaps they are just easier to get to.

Cracking down on the scrap dealers who deal in the rare metals might seem the obvious solution but the chances are that the stolen material is easily smuggled abroad.

Further to Rajesh’s comment above “reported to police they were only interested it noting it down and generating crime report” one night part of my family had 3 catalytic converters stolen, along with their cars. 🙁 One car had a tracker but that clearly was soon discovered and disabled. The police took down their report and said you won’t see those cars again. That is, of course, true if you make no effort to find them.

I presume when anything is insured they assume you will get some recompense. And as we seem to lack police I suppose on that basis they can say they have better things to do. But it is not right when that attitude is known to the professional perpetrators.

A few years ago I had my car broken into in a council car park with cctv one dark wet evening. I tried to report it but the police were “closed” – after 5:30 – and asked me to report it next day. Presumably these criminals work the night shift as they are quite well aware that between 17:30 and 08:30 they have little chance of being caught by Mr Plod.

I think overall the police have got their priorities right, but it is such a pity that their efforts have to be focused on drugs and violence [the two are not unconnected] so that crimes against material things [with no personal contact] are merely listed for statistical purposes.

There are quite a number of TV programmes featuring the endeavours of various constabularies or branches of the police but it doesn’t seem that their dogged efforts are having much influence on the level of criminal activity. I am usually astonished by the light sentences passed on offenders for very distressing crimes when they are revealed.

As well as lack of police we also lack prison space. I don’t think jail is a good deterrent for many but am pushed to know what alternative to suggest.

Perhaps vehicle manufacturers should fit guards to deter theft or at least offer them as an option. It seems that vehicles with a high ground clearance make theft easier.

Auris Owner says:
3 May 2021

The police knocked on my door one day and said my vehicle was at risk of having its catalytic converter stolen as a number had been targeted in the vicinity. Next week I had a steel wire clamp and steel plate fitted by a private garage and it took them over 2 hours to fit. I think its a bit more secure than the standard catloc but cost the same as what Toyota charge. I am under no illusions it is now 100% safe, just hope it will be something of a deterrent because it will take a bit longer to remove. If it should get stolen I will have it replaced (assuming the car is not a write-off) and then immediately sell the vehicle as these criminals often return for the new one soon after. I dont know what replacement car I will get but for sure it wont be another hybrid and neither it will be an electric as ones with a big range are far too expensive. So its back to petrol for me.

Angela says:
15 April 2021

In my Road 5 more Catalytics have been stolen 5 weeks after mine was. I phoned my local Toyota dealer’s Service team as I had heard There was no Charge for Fitting for replacements he quoted me £1.000 for the Replacement, but there was a Waiting list for them. My Prius is 2004 plate. I suggested Toyota should have Informed owners as they do for Recalls. Sadly they don’t was his response. I had mine Replaced by my Local Garage for £500 They don’t have any of the Metals inside that the Original had. My car runs perfectly fine now.

Mr Sanjay Patel says:
16 April 2021

My Mark 3 Prius had its catalytic converter stolen in broad daylight while parked for 30 minutes on the street outside a busy local park. My father in law had 2 catalytic converters stolen within 11 months of each other from his Mark 2 Prius which was parked on the street. We filed police reports but there was no action taken to check local CCTV or do anything other than acknowledge our reports with crime references. It cost £1,300 every time to replace the converters and resulted in insurance premium increases, not to mention the fact the cars were out of action for several weeks each time as Toyota had a parts shortage due to heavy demand for replacement converters. I tweeted Toyota to ask what they are doing about it but received no response, which isn’t surprising I suppose as this is probably quite a money earner for them!

John Brown says:
16 April 2021

I believe that Toyota don’t make money from this because they say that they supply replacement parts and Catlocs at cost price.

