Catalytic converter thefts in the United States have increased significantly in 2021, and a recent report finds that thieves are particularly seeking the part fitted to the second-generation Toyota Prius. Insurance claims involving a Prius built from 2004 to 2009 are skyrocketing.
It's not the irony of removing the catalytic converter from a so-called "green" car that's leading thieves to crawl under an old Prius — though the hybrid system is indirectly to blame. The Highway Loss Data Institute explains that the catalytic converter installed on this version of the hatchback is built with more precious metals than the one found on, say, a Land Cruiser because it doesn't get as hot since the engine isn't always running. The price of metals like platinum, rhodium, and palladium is going up, so the number of thefts are on the upswing as well.
For context, the theft claim frequency for the 2004 to 2009 Prius checked in at 58.1 per 1,000 insured vehicles in 2020, up sharply from 1.4 in 2016. Tellingly, the theft claim frequency for other models from that era didn't markedly increase between 2016 and 2020. There's a good reason for that: The same report adds that the going rate for a GD3+EA6-type catalytic converter from a second-gen Prius hovers around $1,022. Cut one from a third-generation model and it'll be worth approximately $548. Thieves who can't find a Prius but are surrounded by Ford F-150 pickup trucks won't make nearly as much money: the catalytic converter in a 2007 model is worth around $143.
The Highway Loss Data Institute warns that its database doesn't include information about the specific component that was stolen, meaning it can't tell the difference between a stolen catalytic converter and a stolen OZ Racing alloy on paper. However, it added that the dollar value assigned to each claim sheds a little bit of light on what was stolen. Replacing a catalytic converter (which is part of the exhaust system) typically costs between $2,500 and $3,000, and the number of claims in that range has increased alarmingly in recent years.
Keeping your catalytic converter safe and firmly attached to your car is easier said than done; you can't hide it, lock it, or LoJack it. Worst yet, it's not a part that's stamped with the car's vehicle identification number (VIN), so the odds of finding it once it's gone are low.