Which Cars Are Most Likely to Have a Catalytic Converter Stolen (Catalytic Converter Theft)

Which Cars Are Most Likely to Have a Catalytic Converter Stolen

When we think of thieves targeting vehicles, we usually think of them targeting high-value, high end luxury cars and SUVs that they can chop up or flip.

Very rarely do we think about thieves targeting “regular” cars unless they are after something inside the vehicle – like a stereo, speaker system, or valuables that we accidentally left behind (and in plain sight).

Nobody really thinks about thieves targeting vehicles to steal exhaust components – especially components like the catalytic converter.

What would they want that for, right?

Well, it turns out that car thieves absolutely love to hit vehicles – regular looking vehicles – to steal these components because of how valuable they are. Catalytic converter theft has absolutely skyrocketed in just the last few years, with over 2300+ catalytic converter thefts reported per month in 2020 alone.

It turns out that there are some pretty precious materials inside of catalytic converters that are causing car thieves to go crazy for these components.

And, believe it or not, there are specific types of vehicles that these thieves are seeking out and targeting more than anything else – vehicles that are perfectly suited to “quick cat con jobs” that they can get into and out of in record time.

Do you have one of the cars that are most frequently targeted for this kind of theft?

Which Cars Are Targeted for Catalytic Converter Theft Most Often?

Between January and May 2021, almost 26,000 catalytic converters were stolen in the United States alone.

That averages out to 5200 thefts a month, a 122% increase over the already skyhigh rate of catalytic converter theft in 2020.

Criminals aren’t just dropping to their knees, sliding underneath any old vehicle, and popping the catalytic converter off before escaping into the night, either.

No, according to researchers it looks like thieves are specifically targeting a handful of vehicles more than any other.

Catalytic converter theft: Which cars are at highest risk >> Check out the video below:

They are looking for these vehicles because of how easy it is to separate the catalytic converter in record time so that they can (from their perspective, anyway) escape scot-free.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the most common vehicles targeted for catalytic converter theft today.


The Toyota Prius is the most heavily targeted vehicle for catalytic converter theft in the United States today.

There are a couple of reasons that thieves really like this vehicle, but the biggest one is the fact that this hybrid is so popular and that there are so many of them on the open road.

This gives thieves a lot of familiarity with the exhaust system, allows them to quickly break down the project, and if they have enough practice they can get in and out with minimal time wasted and with next to no extra tools.

But there’s another thing that makes this Toyota vehicle such a juicy target for these criminals, and that’s how environmentally friendly it is!

It turns out that because the gasoline engine in this hybrid doesn’t run as often as a full gasoline vehicle engine would the catalytic converter sees a lot less damage.

Because the catalytic converter doesn’t work as hard it stays in top condition longer, and that means there are more precious metals contained within the system (even if the Toyota is a little on the older side of things).

There are other Toyota vehicles that criminals like to attack to separate their catalytic converter, too.

The 4Runner, the Tacoma, and the Tundra are all top options.

These vehicles are targeted because they have fantastic fuel economy (to protect the catalytic converter compared to other options) and because they sit higher off the ground.

That makes it easier for thieves to get under the vehicle, to steal the catalytic converter, and to get out quickly.


It should come as no surprise to anyone that Lexus vehicles are popular targets, too.

After all, Lexus vehicles are really nothing more than luxury versions of the parent company Toyota options rolling off of the assembly line.

All of the Lexus SUV lineup vehicles have bright red bull’s-eyes on their exhaust system. Thieves love to crack them open and steal the cat con whenever they have a chance to.


Honda vehicles – particularly the Element and the Accord – are red-hot targets for catalytic converter thieves, too.

Researchers once again believe this has to do with the overall fuel economy and fuel efficiency of Honda vehicles.

Just like Toyota, these vehicles have a reputation for not being gas guzzlers and being a lot more friendly to the environment.

This in turn means that the catalytic converters aren’t going to be quite as beat up as vehicles from other manufacturers.

For example, Honda cars (like the Element and Accord) have much better fuel efficiency than comparable vehicles from Chevy and Ford.

