A catalytic converter is a device that neutralizes the harmful gases in engine exhaust that contribute to air pollution and smog. Mandated in the U.S. since 1975, catalytic converters are bolted to the underside of cars or trucks as part of their exhaust system.

Across Virginia—in fact, across the nation—catalytic converter thefts are on the rise. These devices are appealing to thieves because they are quick and easy to steal, and they contain metals more precious than gold—platinum, rhodium and palladium. A metal recycler might pay $50 to $250 for a catalytic converter and up to $800 for a device from a hybrid vehicle. But even if a thief’s goal isn’t to extract those metals, used catalytic converters sell for a good price from junkyards and scrap dealers.

The loss of a catalytic converter is no small matter to the vehicle owner. Depending on the type of vehicle you have, it can cost between $1,000 and $2,500 or more to replace a catalytic converter that is stolen.

Stealing a catalytic converter is not particularly difficult. This device can typically be removed in just a few minutes by using a saw or a wrench. Slicing through the piping on both sides of the converter before it’s pulled off is the most common method. SUVs, pickup trucks, buses and vans are likely targets as these vehicles sit higher off the ground, making it easier for the thief to slide underneath.

Click for steps you can take to protect your vehicle and reduce the likelihood of having your catalytic converter stolen.