Is Catalytic Converter Theft Covered by Insurance?
Generally speaking, if you have comprehensive auto insurance, you will be covered for catalytic converter theft. Comprehensive insurance covers your car against loss or damage that was not the result of a collision. Covered incidents include vandalism, damage from falling trees or objects, weather damage, and theft. If someone steals your catalytic converter, you may be able to claim it under your comprehensive auto insurance policy. However, you should keep in mind that Collision Coverage does not cover you in the even of an auto accident involving an animal.
This type of insurance is an optional add-on to standard liability insurance, which covers your vehicle in the case of an accident. In some cases, such as with leased or financed vehicles, the lender may require you to purchase comprehensive coverage.
However, while comprehensive policies are generally similar, they are not required to offer a standard set of coverages. Confirm with your insurance company about whether your auto insurance policy has catalytic converter theft coverage.
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What Is a Catalytic Converter and What Does it Do?
Catalytic converters reduce the impact of harmful gases created by engine emissions. This is accomplished with a catalyst, which is often made of a rare metal like platinum, rhodium, or palladium. Gases pass through an input pipe into the converter itself, which looks like a metal box. The catalyst metal then converts potentially hazardous gases into safer alternatives.
Converters use two primary types of catalysts: reduction and oxidation. Reduction catalysts break up nitrogen oxide (NO) into nitrogen (N) and oxygen (O) gases, which are harmless on their own. Oxidation catalysts add oxygen to pollutants such as carbon monoxide (CO) to make it carbon dioxide (CO2). Converters may also combine hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O) to create water vapor (H2O).
Thieves target catalytic converters for two main reasons:
- The metal inside the converter is valuable, making it easy to resell these devices to scrap yards or other buyers.
- Catalytic converters mounted under vehicles are usually easy to access and remove using power or even hand tools.
In addition, catalytic converters are widely available. All vehicles manufactured in the U.S. after 1974 must have catalytic converters. Even vehicles shipped from overseas must have a compliant catalytic converter; if it lacks one, a new one is usually installed before sale.
How Does Coverage For Catalytic Converter Theft Work?
While standard liability coverage does not cover catalytic converter theft, some varieties of car insurance do. Read on to learn more about how insurance may cover it.
Which Auto Insurance Offers Coverage for Catalytic Converter Theft?
Comprehensive auto insurance coverage protects against damage to your vehicle, not caused by a collision but by another person or act of nature. Comprehensive policies are typically the only type of insurance covering theft, including catalytic converters, though not all policies offer this coverage.
While most comprehensive insurance policies will pay to replace a stolen catalytic converter, your individual benefits may vary. For example, if the value of the stolen catalytic converter is nearly the same as your deductible, you might not save much money if your insurer pays the difference. In any case, you should confirm with your insurer that your policy offers catalytic converter theft coverage.
How Much Does a Catalytic Converter Cost?
Depending on the size and type of a catalytic converter, it can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 to replace. Larger converters, such as those found in trucks or vans, may cost more. The same is true of hybrid vehicles, which may retain more precious metals since they burn less gasoline over time, wearing down the catalytic converter more slowly.
Depending on the replacement cost, you can determine if using your comprehensive insurance makes sense or if you want to pay out of pocket. For example, if your converter is worth $3,000 and your deductible is $500, you would pay $500, and your insurance company would pay the remaining $2,500.
However, suppose your converter is worth $1,500 and your deductible is $1,000. In that case, it may not be worth filing a claim because your insurer would only cover the remaining $500 after you meet your deductible. In addition, filing multiple claims could lead to an increase in your premiums later on.
Why Do You Need a Catalytic Converter?
Catalytic converters became a requirement in all gas powered cars in 1975. Dangerous fumes are pumped through the catalytic converter, recombining them into safer gasses before they are emitted from the exhaust pipe, thereby minimizing hazardous emissions for people, animals, and the environment. It is against the law to drive without this pollution reducing part.
Why Do People Steal Catalytic Converters?
The precious metals inside catalytic converters can be extracted and resold for top dollar. Thieves can pocket between $50 and $3,000 for reselling a catalytic converter’s platinum, rhodium, and palladium, the most valuable of all precious metals, on the black market or even from recycling centers.
The resale value of a catalytic converter also depends on its condition and the make of the car it comes from. In many locations, the law dictates that used converters not be installed in cars. Therefore, due to increased emissions standards, catalytic converters have become increasingly valuable due to the increased amount of precious metals per new unit.
How Do You Know If Your Catalytic Converter Was Stolen?
The average person might not notice right away if their catalytic converter is missing. Here are six common signs to look for:
1. It looks like something is missing from underneath your car
It is likely that if you notice something has been removed from underneath your car, it was your catalytic converter. Indicators like empty spaces, broken pipes, and/or missing bolts are signs of a thief stealing your catalytic converter.
2. Your car is louder than usual when driving
A common indication that your catalytic converter is missing is louder-than-usual engine noise. Much like a muffler, converters help diminish the engine sound. If your car sounds significantly louder than usual upon startup, check under your vehicle for a hole where the part should be.
3. The check engine light is on
Your check engine light may come on if your catalytic converter is missing. Especially if all other indicators like tire pressure and temperature seem normal and are not illuminated, you may be a victim of catalytic converter theft.