That means that Honda vehicles just as old as Chevy and Ford vehicles are going to have cat converters in better shape (and with more precious metals), on average.

Read also: What Happens When The Catalytic Converter Goes Bad (Symptoms)

Thieves Prefer Late Model Trucks and SUVs

At the end of the day, though, because these crimes are crimes of opportunity thieves are generally willing to swipe a catalytic converter from any late-model truck or SUV they come across.

Late-model vehicles are selected because the newer they are the less abuse catalytic converters have gone through.

If you can get a truck or SUV fresh off of the assembly line (or close to it) it’s going to retain a lot of the precious metals within.

The reason they go after trucks and SUVs is something we touched on just a moment ago, too.

The extra height of these vehicles allows them to work underneath the car without having to fiddle around with jacks, sliders, or a lot of extra tools.

They are able to get in and out while avoiding detection most of the time.

Why Are Catalytic Converters Stolen So Often?

Truth be told, the reason that catalytic converters are stolen so often – and why they are being stolen more now than ever before – is because they are so valuable.

Yes, you are reading that correctly.

Catalytic converters – the component of your exhaust system mandated by the EPA since 1975 – are responsible for “scrubbing” the exhaust that comes out of your engine.

To do that, though, these components need to be filled with very specific materials that can convert harmful gases into much less harmful gases before they get released out the back of your exhaust pipe.

Read also: How Much Does it Cost to Unclog a Catalytic Converter (Replacement Cost)

It turns out that the materials needed to pull off this conversion are in super high demand. We are talking about rhodium, palladium, and platinum!

These materials are always in high demand but have seen their value skyrocket during the pandemic even more so. The price of a catalytic converter has gone through the roof because of how rare these materials are at the moment.

That means that a thief can get as much as $500 for a “stump” of a catalytic converter with very few questions asked at the right scrap shop.

Sound crazy?

Well, if you have a look right now you’ll see that rhodium alone (just one of the precious metals inside of a catalytic converter) currently has a value that is 10 times gold.

Yes, you’re reading that right.

Some of the materials stuffed inside of a catalytic converter just to transform harmful gases into less harmful gases from your exhaust are worth 10 times the price of gold.

As of right now, the price of gold is close to $1900 per ounce but the price of rhodium is north of $19,000 per ounce.

Now, remember that there’s platinum and palladium inside of that catalytic converter, too!

Any thief looking to make a buck (or two) with a little bit of mechanical inclination isn’t going to be shy about swiping as many catalytic converters as they can to cash in on this crazy market.

How to Prevent Theft

There are certainly some things you can do to minimize theft of your catalytic converter, though.

For starters, it’s important to park in a secure place whenever your vehicle is going to be left unattended for extended amounts of time.

If you are going to be parking overnight, try and stick your vehicle in a garage whenever possible. If that’s not possible, make sure that the area is well lit and close to your home or other people to scare away potential thieves.

If you can park near security cameras that’s even better! It’s not a bad idea

It’s not a bad idea to park higher riding vehicles (like trucks and SUVs) in positions that limit access to their undercarriage as much as possible.

3 Ways To Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft >> Check out the video below:

Maybe that means you pull in very close to other cars, so much so that it’s almost tough to get the door open so that you can squeeze out. Anything you can do to minimize access to the undercarriage is critically important.

Finally, it’s not a bad idea to etch something that identifies your catalytic converter as your own directly onto the metal itself.

This can be done by hand or it can be done with simple tooling. It’s something you can do all on your own but it’s also something that you can have a mechanic take care of, too.

The idea here is to make it very obvious that if a catalytic converter is stolen from your vehicle it is easily identified not just as stolen, but also as your own.

That’ll help you recover the part if it goes to a scrapyard that is even halfway honest.

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Jeff is an automotive technician, technical writer, and Managing Editor. He has held a lifelong passion for cars, with a particular interest in cars like the Buick Reatta. Jeff has been creating written and video content about transportation, automotive, electric cars, future vehicles as well as new, used for more than 18 years. Jeff is based in Boulder, Colorado.

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