Blog Catalytic Converter Theft In Canada

Jan 3, 2023

Why is catalytic converter theft on the rise?

person holding catalytic converter

Canadians have been on alert over the last year due to the increase in catalytic converter theft. Thieves have discovered that this auto part has highly valuable metal inside.

Although this theft has always been an issue, it’s been on the rise nationally. According to CBC Calgary, police said converter thefts rose from 300 reported incidents in 2020 to 1,014 in just the first eight months of 2021. In Edmonton, there were 2,484 reported thefts between November 2020 and October 2021 — an increase from 1,697 over the same period the previous year.

What can we do to prevent these thefts? Will repair and replacement be covered by car insurance? Find out in this blog post what provinces are doing to protect drivers and the impact catalytic converter theft is having on Canadians and insurers.

What is a catalytic converter?

Catalytic converters are part of your vehicle's exhaust system. It recombines gasses to reduce harmful emissions, such as mixing carbon monoxide with oxygen so it becomes carbon dioxide before being expelled. They can reduce around 90% of harmful toxins in the air.

It was first invented in 1950 by a French mechanical engineer, Eugène Houdry. As scientists were beginning to learn about air pollution caused by vehicles, he created it to clean exhaust.

Catalytic converters are attached to the exhaust pipe underneath a vehicle. It’s a metal box with a ceramic honeycomb inside. The honeycomb is coated with platinum (Pt), palladium (Pd) and rhodium (Rh). These metals resist oxidation, acid, and corrosion which means they can stand up to chemicals released in a car engine.

Why do people steal a catalytic converter?

People steal catalytic converters because they are easy to remove from vehicles and the precious metals inside. With minimal skills and tools, thieves can remove the converter quite quickly and be on their way to selling to a junkyard or the black market.

What metal is in a catalytic converter?

Catalytic converters have platinum, palladium and rhodium which can all be sold to precious metal dealers between a few hundred to thousands of dollars per ounce. Advanced models of converters can include even more of these metals compared to older models. The metals are worth even more than gold in some markets.

How much is a catalytic converter worth?

Catalytic converters are worth between $150 and $2,000, but some can be more valuable than others. In 2021, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported the most valuable converters were selling for more than $1,000; these came from second-generation 2004-2009 Toyota Prius.

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

Cars with high clearance and hybrid vehicles are at the most risk for catalytic converter theft. In 2022, Aviva Canada has seen several Hyundai Tucsons, Mitsubishi RVRs, Honda CR-Vs, Hyundai Santa Fes, and Ford F150s targeted. Those living in the GTA, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary, and Edmonton areas are the most common for catalytic converter theft.

Below is a list of the top 10 vehicles for stolen catalytic converters, provided by Manitoba Public Insurance.

Model Catalytic Converters Sum
Honda CR-V 201
Hyundai Tucson 198
Hyundai Santa Fe 129
KIA Sportage 94
Honda Element 54
Ford E450 52
Ford F150 45
Toyota Prius 40
Ford E350 Van 33
Honda Pilot 32

Can you drive without a catalytic converter?

It is not recommended to keep driving your vehicle if the catalytic converter is missing. Your vehicle will emit more toxic fumes. If you live somewhere that requires emissions tests, they will fail without a converter.

person holding catalytic converter

How to know if your catalytic converter is stolen

By simply looking at your car, you may not be able to tell if your catalytic converter was stolen, but you’ll know when you start the engine. You’ll notice a loud roaring noise that will get louder as you push the gas pedal.

Other signs that your catalytic converter was stolen include :

  • Increase in exhaust fumes.
  • Unusual exhaust smells.
  • Missing parts connected to the muffler under the vehicle.
  • Uneven acceleration.
  • Check engine light is on.

How to prevent catalytic converter theft

In 2021, Manitoba introduced The Scrap Metal Act (Bill 9) to combat the theft of metals. New Brunswick is also working on a solution, according to CBC. Until more provinces announce law enforcement to deter thieves, the best thing drivers can do is take preventive measures.

Here are four tips to help prevent catalytic converter theft.

  1. Know what cars are a target : Some vehicles are easier to steal from compared to others. Check to see if your vehicle lands on any lists of the most targeted vehicles for catalytic converter theft or one of the most stolen cars in Canada.
  2. Consider where you park : Park in well-lit areas, close to public entrances. At home, consider installing motion sensitive lights and cameras.
  3. Anti-theft devices : Anti-theft devices specifically designed to protect the catalytic converter can limit the chance of a successful theft.
  4. Paint or mark the converter : Some local police departments offer free programs for painting or marking it. Some people will have the VIN etched on the converted so it can be returned to them after an attempted re-sale.

Does insurance cover catalytic converter theft?

Catalytic converter theft is a growing problem for auto insurers across the country. In April 2022, there were over 300 reported catalytic converter theft claims in Manitoba. Winnipeg police data suggests catalytic converter thefts are up 415% over last year. With this theft on the rise, can Canadians seek support from their insurer?

If you have comprehensive coverage, catalytic converter theft should be covered. Always check your policy documents to confirm what is included. If you don’t have any comprehensive protection, you will likely not be covered for any car theft and will need to pay out of pocket for replacement and repairs.

Do electric cars have a catalytic converter?

If you own an electric vehicle in Canada, you are protected from thieves because EVs do not have a catalytic converter. Since EVs do not emit any exhaust, the converter is an unnecessary piece of equipment for electric trucks and cars. If you have a hybrid car, keep in mind it will have a catalytic converter since there are still fuel components of the vehicle.

Catalytic Converter Theft FAQs

If you are submitting a claim for a catalytic converter, you should take photos, file a report with your local police, and contact your insurer.

If you’re looking for a vehicle less likely to have its catalytic converter stolen, you can try a Mini Cooper, Mazda RX7, Audis and BMWs such as the E46 323i, 325i, or 328i. These cars have the converter placed in different spots such as under the hood or having a rotary engine.

Diesel vehicles have a catalytic converter under the truck, on the exhaust, between the muffler or on the engine.

Replacing a catalytic converter can cost between $500 and $3,000 depending on your vehicle type.

Yes, after 1975 manufacturers were required to have a catalytic converter included on fuel and hybrid vehicles. Vehicles before then won’t have one installed.

Limit the risk of catalytic converter theft

To make sure you are properly covered if your catalytic converter is stolen, take a moment to speak with our team to update your Ontario car insurance. Take the possible precautions to ensure your vehicle is protected from thieves when you park your car.