Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct a misspelling.
Catalytic converter thefts appear to be on the decline, according to new data from State Farm.
The auto insurer said the number of claims filed to report catalytic converter thefts are significantly down in 2023 compared to the previous year.
The State Farm data shows a decline in thefts for the first time since 2019.
So far, in the first half of 2023, there were around 14,500 claims filed related to catalytic converter thefts. That’s down from the 23,000 claims made during the same timeframe in 2022.
If that trend continues through the remainder of 2023, State Farm data indicates that the U.S. could see the lowest number of reported thefts in years.
Catalytic converters are regular targets for thieves. They can be cut from the undercarriage of a car and sold to recyclers for anywhere from $25 to $300 for a standard vehicle and up to $1,400 for hybrid vehicles, according to the vehicle data company Carfax.
The critical piece of automobile tech is used to filter out harmful byproducts from your car’s exhaust. They use precious metals like platinum, palladium and rhodium to accomplish this, and those metals can sell for hundreds to thousands of dollars per ounce.
State Farm says the average cost of a repair comes in around $2,900. So far this year, around $41.7 million has been paid out to State Farm customers to repair and replace the part. In addition to just the cost of replacement, repairs can take weeks to months, depending on the vehicle, due to a shortage of available replacement parts.
Despite the encouraging decrease in claims, some automotive experts believe that the problem of catalytic converter thefts might be underreported for various reasons.
Earlier this year, Carfax issued a warning that the nation might be actually underestimating how widespread the problem is because many car owners don’t file insurance claims. The possible explanation for that is because some drivers don’t have full coverage on older vehicles or some don’t have insurance at all.
Still, a reduction in claims would at least indicate that fewer thefts are being reported.
Law enforcement agencies across the country have begun cracking down on thefts and targeting recyclers who were not following proper protocol.
In Los Angeles, the City Council passed an ordinance that banned the possession of unattached catalytic converters, unless the owner can provide an explanation or proof of their right to possess it. Penalties for illegal possession could include jail time or significant fines.
California still tops the dubious list of total catalytic converter thefts, with more than 5400 claims filed and about $17.8 million paid out through the first six months of 2023. There were about 11,900 claims filed in California through all of last year.
Below is the latest data regarding catalytic converter thefts provided by State Farm:
Catalytic converter claims across the country:
- 2019: 2,500 claims, $4.7M, $1,900 per claim
- 2020: 10k claims, $20.9M, $2,100 per claim
- 2021: 32k claims, $73.7M, $2,300 per claim
- 2022: 45k claims, $115.4M, $2,500 per claim
- 2023: 14,500 claims, $41.7M, $2,900 per claim (first half of 2023 only)
Catalytic converter claims in California specifically:
- 2019: 1100 claims, $2.5M paid, $2300 per claim
- 2020: 4500 claims, $11.3M paid, $2500 per claim
- 2021: 9200 claims, $27.2M paid, $3,000 per claim
- 2022: 11,900 claims, $37.7M paid, $3,200 per claim
- 2023: 5400 claim, $17.8M paid, $3,300 per claim (first 6 months of 2023)
Top 10 states (first half 2023):
- 1. California with over 5400 claims and $17.8M paid
- 2. Texas with 1450 claims and $5.1M paid
- 3. Illinois with nearly 1300 claims and a cost of $2.9M paid
- 4. Colorado with nearly 670 claims at $2.0M paid
- 5. New York with over 500 claims and $1.5M paid
- 6. Pennsylvania with over 480 claims and $1.1M paid
- 7. Georgia with 410 claims and $898K paid
- 8. Minnesota with 400 claims and $934K paid
- 9. Florida with 330 claims and $896K paid
- 10. Washington with 320 claims and $773K paid
Even though the total number of claims is receding, vehicle owners are still being encouraged to take preventative action to minimize the risk of falling victim to one of these expensive thefts.
Drivers are encouraged to park in well-lit areas or leave their cars in a garage if possible. You can also get your VIN number etched onto the converter to deter would-be thieves and some local law enforcement agencies have partnered with local auto body shops to offer this service at a lower price.
State Farm also encourages vehicle owners to check their insurance policy to ensure these types of thefts are covered.