Does insurance cover catalytic converter theft?

Does insurance cover catalytic converter theft?

Does insurance cover catalytic converter theft?

Your car's catalytic converter helps to minimise your carbon footprint and ease some of the strain on the environment. Through a chemical reaction, this component changes harmful pollutants into harmless gas by-products with reduced ecological impact. All cars on UK roads need to have one of these handy pieces of kit, and it is no longer legal to manufacture a vehicle without one.

But what happens when a catalytic converter gets stolen? Will this be covered by your insurance? We'll explore this in detail below.

Is catalytic converter theft covered by insurance in the UK?

Let's get straight into and find out if UK car insurance policies can in fact cover catalytic converter theft. The good news is — yes, catalytic converter theft can be covered on your insurance policy in some cases. There are caveats, however, and not all policies will provide this cover.

For this to be the case, you'll usually need a comprehensive insurance policy. Minimal insurance policies — like the third-party insurance that is the minimum requirement for driving on British roads — are unlikely to extend to components on your own car. Even some comprehensive policies might not provide coverage for catalytic converter theft, so it's a good idea to check what you are covered for.

When someone pinches your catalytic converter, they don't just pick it up and run off. They need to get down underneath the exhaust pipe and manually remove it, which means there may also be some damage. Some comprehensive policies will cover any damage that results from the theft of the catalytic converter, while others may only cover the cost of the component itself. Check the terms and conditions of your own policy to understand your level of cover.

How are catalytic converters stolen?

As we've touched on above, a catalytic converter is not a handbag or a mobile phone — it's not something that a thief is going to just pick up and walk off with. So how do these things get stolen, and why?

Let's start with the how. Catalytic converters may not simply be lying around, but they are not as hidden away as other components. They are often bolted into position around your car's exhaust, and a skilled thief can remove these bolts — and the converter — in just a few minutes.

Other types of converters may be welded into place. This is something of a double-edged sword for the car owner. On the one hand, a thief may not want to bother with the extra hassle of removing a welded component, and may instead decide to leave your car alone. On the other, if the thief does decide to remove a welded catalytic converter, they are likely to cause a load of expensive damage in the process!

Why are catalytic converters stolen?

So, how about the why? The main factor is the value of the catalytic converter itself. These components tend to include precious metals like platinum and palladium, and older-model catalytic converters in particular may include large amounts of these materials. This can make older cars a target for thieves.

There is also the fact that catalytic converters are so easy to find. All cars produced over the last few decades will feature one of these components, and the vehicle won't be passed as roadworthy without one. With this in mind, thieves have plenty of opportunities to steal these components. In addition, it's pretty hard to track a catalytic converter if it goes missing — if the component is broken down and scrapped, there's no chance of finding it. Even if it is sold on, there is little possibility that the component will be traced back to the thief.

Whether the thief plans to sell the catalytic converter on or break it down to salvage the metal materials, they will still need to consider wear and tear. While older cars may feature catalytic converters that contain lots of precious metals with a high resell value, these converters have probably spent a long time in use, and this may affect the quality of the materials. For the same reason, hybrid vehicles are a common target for thieves — the catalytic converter in a hybrid vehicle doesn't have to work as hard as those in full petrol or diesel vehicles, and so they tend to be in a better condition.

How to tell if a catalytic converter is stolen

How can you tell if your catalytic converter has been stolen? The most obvious way is to check with your own eyes. Take a look below the car's exhaust pipe and see if there is anything missing, or if there are any bolts or screws on the floor beneath the car. However, you're not likely to check the underside of your vehicle every time you want to use it, so how else can you notice if a theft has taken place?

A tell-tale sign is the engine light. You may notice a warning light on your dashboard that signifies something is wrong with the engine — this could indicate that the catalytic converter has been stolen.

Other signs include unusual smells and sounds. A loud roaring sound when the car starts up is a major hint that something is not quite right, as is an ongoing sputtering sound when you drive. You may also notice that the fumes emitted from the exhaust are different to how they usually are, and may produce a strange smell.

Finally, there is the handling of the car itself. The smooth acceleration you have become used to may change into something more choppy and uneven, which might suggest a key component is missing. If you are still unsure, get someone with experience to check under the car for you.

A few final tips...

  • Catalytic converter theft can be covered on your insurance policy in some cases.
  • It's a good idea to read the terms and conditions of your insurance policy, so you know what is and isn't covered.

Urban Jungle is not a financial advisor and information in this article should not be taken as advice or recommendation.