Catalytic converter theft in the UK – latest update

From latest stats to most at-risk vehicles, we cover everything you need to know about catalytic converter theft.

Catalytic Converter Theft - A-Plan Insurance

We have continually reported on the rise of catalytic converter thefts and how vehicle owners can protect their vehicle.

Last year’s MoneySupermarket survey illustrated that theft of catalytic converters in London had increased from just 154 to 12,482 thefts over a 3-year period. In total, from 2017 to 2020, London-based catalytic converter thefts totaled over 15,000.

While we await the full 2021/2022 results, the latest update, courtesy of the Metropolitan Police, illustrates that in 2021 alone, over 10,000 catalytic converter thefts were recorded by police in London.

Town/CityPolice Force2017/18 Thefts2018/19 Thefts2019/2020 TheftsTotal Thefts
LondonMetropolitan Police15426001248315237
BirminghamWest Midlands Police2662232320
CoventryWest Midlands Police2331233287
CambridgeCambridgeshire Constabulary420142166
LutonBedfordshire Police53363101
PeterboroughCambridgeshire Constabulary1185675
DerbyDerbyshire Constabulary7145071
WolverhamptonWest Midland Police246369
ManchesterGreater Manchester Police5164566
BristolAvon and Somerset Police594458

Who buys stolen catalytic converters?

The rise in thefts of catalytic converters is inline with the rise in the value of materials, which incorporates platinum, making catalytic converter theft a lucrative business for gangs to sell the precious metals on the black market.

Stolen catalytic converters are sold to rogue scrap and parts dealers. Facebook has been criticised for allowing scrap dealers to advertise a buying price for stolen catalytic converters, and subsequently removed posts. However, more needs to be done to ensure each catalytic converter sale is traceable, and rogue scrap dealers – and the gangs that supply them – are held responsible.

This rise in catalytic converter theft has seen a call for greater punishment for the criminal gangs involved, with only 42 individuals prosecuted for catalytic converter theft between 2017 and 2020.

Most stolen catalytic converters

The latest data also confirms that older versions of the Toyota Prius and the Honda Jazz are the most targeted vehicles, however 2022 has seen an increase in BMW’s being targeted since the start of the year.

However, it is important to note that any vehicle with a catalytic converter, whether ‘fueled’ or hybrid, is at risk.

Which cars are least likely to have a catalytic converter stolen?

Ford, Jeep, Chrysler, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru and Hyundai are less at risk of catalytic converter theft due to the parts containing fewer precious metals.

Diesel catalytic converters also have significantly lower value, while fully-electric vehicles don’t use catalytic converters at all.

Additionally, any vehicles with little ground clearance are less at risk – if a thief can’t get underneath it, they can’t steal it.

Signs of a stolen catalytic converter

A common question is ‘how do I know if my catalytic converter has been stolen?’. If you’re not mechanically minded, it’s a fair question.

  • Your vehicle will be noticeably louder.
  • Your engine warning light will be on.
  • You may get a headache – a stolen catalytic converter exposes you to 20 times more carbon monoxide.
  • Looking under the vehicle, you will see unmistakable clean cut marks where it was removed.

Catalytic converter anti-theft devices

This video, shared by the Metropolitan Police, illustrates a catalytic converter being stolen in 60 seconds – certainly worth a watch!

Fit your catalytic converters with locks or guards – although theft is still possible even with these devices in place, it does increase the time is takes to remove one from under a minute to around 25 minutes!

In addition to that, mark your catalytic converter with forensic markers, such as the one by SmartWater. The ‘SmartTrace‘ solution is simply painted on to the catalytic converter and SmartWater scientists only need a speck of the solution to identify the vehicle it came from, much like DNA analysis, which provides traceability even when broken down for parts.

With a major operation launched last year, codenamed ‘Goldiron’, police advice includes to park in a locked garage where possible, near walls or other vehicles to make it harder for thieves to get underneath the vehicle.

Manufacturers like Toyota are now working with the police to create a National Database of Catalytic Converters, with the aim of making Toyota and Lexus models ‘untouchable’ by making all catalytic converters traceable.

Is catalytic converter theft covered by insurance?

Yes, under the theft section of your policy. Depending on your insurers criteria, you may need to file a police report in the first instance.

Your premiums may increase as a result of the claim, however the ‘how much?’ will be down to a number of factors, including previous claims. Another thing to consider is the rising costs of the parts could make a lower-valued vehicle uneconomical to repair!

Claiming for this type of crime will also affect your No Claims history, so if your vehicle is in the ‘at risk’ category, it is worth considering protecting your No Claims Discount now. It doesn’t prevent your premium from going up, but it will ensure that you get the maximum No Claims Discount on it when it does.

According to Which? victims have reported repair quotes of over £1,200 in their recent survey, with 27% electing to settle the bill privately as opposed to an increased car insurance premium or, in the case of older vehicles, it being written off entirely.

If you have any questions, or are a victim of catalytic converter theft and not sure where to start, contact your local branch for advice.

Whether you witness a crime in action, or are a victim of catalytic converter theft, always contact the police in the first instance.