While I was at Sainsbury’s Cobham had my catalytic converter stolen from my Honda Jazz in broad daylight. Cameras were only covering immediate area next to building and most of the car park is not covered. This was in December 2019. The garage that took away my car said that there were loads happening in the run up to Xmas as it is a quick way of thieves making money if they have the right equipment. Reported to the police who just noted it. Insurer covered it but wouldn’t say how much it cost. Of course I paid £250 excess. Don’t feel the replacement is as good, there are unpleasant fumes. I now never park at that car park.

Bill says:
16 April 2021

My car was off the road during the whole of first lockdown due to being unable to obtain a new cat. I initially got a quote off a well known tyre/exhaust dealer who quoted around £550. The insurance agreed to sort it with their approved repairer with a final sum of £1450, whose ripping off who? My insurance at renewal went up from £300 to £950 so did`nt renew with them

Dave says:
16 April 2021

I know someone who had one stolen but was unable to find somewhere where a cat lock could be fitted, I did find one but they wanted £2500, maybe you could look into this.

My catalytic converter was stolen during lockdown. (Car was parked outside unused from March 2020) Didn’t even know when it happened. Wasn’t until I called out the AA to deal with my flat battery in June, when the AA man said “you’ve got a bigger problem than a flat battery”. I live in Croydon and unfortunately CC theft in South London is rife. Just another statistic for Police. No quibble with insurance company despite renewing just before I discovered the theft. Cost £1500, paid excess of £200. Have since had cat locks and cat tilt alarm fitted by Toyota (£250). This claim has also increased price on the three vehicle insurance policies we have in our house. All on a Toyota Auris Hybrid that has only been driven less than £500 miles since March 2020. It’s now locked up behind large wooden gates and used infrequently. Thought about selling it but it’s a fantastic car and I wouldn’t be able to replace it with anything as good for the money I’ll get selling it.
I am very angry that the car manufacturers knew about this long before it became a major issue and I hold them to account. I probably won’t buy another Toyota.
The police also took their eye off the problem. This was affecting thousands of decent people in London and they were just patting themselves on the back for picking up a few criminals who were dealing drugs.

The catalytic converter of my aged Honda was stolen in February. I did report it to the police, which was relatively easy, but without CCTV coverage they have nothing to go on and took no action. The process with the insurance company and their body shop was not difficult but very, very slow. Because of the age of my car, it was borderline between repair and write-off. After nearly a month it was repaired, but I had to cover the £450 deductible. I don’t know yet what the impact will be on my insurance premium.

The police sent me a brochure about what you can do to prevent this theft. This is all make-believe if you don’t have a garage or a car whose manufacturer has specifically taken steps to prevent these thefts (e.g., Toyota’s cage). I spoke with the repair company, with Honda, with my usual garage — no one had any help to offer, not even wanted to inscribe a reg number. Honda only say that the valuable part of the converter is at the front, so try to park close to the car in front of you to make the theft marginally less easy.

The harsh truth is we are all sitting ducks and cannot do anything meaningful to prevent these thefts until the manufacturers step up.

The catalytic converter from our 2016 model Prius was stolen just before midnight in the middle of March 2021 from the street outside our house. Several of our neighbours saw this happening including some who took the thieves’ car number. The police were called – rang my doorbell – saying they spent quite a lot of time chasing these thieves but they can remove a converter so quickly – 90 seconds – that it is almost impossible to catch them The cars they use change number plates frequently. I got a crime number and claimed from the insurance company. My excess in total was £450 plus fitting a Catloc costing £330 plus any loss of no-claim bonus. The police say that Toyota Prius and Honda Jazz are the most popular models with the thieves. The driver of the car carrier that took my car to the garage says that he takes about 20 cars per week mostly Prius to have their catalytic converter replaced. I am not going to risk this happening again and will switch to a less vulnerable make and model. I know several people who have had more than one converter stolen. The total cost of replacement is about £1,500 in London. It is a pity that Toyota and their dealers have done so little to protect vulnerable cars – it is certainly a consideration if buying a Toyota Prius which is otherwise an excellent car.

