Metal thieves stealing exhaust pipes send US auto claims 1,000% higher

Catalytic converter contain precious materials including platinum, rhodium and palladium. (Image from Wikimedia commons)

State Farm said Thursday that metal thieves in search of platinum, rhodium and palladium are stealing catalytic converters in ever-greater numbers, sending auto-insurance claims soaring across the U.S.

Last year, State Farm paid $62.6 million for 32,265 catalytic converter theft claims nationally — a 1,173% increase from 2019. 

“It’s the metals in general that are valuable,” said Amy Harris, a State Farm spokeswoman, in a phone interview. “The owner comes out to their car, the car won’t start, and they eventually figure out that the catalytic converter has been removed.”

A catalytic converter is an emissions-control device that’s in the exhaust system under many gas-powered vehicles. State Farm doesn’t track which models are targeted most often, but thieves tend to hit smaller, lighter cars that are left unattended in parking lots. California, the nation’s largest auto market, accounted for more than a quarter of catalytic converter claims in 2021.

The problem may get worse as the war in Ukraine has sparked a surge in commodities prices. Russia produces almost 40% of mined palladium in the world, second behind South Africa, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

(By Dana Hull, with assistance from Joe Deaux)

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