4. You feel unwell when the windows are down
When your catalytic converter is missing, your car is no longer filtering out toxic fumes like carbon monoxide, which can cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea. If you experience any of these symptoms while driving, you may be a victim of catalytic converter theft.
5. You have less low-end torque
Torque is the rotational force often associated with tasks like towing, hauling, or climbing. In some vehicles, such as larger cars, SUVs, and trucks, the loss of a catalytic converter can result in less low-end torque. If you notice that your vehicle is suddenly dragging or lagging, check to see if your converter is still in place.
6. Your exhaust is a different color
Catalytic converters typically turn vehicle exhaust white or pale gray. If you see black or brown exhaust, it may indicate that your catalytic converter is missing.
If you discover your catalytic converter is missing, take your car to a repair shop and replace the part as soon as possible. While your car will still run without a converter, you may face fines for driving without one installed.
How To Get Your Replacement Covered By Insurance
If you discover your catalytic converter has been stolen, you can take the following steps to file a claim with your comprehensive coverage provider:
- Notify the police: Not only is it the right thing to do to report the incident so law enforcement can investigate, but your insurer also requires you to have a police report on record as part of filing your claim.
- Contact your insurance company: Assuming you already verified before enrollment that your policy covers catalytic converter theft, your insurance agent or company should be your second call after you notify the authorities and fill out a police report. Your insurer can walk you through the following steps, including whether you need to fill out additional paperwork and where to take your car for an assessment.
- Visit a professional mechanic right away: Driving without a catalytic converter is illegal and can cause further damage to your vehicle. Take your car to a trusted professional to assess the situation immediately, especially if your daily schedule involves high mileage.
How to Protect Your Car’s Catalytic Converter From Theft
Although all catalytic converters are valuable to thieves, they target some car makes and models more than others. Popular vehicles include the Toyota Prius, the Chrysler 200, the Honda CR-V, the Chevrolet Silverado, and the Ford Econoline series of vans.
No matter what type of vehicle you drive, however, there are ways to reduce the risk of catalytic converter theft:
- Park in a well-lit or secured area. Parking in a well-lit or secured area helps deter thieves by making it harder for them to get to your vehicle without being seen.
- Use a car alarm. Using a car alarm that goes off when someone comes too close to your vehicle can alert you to a problem and scare off would-be thieves.
- Install an anti-theft device. You can also install an anti-theft device such as a cable lock around your catalytic converter. While this won’t stop determined thieves, it increases the time it takes to remove your converter and may convince them to go elsewhere.
- Inscribe your VIN. If you have your VIN inscribed on your catalytic converter, thieves find it harder to resell it. This may also help law enforcement return the device if found.
Should You Get Comprehensive Auto Insurance?
Comprehensive auto insurance suits people who can afford fuller coverage than the minimum state requirement for liability insurance, including protection from extreme weather events, vandalism, and theft. Comprehensive auto insurance is also a common requirement of most car leasing and financing agreements.
Comprehensive auto insurance offers many advantages but is not for everyone. As the only type of insurance that may cover catalytic converter theft, it offers additional peace of mind if this part is stolen from your car; however, insurers charge significantly higher rates for this and other benefits. The following are just some of the most common advantages and disadvantages.
- Covers stolen parts
- Covers non-collision accidents
- Covers the cost of repairs
- Higher premiums
- Only covers specific situations
- Does not include collision coverage
- Covers the cost of stolen car or parts: Unlike basic liability or collision insurance, comprehensive insurance protects you when your car is stolen, or you need to replace a stolen part, including a catalytic converter.
- Pays for damage caused by noncollision accidents: Comprehensive coverage also pays to repair your car if you are involved in a noncollision accident, such as hitting an animal while driving, or your car is damaged through vandalism or an act of nature, such as hail, flooding, or falling debris.
- Covers the cost of repairs up front: While most other types of auto insurance reimburse drivers for costly repairs, comprehensive insurance policies typically pay repair shops directly to repair your car or replace your catalytic converter up front.
- Comes with higher monthly premiums: Comprehensive auto insurance offers the broadest coverage; therefore, it is the most expensive type of coverage you can buy. While not everyone can afford higher monthly premiums, paying more for coverage can save you on repair and replacement costs for significant losses like catalytic converter theft.
- May provide more coverage than you need: People who do not use their cars very much may find minimum liability insurance meets their needs. Although comprehensive insurance offers added protection against vandalism and theft, low-mileage drivers may take other precautions, such as parking in a secure facility.
- Does not include collision coverage: Comprehensive insurance protects you from paying for damages caused by hitting an animal while driving, theft, vandalism, and acts of nature, but not from a collision with another vehicle or object. This coverage does not pay you and your passengers for medical expenses in a noncollision event.
Putting It All Together
Catalytic converters are often sought-after by thieves, who can resell the part’s precious metals for as much as $3,000 on the black market. Hybrid and late model cars with advanced catalytic converters, tall trucks, and SUVs with easy access may especially attract thieves. If this valuable part is stolen, driving in any state without a catalytic converter installed is illegal.
Comprehensive auto insurance is the only type of coverage that protects against catalytic converter theft. If you have comprehensive coverage and your catalytic converter is stolen, your insurer pays for a replacement and any related repairs to your car. This coverage also includes benefits to protect your car against other instances of theft, vandalism, and acts of nature.