Mendel says:
16 April 2021

Is there the same problem with pure electric vehicles?

Unlike hybrid vehicles, they don’t have an engine, so have no catalytic converter. Electric vehicles do contain batteries that would cost a great deal more than a cat to replace, so hopefully car manufacturers have thought about security.

Judith Massey says:
16 April 2021

I have an elderly Honda Jazz. My catalytic converter was stolen from a Park & Ride outside Bristol. I got it replaced at a local garage, it cost about £400. This included part of the exhaust that was also damaged. They knew of several people round the village who had had their catalytic converters stolen, often from outside their houses. I informed the police, but never heard any more. I paid the garage and the insurers paid me (it is a small local garage and I did not want then to have to wait ages for the insurers to pay).

David says:
16 April 2021

I saw my CC being stolen from my 2011 Prius. I rang 999 but the thieves only took 2 minutes with their metal cutting machine so no risk of being caught. I doubt if an alarm would make much difference. A catlock is only marginally going to slow thieves down. Its main use is to suggest that your original CC has been stolen. There is less point in stealing a replacement (as new ones have less of the expensive metals inside). With no catlock thieves may steal replacements unwittingly.

Simon says:
16 April 2021

My Toyota Prius had its catalytic converter stolen twice in 2019, on the second occasion within 8 hours of return from the Toyota garage having had a catloc fitted. Organised crime does this in less than 2 minutes, even with a lock. The police attended the crime on the second occasion but just missed catching the criminals. To my knowledge they did not pursue the crime any further and when I enquired at a later time I got no reply. I have to park on the street so I sold the car for a low price. I would not even consider buying another hybrid where I live. My insurance premium for a new (petrol) car is much increased as a result of the two thefts.

Why do car owners with garages consider it better to store lumber and junk in their garages than their precious vehicles which can be stolen entire or have valuable parts removed? In our case it is because the car will barely fit even if the garage is bare, but the next car [if ever] will be narrower and shorter.

I built a double garage in brick and tile to match the house. It only once had a car in it for one wet evening when it was convenient to carry out a repair. It houses my workshop, freezer, wine, stores stuff that won’t fit in the house, and has an upstairs with…… more storage and most of my books. It seems such a waste of useful space to just put a car in it when I have a large drive.

When we bought the original bungalow it had an attached flat roofed garage that must have been designed for an Austin 7. Little else would fit and allow an exit. As cars have got larger, older single garages become less accommodating. Just like the spaces in car parks.

I expect the source of energy for cars is bound to become much more expensive even with renewable supplies – and the tax liability won’t go away – so the use of wider, longer, thicker, and heavier motors will have to be reviewed.

Back to the Trabant for all! Electrified, of course – they were the dirtiest cars on the planet.

Modern homes often have little storage space and we often have more possessions than previous generations, so a decent garage provides reasonably secure storage for the surplus. Where I live, some people always garage their cars but most do not.

I used to garage my car unless it had been raining, which would have made the contents of the garage damp. I stopped using the garage when a new car (same make and model) was too wide, thanks to larger wing mirrors. I once had the side-repeater indicators stolen when my car was parked outside the garage at my previous home. I have a double garage and could rearrange the contents to accommodate the car but at present it is too useful for storage and as a workshop.

Junk? One day it will come in useful – if I remember I have it and where I put it.
One son sent me a birthday card:
Dad. /dad/ noun President of the Hoarding Society.
Can frequently be overheard saying “This might come in useful one day”.

John Brown says:
16 April 2021

Catalytic Converter stolen from my 2010 Prius at the start of April this year. I had no idea that Toyotas (particularly the Prius and Auris models of a certain age) were more likely to have the CC stolen. Apparently it is because these older models have more of the precious metals in the CC. It would have helped me if my insurance company had explained why my premium was going up when my renewal was due in February. They didn’t explain why, so I changed to another insurer and became the victim of this crime. Still without my car as I write this.