/ 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

Sue Miller says:
16 April 2021

I have had my catalytic converter from my Lexus CT 300 hybrid stolen twice in 12 months. First time was in Totteridge in Dec 2019 outside a church where I was attending a funeral, and the second in Nov 2020 outside my house. I had just pulled up having been grocery shopping. My upstairs neighbour looked out of his window, saw the two guys taking it and took some photos of their getaway car. The police were here quickly as there had been lots of incidents in the local area that day; they took note of the car, found it but couldn’t arrest them as they were wearing masks so couldn’t be identified!
My insurers were wonderful both times ( M & S then John Lewis, both using same insurance company) . They were helpful and dealt with me sympathetically and efficiently.

Have you considered having a guard fitted, Sue? After two claims you may find your insurance premium rising. It’s amazing that thieves are operating where they can be seen.

Keith Reen says:
5 June 2021

We live in potters bar Herts and I had one stolen last night I think I caught it on cctv at 1 am .The close opposite also had one stolen and a couple of days ago an adjoining road had one stolen in broad daylight . The police and local councils need to get their act together and put more cctv on the roads to tract the getaway cars to match the timing on home cctv. The real problem as far as I am concerned (which relates to the chap in Totteridge) is that these low life criminal are instructing people what car to buy. I am debating after getting my car fixed – should I continue running it or sell it and run an old banger! I.e the criminals are dictating my choice of car I can run in other words I work hard pay my taxes and I am not allowed any luxury for my hard work -( all export related may I add.)- so much for a free society,. And as someone has pointed out why are the police not blitzing the scrap metal merchants ? After all someone is buying these precious metals if they were more rigorously checked the criminals would have nowhere to sell their stolen materials! To be serous I fear for the future of this country and what lies ahead for children and grandchildren and for everybody else’s!

The modus operandi of these thieves seems to have much in common with motorcycle thefts.

It is really easy to just lift a motorcycle into a van and then spirit it away.

Decent locks, alarms, trackers and the identity tagging of valuable parts have all been deployed in the battle against motorcycle thefts.

Spike says:
16 April 2021

Seems to me that the cars need alteration to stop the thefts as they occur by making it too unpleasant to steal it. Such as systems rigged to detonate those bank ink bombs they add to robbed cash only inject them with super strong chilli essence (tabasco sauce is rated 3000 Im talking the additives that are over 1million scoves) if thin wires attached to the converter pipes or a cat lock are cut.

Maybe something like a garden sprinkler with a batter or car [powered pump with something similar to the chilli essence. You could call it a condiment dispenser that just happens to temporarily blend and cause agonising pain to would be thieves.

How about devices that let off smoke grenades, attaching fireworks to the wire cabling of the cat locks that can ignite when a angle grinder or metal saw is cutting thorough them.

Welding or gluing loads of blades like scalpel blades or razer wire all over the converter and tubing?

Maybe prop modelling something that looks like a bomb to the converter, or say nerf clamour mines loaded with chilli powder



Martin says:
16 April 2021

I had the catalytic converter stolen from my Honda Jazz 2 nights ago! The car was over 12 years old and only worth £700 – £1000. The repair will cost £650.

The car was parked in a village carpark in Essex. Unfortunately there were no CCTV cameras. I did get a phone call from the local police after reporting the crime.

Mike says:
16 April 2021

I had my cat converter stolen while it was parked in a leisure centre car park in Essex. An employee was suspicious and asked what they were doing. He could not see the thief under the car (who was using a portable angle grinder to cut off the converter) and the look-out kept his face away and pretended to be speaking in a mobile phone. He said they were helping a mate check an oil leak. In the time it took the employee to return with 2 other members of staff the thieves had driven off in a BMW which was recorded on CCTV. Police stated they could do nothing as the number plates were false although it was clear from their accents that they were Irish and and Irish travellers had recently arrived close by. Mine was not the only theft from the car park but the fact that thefts of cat converters in the area increased after the arrival of the travellers was merely circumstantial and not sufficent for a search warrant. Cost of replacement £575 and a further £250 for a catlock (thieves do return for the new cat converter). I did not claim under insurance as the premium would increase and I have a £250 excess.

Mrs B says:
16 April 2021

Id never heard of this until mine was stolen one lunchtime whilst I was in Tesco, Sept 2019. I was only in 15 minutes. Carpark had cctv. I reported it to the police as I needed a crime number for my insurance but they said they couldn’t pursue it as no one was injured and insufficient resources. So many Auris Hybrids had been targeted that it took 9 weeks to get my car back as they couldn’t get the parts. (After a month the repairer found a generic cat but I wanted genuine Toyota parts so my warranty was not affected.) Total repair cost £1160. I then paid £250 for Toyota to fit a catloc. Hubby has the same car so had another fitted on that asa deterrent. So with my excess and 2 Catlocs it cost £750 plus a 28% increase in my car insurance (after shopping around). Very costly business indeed.

