Hybrid vehicles top target for catalytic converter thefts

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Admiral claims data shows a spike in catalytic converter thefts over the past six months with thieves targeting lucrative hybrid vehicles

Precious metals, such as palladium and platinum, found in a hybrid car’s catalytic converter are attracting thieves who sell them on to make a profit. 

The catalytic converter in hybrid vehicles contains a higher concentration of precious metals and are often less corroded because they mostly run on battery power. And these metals are worth a fortune to thieves.

Currently, palladium is even more valuable than gold, and platinum is worth around two-thirds the value of gold. So it’s unsurprising that palladium seems to be of particular interest to thieves.

Admiral Car Insurance data shows a 44% increase in claims for stolen catalytic converters last year compared with 2019. And there were 57% more claims for catalytic converter thefts in March 2021 than the same month last year.

As these thefts become more common, we estimate the average cost of a claim for a stolen catalytic converter is around £1,500.

What cars have catalytic converters?

The types of car that have a catalytic converter are petrol cars manufactured since 1993 and diesel cars made after 2001. The catalytic converter was introduced to help cars meet European emissions standards. 

Since 2009, diesel cars have a diesel particulate filter (DPF) which works in a similar way to a catalytic converter but also removes soot from exhaust emissions. 

What cars are most likely to have their catalytic converter stolen?

The cars most likely to have their catalytic converter stolen are:

  • Pre-2015 Honda Jazz (post-2015 models have had their converter moved to under the bonnet, where it’s much safer)
  • Toyota Prius
  • Toyota Auris 
  • Lexus RX

And it’s not just insurance companies seeing the increase; the Metropolitan Police received nearly 15,000 reports of such thefts in 2020, compared to 9,500 over the previous year.

What to look out for

There’s evidence to suggest that criminal gangs are involved and take stolen catalytic converters abroad, which could explain why the thefts dropped off during the first lockdown of 2020.

Lorna Connelly, Head of Claims at Admiral, said “Our data shows that the number of catalytic converter thefts taking place is dramatically rising again after a lull at the start of the pandemic.

“If your vehicle’s catalytic converter has been stolen, it would make a significant noise when you start the car and you can’t drive the vehicle without one.

“Regardless of which car you own, you should be vigilant and do everything you can to make sure it’s parked in a safe and secure place. If you don’t have a private driveway or garage, parking somewhere well lit, and not parking half on the pavement will make it harder for thieves to access the catalytic converter. 

“Some thieves are savvy and will wear hi-vis vests to throw potential witnesses off the scent and unassuming passers-by could quite easily assume official work is being carried out. If you do see someone underneath a car in your street, make a note of any useful information and report it to the police or Crimestoppers.”

Protecting your car from catalytic converter theft

A catalytic converter makes up part of the exhaust system; it processes the emissions from a combustion engine into less harmful gases.

And because the exhaust is exposed beneath most cars, they’re often easy pickings for thieves.

Police forces across the country have issued the following advice to help protect your car:

  • Park in a locked garage or in a well-lit, densely populated area
  • Park close to fences, walls or kerbs with the exhaust being closest to the barrier; this will make the theft more difficult
  • Avoid mounting your car on the kerb to park as it gives thieves easy access
  • If your catalytic converter’s bolted on ask your local garage to weld the bolts to make it more difficult to remove
  • Consider a ‘cage clamp’ which locks around the converter 
  • Speak to your car dealership about a tilt sensor that activates the alarm if someone tries to jack up your vehicle 
  • If you see someone acting suspiciously under a vehicle, report it to the police