Catalytic Converter Thefts Down Nationwide, But Still 2100% Higher Than 2019

Catalytic Converter Thefts Down Nationwide, But Still 2100% Higher Than 2019
Graphic: Nathaniel Blum

Catalytic Converter Thefts Down Nationwide, But Still 2100% Higher Than 2019

Kevin Voigt
Updated August 16, 2023

Are you wondering if your car will be at risk for catalytic converter theft? Here’s a quick history on theft trends and what you need to know. Catalytic converter thieves have been on a tear since 2020, as police departments and car insurance companies nationwide reported a record surge of criminals stealing the part, which is laden with precious metals that help clean car exhaust. 

However, looking at the first six months of this year, it appears that catalytic converter thefts—which broke new records nationwide in 2022—are on the decline in nearly every state. Unfortunately, BeenVerified estimates thefts for the first half of the year are still nearly 2100% higher than 2019. 

BeenVerified data estimates that nationwide there were 26,742 catalytic converter thefts from January through June of this year, a decline of nearly 20,000 thefts compared to the same period last year. But the current theft rate is still far higher than 2019, when about 1,220 thefts occurred during the first half of that year. 

The rate of decline may be related to the recent increase in legal punishments in the majority of US states for catalytic converter thieves. An analysis by BeenVerified shows that 42 states since 2021 have enacted legislation related to catalytic converter thefts, mostly aimed at curtailing the scrap metal trade of ill-gotten parts. 

As more people fall victim to catalytic converter thieves, there has also been increased awareness among car owners about theft prevention.

Looking at the number of reported thefts in 2019 and 2020, BeenVerified compared state and national statistics of associated Google searches on “catalytic converter theft” during the same timeframe and found that search traffic on the term reliably follows a pattern: For every 10 searches, there is on average one reported catalytic converter theft.

Catalytic Converter Thefts and. Google search correlation chart

See how catalytic converter thefts grew over time

In the map below, watch how the rate of catalytic converter thefts grew month by month and state by state from January 2019 through June 2023. You can see by the highlighted state how the crime progressed across the country over time.

Press on the play button below and watch theft hotspots grow the past five years. Click on each state to see area catalytic converter theft trends since 2019.

Key takeaways:

  • Catalytic converter thefts declined substantially in the first half of this year. We estimate there were 26,742 thefts in the first six months of the year, down 42.71% nationwide from the same time period last year.  

  • Thefts nationwide are still nearly 21 times higher than 2019. While the decline is good news, catalytic converter thefts are still far more common than five years ago; thefts from January through June 2023 are 2091.97% higher than the first six months of 2019. There were only 3,389 thefts reported all year in 2019, and 14,433 reported in 2020, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

  • Only one state has seen an increase in the first six months of this year. While every other state in the union has seen catalytic converter theft rates decline by varying degrees in the first half of the year, one state—New Jersey—has seen thefts increase 25.1% from the first six months of 2022. 

All states, however, have surpassed all 2019 thefts in the first six months of this year by at least 90% except three: North Dakota (42.11%), Vermont (-3.45%) and Idaho (-45.63%).

  • California and Texas are the top states for thefts so far this year. In terms of total number of estimated thefts, California is by far the highest with 6,988, followed by Texas (2,235), New York (2,071), New Jersey (1,400) and Illinois (1,354).
  • New York, New Jersey and Delaware top the list when measured by licensed vehicles. In the first half of this year, New York had 11.14 catalytic converter thefts per 100,000 registered vehicles in the state, followed by New Jersey (9.29), Delaware (8.81), California (8.31) and Colorado (7.91).
  • Washington, Oregon and Hawaii have charted the largest annual decrease in thefts so far this year. Comparing the first six months of this year to 2022, Washington saw the largest decrease in thefts with a 77.28% decline, followed by Oregon (-74.86%), Hawaii (-71.49%), Texas (-67.43%) and Arizona (-66.03%).
  • Since 2019, New York has by far charted the highest percentage increase in catalytic converter thefts. Comparing the first six months of this year to the same time period five years ago, thefts are up 41,320.00%, followed by New Jersey (9,900.00%), Florida (7,541.18%), Massachusetts (7,457.14%) and Texas (5,737.50%).