Chris says:
17 April 2021

The cat on my Toyota Auris was stolen in April 2020 from outside my house at 1:30 in the morning. The thieves used a trolley jack to raise the car and get under it. The police were not interested as the thieves had left by the time of reporting it. The police straightaway closed the case through lack of evidence, then asked me to gather any evidence such as CCTV or witness statements from my neighbours if I wanted to pursue it. The insurance company arranged a replacement without a quibble. Two months later, in June, I was hit again, although they didn’t manage to get the cat this time. I saw one of the thieves on the back seat of the car holding a number plate and when I prepared to take a photo as they sped off I noticed they had no number plate on the car. I guess they remove it first, do the job, and stop around the corner to replace it. The police were again disinterested until I upped the ante. The insurance company had repairs done. I decided to sell the car as we were unwilling to wait for another hit. The insurance company would not refund a proportion of the premium as they had paid out on two claims from me in the year which they could not recover. Recently my sister attempted to get me put on her policy to allow me to drive her car, but her insurer refused me because of the unrecoverable claims. Hopefully that does not stop me getting insurance in the future through no fault of my own.

Ian Kennedy says:
18 April 2021

Had mine stolen right outside my front door on a Friday at 9.30 pm while I was watching TV. Didn’t know until someone in the village posted a video on Facebook the next day as they were passinng at the time . Ironically I had had an email from my insurers Esure 10 days previously as I have a Toyota Hybrid w hich apparently are favourite with the thieves aas they are less polluted !
I had read that 1000 a month were being stolen in London and there was a 2 to 3 month waiting list for replacements . Phoned my Toyota dealer Monday morning , had 1 in stock and a Catlock , they picked up the car that afternoon and I had it back Thursday with Caatlok fitted and a steel sleeve welded over the top . Still cost me £500 in excess and cost of the lock . so be aware !!

I have seen several reports suggesting that hybrid vehicles are being targeted. For example: https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/cars/article-8935001/The-cars-targeted-catalytic-converter-thieves.html

Hybrid sales will probably fall as the range of battery electric vehicles increases but in the meantime, manufacturers could fit guards on all new vehicles with petrol or diesel engines, including hybrids.

The video accompanying article shows a cordless reciprocating saw being carried. Cordless power tools are very useful until they fall into the wrong hands.

Peter Lewis says:
18 April 2021

My converter was stolen from my aged Audi A4 outside my house during the night in January. I reported to the Metropolitan Police and LV insurance company. Both did well but the thieves were untraceable. LV offered to write off the car and I accepted, as I live in London and enjoy a Freedom Pass. No regrets despite 53 years of driving! I am saving possibly £1000 a year (without petrol) and have satisfaction of going green to save the planet for future generations.

Lyn Roberts says:
19 April 2021

I had my catalytic converter stolen from my Honda Jazz which was parked in Horsham park and ride , December 2019. While I was at work. I reported it to police but as there are is no cctv there they couldn’t do anything. Car was off the road for ages as repair garage could get new part due to shortage…..!!! Of course I had to pay excess for bill which was over £1000. which seems so unfair.
I haven’t parked there since and I have installed security cameras at my home , facing driveway, where Honda is parked.

Catalytic convertor stolen twice.
1) Toyota Prius : 2019 : overnight parked at a Lutterworth hotel car park, CCTV & illuminated. Reported to police. Fitted a CATLOC afterwards. 2) Toyota Prius : 2020 : Ascot Saturday afternoon parked on a road in Cheapside near Windsor Great Park. Reported to police. CATLOC was not a deterrent as it was removed.

Northants police gave me a kit to put on my Cat converter which has a special code. You then register it on a website.
I took it to my local garage who fitted it for free. It took them 10-15 mins. Easy.

That is encouraging Lynn. Here is information about the scheme: https://www.northants.police.uk/news/northants/news/news/2019/august-19/force-responds-to-recent-spike-in-catalytic-converter-thefts-with-marking-event/

I presume that this coding will allow legitimate scrap dealers from offering payment for coded catalytic converters. It would probably be worth having an anti-theft device fitted if you live in a high risk area.

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. Shame because I really like my Auris hybrid.

Hopefully you will not have any problems and can continue to own your Auris for years to come. Thieves are more likely to target unprotected cars. It’s about time that manufacturers fitted protection on all new vehicles, in the same way that new cars are provided with immobilisers.

All new petrol cars will have a catalytic converter.

