AAA Texas warns that catalytic converter thefts are increasing

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Stolen Catalytic Converter Insurance Claim Volume Jumps 5,300% in Texas Since 2019

You’re running errands in the Texas heat. It’s the middle of the day when you drop off your dry cleaning, drop by the post office, and stop for a few items at the grocery store. So you’re shocked when you get back to your vehicle, in broad daylight in a crowded mall, when you start your car and hear a loud rumble.

If you’re like me, you’re not a mechanic, but you know something’s wrong. But you are shocked to learn that your vehicle has been the target of a catalytic converter thief. How could someone steal your catalytic converter from a crowded parking lot? In the fire?

July is a prime month for auto theft and is also National Auto Theft Prevention Month.

New auto claims data from AAA Texas reveals claims for stolen catalytic converters have jumped 5,300% since 2019. AAA Texas reminds auto owners to take action to protect their vehicles and expensive auto parts.

Catalytic converters convert harmful substances in a car’s exhaust gases (carbon monoxide, nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide and hydrocarbons) into less harmful substances such as carbon dioxide and water vapor by means of chemical reactions. The earning potential of catalytic converters is high when sold to scrap metal dealers. Sales are not always tracked by law enforcement. Two of the three rare earth metals used in catalytic converters, rhodium and palladium, are worth more than gold.

SUVs and fleet vehicles are popular targets

While almost any car could be a target for catalytic converter thieves, SUVs and fleet vehicles, including school buses, have been prime targets. Additionally, Toyota Priuses have been targeted because they have dual catalytic converters and contain more precious metals.

Once stolen, thieves can sell loose catalytic converters for hundreds of dollars to junkyards or Internet shoppers. Once sold, catalytic converters can be resold to interested recyclers for the expensive metals they contain. Typically, recyclers will pay $50 to $250 per catalytic converter. Unfortunately for victims of catalytic converter theft, the cost to replace the part can run anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000, depending on the car or truck, and the vehicle may not be clear to drive until the part is n is not replaced.

Catalytic converter thefts began to increase in 2020 as the pandemic led to increased unemployment, more people working from home, and many high-driving vehicles such as trucks and SUVs being left idle or driven less.

“For many people, our vehicles are among the most expensive purchases we make in our lifetime, so protecting them should be a priority,” said AAA Texas spokesman Daniel Armbruster. “With the cost of many goods and services rising, the last thing vehicle owners need is an expensive auto repair.”

Harris County has the most flights in Texas

Harris County leads the state with the most catalytic converter thefts this year, according to AAA Texas. In fact, Harris County has already surpassed the total volume of catalytic converter thefts in 2021. There have been 115 registrations year-to-date compared to 114 for all of last year. AAA data shows Fort Bend, Dallas, Bexar and Tarrant counties round out the top five counties in Texas with catalytic converter theft claims processed so far this year.

catalytic converter theft by tx counties

AAA Texas offers the following tips to prevent catalytic converter theft:

  • Whenever possible, park in well-lit areas and near building entrances.
  • If you have a garage in your home, park your car inside and keep the garage door closed.
  • If you own a high-clearance vehicle like a truck or SUV, store it in a safe place.
  • Have the catalytic converter welded to your car’s chassis, which can make it harder to steal.
  • Consider purchasing a converter guard that was developed for the Prius and other vehicles targeted by thieves.
  • Consider etching your vehicle identification number (VIN) on the catalytic converter. This can help alert a scrap dealer that it has been stolen and make it easier to find the owner.
  • Security devices, such as locks, are available that attach to the converter, making it more difficult to steal.
  • Calibrate your car alarm to go off when it detects vibrations.
  • Have a good insurance policy. Most insurance companies cover replacement costs if the vehicle owner has optional comprehensive coverage. This coverage will cover damage to a vehicle that is not caused by an accident.

About AAA: AAA provides automotive, travel, insurance and financial services to more than 62 million members through its Federation of Independent Automobile Clubs and nearly 1,000 branches across North America. Since 1902, AAA has been a leader and advocate for motorist mobility and safety. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel, or plot a route through the AAA Mobile app. AAA Texas branches statewide can be found by visiting www.AAA.com.

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