2023 hotspots for catalytic converter thefts

State2023 thefts*% change from 2022
New York2,071-29.03%
New Jersey1,40025.11%

Top 10 states for catalytic converter thefts per 100k automobiles

RankStateNo. of thefts per 100k automobiles 2023*No. of thefts per 100k automobiles 2022*
1New York11.1415.69
2New Jersey9.297.43

Top 10 states seeing declines in thefts 

StateYoY decrease*

Top 10 states seeing increases since 2019

State5-year increase
New York41,320.00%
New Jersey9,900.00%
North Carolina4,800.00%

Catalytic converter thefts by state

Most states passed laws aimed at catalytic converter thefts

Catalytic converters contain platinum, palladium or rhodium, precious metals that have seen their value skyrocket over the past two years. The theft of a catalytic converter can be done in minutes by culprits who then resell to recyclers for between $50 and $250 per part. Car owners’ cost to replace it is between $1,000 and $3,000, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

In the wake of the explosion of catalytic converter thefts, dozens upon dozens of bills have been introduced since 2021 among state legislatures to combat the problem—which may be a reason why we’re seeing a decline in thefts this year.

In an era of increasing partisan politics, these laws are enjoying wide bipartisan support—many were approved unanimously by state lawmakers. We found that 42 states have enacted new laws regarding catalytic converter thefts since 2021, and many more bills are working their way through state legislatures.

Most legislation has aimed to pour cold water over the illicit market of goods by targeting the scrap metal trade of stolen parts. In general, these laws fall into three broad categories:

  • Increasing documentation requirements for buyers and sellers of catalytic converters, such as documenting/photographing drivers license, photos or videos of sellers, proof of ownership, recording VIN number of car or serial number of part and to keep those records for a certain period of time. Many states also have limited the sale of these goods to licensed and regulated dealers. 

  • Stiffening civil or criminal penalties, often making it a misdemeanor or felony in certain circumstances (depending on the value of stolen goods, number of previous offenses or past criminal record) for buyers of catalytic converters.

  • Stiffening civil or criminal penalties, often making it a misdemeanor or felony in certain circumstances (depending on the value of stolen goods, number of previous offenses or past criminal record) for sellers of stolen catalytic converters. 

Click on the map below to see which states have enacted new laws documenting sales or increased penalties for scrap yard buyers and thieves who traffic stolen catalytic converters. Data was current as of July 15, 2023.

Tips to prevent catalytic converter theft

Suggestions from experts to try and deter catalytic converter theft include:

  • Consider installing a catalytic converter anti-theft device in your vehicle, such as a cable cage or clamp.
  • When possible, park your car in a locked garage.
  • If you don’t have a garage, park your car in a well-lit area or install motion-activated lights and security cameras.
  • Make your car alarm more sensitive and consider motion alarms under your vehicle. 
  • In public parking garages and lots, park near the front of the building entrance or other areas with high pedestrian traffic.
  • Engrave your vehicle VIN into your catalytic converter.


BeenVerified analyzed 2019 and 2020 insured catalytic converter theft data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau and January 2019 through June 2023 search data from Google to make its findings. We found searches and thefts have a strong positive correlation (r(22)=.98, p < .01). Theft numbers for insured thefts are likely much lower than the total number of thefts.

For more information, contact Kerry Sherin, or Sydney Sims,

About BeenVerified

BeenVerified’s mission is to help people discover, understand and use public data in their everyday lives. BeenVerified and our associated websites curate dozens of public data sources and proprietary data sets to give people easy and affordable access to billions of public records, including a VIN number lookup tool to research vehicle history.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.