I had my catalytic converter stolen from my Toyota prius just over 2 months ago, had it replaced and the thieves stole it again last night
The most annoying thing is we are 99% certain we know who’s doing this..
Police???? Lol they gave me a crime ref no. and asked me to send them the cctv footage which I did and within 10 mins I had an emails thanking me for the footage and telling me the case is now closed!!! absolute joke

I sympathise, Allison. There is a chance that if the thieves carry on operating in the area they could be caught. I suggest you look at having some sort of guard fitted to protect your catalytic converter.

Pleased to say the team are now actively following up with commenters here in order to inform future Which? research/investigations – thank you to everyone who’s contributed so far.

@gmartin, George, given the action being taken by Which? based on this Convo with 40 comments, what action are they proposing to take against Currys PCW, given that two Convos have generated over 1100 comments plus a host in other Convos?

Hi Malcolm. Needless to say number of comments isn’t an indication of what will/won’t go ahead. Some topics are started with the specific intention of connecting with people who have been directly affected to inform stories that a team is already working on (like this one), while others can be more general conversations, updates etc. Which? Conversation is also just one part of the wider organisation’s tools for data gathering, research and insight. It’s also worth remembering that different departments at Which? are focused on different areas – the Cars team who would deal with catalytic converter theft for example would have absolutely no connection/role at all in working on issues relating to Currys – so it wouldn’t be a case of focusing on one thing over another.

The latest on Currys is that Which? sent legal warnings and followed those up a number of times. As reports of bad practice continued Which? began weighing up options, imploring people to contact us with their stories: https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/currys-pc-world-set-up-service-complaints/

This led to Hannah’s further call for evidence in December last year here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/shopping/currys-pc-world-complaints-faulty-goods/

My understanding is that this work is still ongoing. I appreciate you and others want to see action (who wouldn’t?), but if that can happen then it will be announced here and across Which? once those decisions have been made.

George, I was simply suggesting that the high number of complaints about Currys merited more action.

If Which? could not handle the material it would attract from consumers in a timely and effective manner, why did it launch a Conversation called “Have you been let down by Currys PC World?“. It was predictable that there would be a surge of responses. Was there really a need for much further evidence? Did not the original Conversation [February 2020] on the Knowhow set-up service give sufficient evidence of consumer let-down? CPCW – which has no doubt been watching this exercise unfold – must think Which? has gone cold on the whole affair. It would be useful to know how much longer Which? needs before taking some action [if action is at all possible – there now seems to be some doubt about that].

I appreciate that Which? likes to advance across a very wide front and puts a lot of effort into minority concerns and minor products so as to remain popular and thus attract a large audience, but the consequence is that progress is very slow. Perhaps it should retreat from some areas and concentrate its resources on the most important. At the moment I feel it is duplicating – to little advantage – a lot of the work of other bodies in relation to scams; it is a very serious issue but every newspaper and broadcaster, as well as public authorities, has pitched up on the same turf.

Working with other authorities such as Trading Standards to take action (whether it’s legal or otherwise) is not a straightforward process and can be time consuming – they will also require large amounts of solid evidence of the problem in order to be confident in any case they may bring against an extremely large retailer. The Conversation mentioned (this one https://conversation.which.co.uk/shopping/currys-pc-world-complaints-faulty-goods/) explains what the purpose was – all of those responses are useful and important evidence which have been passed to Trading Standards for their investigation. As mentioned, work is ongoing, but when there is progress it will be reported in the relevant areas here.

I’d like to get this specific topic back on to catalytic converter theft now. Appreciate the frustrations with Currys and the slow progress, but let’s move those discussions over to the relevant areas now.

Until manufacturers install effective protection for catalytic converters it would be good to have a reliable and. up to date list of which cars to avoid. Hopefully this will be covered in the annual Which? Car Guide.

It’s disappointing to see that some popular hybrid electric cars are receiving from thieves but those who choose a pure electric car (BEV) won’t have to worry because no engine means no catalytic converter.

I read, last week that a thousand catalytic converters had been recovered and a few arrests have been made. It’s a start.

That is encouraging. Some have a number that will allow identification of which vehicle they were taken from.

Morning all, pleased to say that the news story this Conversation article helped inform is now available to read here: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/06/catalytic-converter-theft-is-up-by-more-than-100-new-which-research-reveals/

Thank you for all your contributions.

Thanks for the update, George. It is disappointing that having a guard fitted may only delay theft.

Thieves are aware hardly anyone parks their car in their garage anymore, although they have probably declared they do to the insurance company, who wont want to know when making a claim. If your vehicle is quite old,, and been targeted, it may be advisable to pay for a new catalytic converter yourself to protect your NCB and insurance premium.

It’s a no win situation either way, but it’s good to learn car manufacturers are taking the necessary steps by placing CCs into more inaccessible places underneath the vehicle.

It would be very unwise to provide false information to an insurance company. I used to ask whether my premium would be affected if my car was not garaged and it made no difference, but it could depend on where you live and which car you have.

