Catalytic converter thefts in Houston spiked to 153,000 vehicles in 2022

Catalytic converter theft is spiking, as thieves are stealing them right off the bottom of cars and trucks and selling them for quick cash.  

RELATED: Houston police provide free service to help reduce catalytic converter thefts

Vehicle history company CARFAX reports the most targeted catalytic converters in Houston and Texas are on trucks and SUVs because they sit higher off the ground. That leaves more room for a thief to get underneath and cut it off.

CARFAX and an auto parts company taped how long it would take one of their guys to cut a catalytic converter off a pick-up truck. Talk about fast; He had it off in 66 seconds flat.

A thief can then sell them for hundreds of dollars because they're made of precious metals: palladium, platinum, and rhodium.

"Palladium and platinum trade for about $1000 an ounce. Rhodium though, trades for $10,000 an ounce," explained CARFAX's Patrick Olsen.

MORE: Texas among states with most reported catalytic converter thefts, insurance data reveals

CARFAX poured over service records from across the country and found 153,000 catalytic converters were swiped off cars in 2022.

"Five, six, seven years ago, we were talking about 1000, 2000 a year.  So it definitely exploded," said Olsen.

CARFAX found most frequently targeted vehicles in Houston and Texas are the Toyota Tundra, the Ford F Series, and the Ford Expedition.  

But nationwide hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius, are getting hit hard because their converters can be worth as much as $1400 on the black market.

"The hybrid engine does not get as hot as a conventional gas engine, and therefore it needs more of those precious metals in its catalytic converter to do the same job of cleaning the emissions," said Olsen.  

SUGGESTED: These are the cars most commonly targeted by catalytic converter thieves

Fully electric vehicles don't have catalytic converters.

So how will you know if your vehicle's catalytic converter has been stolen?  It will start very loud.  

RELATED: Authorities bust recycling company that allegedly paid for stolen catalytic convertors

Replacing one can cost $500 to $5,000. That's why when you buy auto insurance, Olsen recommends buying comprehensive coverage.

"Theft is not covered in liability insurance. You want to add comprehensive insurance, so you’re not out $1000, $2000, $3000 for a replacement converter," he said.

MORE: Lawmakers working to combat rising catalytic converter thefts in Houston

To help protect your converter from theft, Olsen also suggests, "If you can park in the garage, park in the garage. If you can’t do that, park in a well-lit area or well-traveled area."      

Some auto dealerships and auto repair shops, such as AAA Texas-approved shops, will etch your VIN number onto the catalytic converter for free, which can deter theft. So can painting it a bright color.

You can add covers, steel plates, or a locking cable to prevent it from being removed.

SUGGESTED: Auto shops turning to creative ways to thwart catalytic converter thieves

You can install a car alarm or motion-sensor lights that turn on when movement is detected near your vehicle.  

Texas state Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Harris County) has proposed SB 465, which makes it a crime for someone to be in possession of a converter unless they work for an approved business in the automotive industry.

And Congress is considering the PART Act, which would require converters to be marked with ID numbers and make catalytic converter theft a crime.