Skyrocketing Price of Platinum Causing Skyrocketing Theft of Catalytic Converters

August 5, 2008

Catalytic ConverterIn 2008 the theft of catalytic converters has been increasing at an alarming rate. Catalytic converters have been standard equipment on cars since the 70’s. Today some vehicles have as many as four converters. So why the sudden increase in theft? The answer is the price of platinum.

Five years ago platinum was going for about $600 per ounce. In 2008 the price of platinum soared to $2,200 per ounce and now stands around $1,700 per ounce – and there is platinum in that converter. In fact there is enough platinum to make each stolen converter worth as much as $200 on the black market.

An experienced thief can remove a converter in less than 2 minutes. Unfortunately, the repair cost to the owner can run as high as $1,000 depending on how much damage was caused during the theft. The converters are usually sawed off with a battery powered saw. Bold thieves do not even bother to steal the car, but actually crawl under vehicles that are parked in remote lots and begin sawing.

The AAA reports that sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks are the prime targets. SUVs and pickups are higher off the ground, so it is easier to crawl under them to cut off the converters. Criminals tend to be lazy types. Catalytic Converter stolenToyota 4Runners are particular targets because a thief can remove the converter with just a socket wrench, and their converters contain plenty of platinum.

There are products on the market that make it more difficult to steal a converter, such as the CatClamp. However, the price of the protective cage goes for around $225. The best protection is to avoid remote parking lots. However, the permanent solution will come from the automobile industry. Collectively automakers spent about $2 billion dollars a year on platinum and in an effort to cut costs are searching for ways to reduce the need for platinum. Mazda has created a catalytic converter that uses 70 to 90 percent less platinum making the converter worthless on the black market.