I agree that it may be worth paying for a replacement catalytic converter, since claiming will involve paying an excess and there may be an increase in next year’s premium even if you have a protected no-claims discount.

On a petrol car, the catalytic converter gets very hot, which may be why they are often mounted in an exposed position.

It’s a wonder the thieves don’t get their fingers burnt.

I noticed in the video that the thief who went under the car wore gloves. It was a slick operation but it must have been noisy using a grinder.

Given the value of the palladium content they probably commit these crimes on a Sunday night when the CatCon is cold.

I certainly agree about not disclosing all relevant information to an insurance company. It is even necessary to provide information they haven’t asked for if it might affect the assessment of risk. This is enshrined in the concept that both parties enter into the contract in the ‘utmost good faith’.

In the event of a claim, the withholding of information can void the policy [thus requiring a new one] or reduce the settlement in the event of a claim. In extreme cases it can make further insurance difficult with any insurer because they all share data through the Motor Insurers’ Bureau whose records are updated daily.

The last thing anyone wants is to be insured on ‘special terms’ because that also has to be disclosed in applying for a new policy with a different company and it sits on the record indefinitely. A failure to disclose, which is subsequently discovered, can prejudice future insurance.

Since it is a statutory requirement to maintain insurance cover on any motor vehicle, insurers would not refuse cover but make it prohibitively expensive or attach special conditions.

I have no personal experience of this I hasten to add, but it is worth bearing in mind.

I believe the tool of choice is a battery-powered reciprocating saw, John. As you say, an angle grinder would be very noisy.

The video soundtrack referred to “a grinder” and it looked like one but the image was not good enough to be certain.

Here is an example of a reciprocating saw being used: https://uk.motor1.com/news/513712/thieves-steal-catalytic-converter/

Still very noisy!

That looked like a pre-planned demonstration to me. The two ‘thieves’ seemed to synchronise the start of their cutting operation and wore matching caps and sneakers.

The vehicle chosen for the demonstration had a high clearance so no jacking-up was required.

I wondered if it might be an advert for a well known brand of power tools that is becoming well known in the UK.

I would have thought it simpler, quieter and quicker to just steal the car. The police are not very interested in that crime, in my experience, so less risk for the thieves.
When I had windows broken in my car and contents stolen, one evening many years ago, I was told the offices were closed and to report it the next day.

Seeing the “Ring” logo in the top left corner of the screen I thought it might be a promotion for the smart doorbell technology; a sort of upselling . . . “Look! With this device you can also watch your car’s catalytic converter being cut out and stolen!”

I think you are right, John, though it might be one of their home security cameras.

Here are other Ring videos showing catalytic converter theft: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOKK1Q2DqkE

Peter Graves says:
22 June 2021

I’ve twice had the catalytic converter stolen from my Toyota Prius. After the first time, at a Sainsbury’s car park, I had a catlock fitted at the cost of £200. However, some months later when the car was on the drive, three masked and hooded men came at 10.00 pm one evening, when we were in the house, and removed the catalytic converter, despite the lock, while forcibly holding the front door closed to stop me getting out. I even put the house alarm on, but that didn’t deter them. It took them just a few minutes, and though the police were here quickly, they’d got away and have not been found. I’ve now – reluctantly – got rid of the car, concluding that, even with a so-called “lock” on it, it’s just a sitting duck and it would only have been a question of time before it happened again.

Larry Osborne says:
24 June 2021

Two years ago I was making an early start to go on a business trip. I got into the car to drive to the airport and realised it was making an awful engine noise. I got my partner out of bed and they drove me to the airport and said they would call the AA. The AA didn’t even need to see it to tell me what had happened, the catalytic converter had been cut from the underside of my Auris Hybrid.

After lengthy and difficult telephone calls to my insurance company from abroad it turned out they would cover the repair but not the part or any device, catlock fro example, to hinder it happening again. The garage also said there was a 3 month wait and the insurance company said they would not provide a car during that period. The police gave me a crime number and said it was a crime on the increase.

We had a second car a Prius hybrid and so thought we could manage with this. I was leaving my house a couple of weeks later and came across three men with our Prius jacked up cutting the converter from it. I was so incensed I challenged them. They said they had been asked by the owner to check the tyres. When I told them I was the owner they threatened me with the cutter and beat me to the ground. I photographed them and the car and vehicle registration and although very shaken immediately called the police. I gave accurate descriptions and the number plate and was assured police cars would be keeping an eye out for them in the area. Twenty minutes later I received an email saying it was unlikely they would be caught and so the police were closing the case and providing a case number.

We had had hybrid cars since they first came onto the market, but this incident and the continued theft of friends catalytic converters made us sell them and by petrol cars, which to date seem not to attract the thieves attention.

I don’t think there has been an adequate response by the motor industry or the police and this will impact on any plans for greener use of cars.

Larry Osborne