Deputy Jaime Moran from the L.A. Sheriffs Department engraves the catalytic converter of a vehicle with a traceable number. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
CarFax put its team of data scientists to work putting a more representative number to the volume of catalytic converter thefts across the country. While you might be surprised to have just found out that CarFax has a team of data scientists, you probably won’t be surprised to hear the team’s conclusion that thefts are far greater than have been reported. The National Insurance Crime Bureau has been the go-to source for national theft figures. Earlier this year, the NICB wrote that “thefts increased 1,215% between 2019 and 2022.” With the NICB logging 3,389 reported thefts in 2019, the 2022 figure would be just over 38,100. But the NICB only tracks thefts vehicle owners reported to their auto insurance. When CarFax searched the data and reasons for catalytic converter replacements, it found “as many as 153,000 [stolen cats] in the U.S. in 2022.”
That sounds more like it, and even that is probably undersells the issue. The Houston Chronicle reported there 7,800 cats stolen in Houston alone in 2021. The New York Times reported 7,000 cats were stolen in New York City last year. In August 2022, Portland, Oregon police busted a crime ring responsible for trafficking more than 44,000 catalytic converters in 2021 and 2022, stolen from vehicles just on the West Coast.
CarFax also broke out the data on the most popular victim vehicles nationwide and in eight regions. Nationwide, the Ford F-Series lineup tops the list, which is no surprise as it’s been the best-selling vehicle for decades and is easy to crawl under. Of the nine lists, the F-Series claimed the lead spot on six of them. It’s followed by the Honda Accord nationally, the Honda only the 20th-best-selling vehicle in the U.S. last year but coming two spots ahead of the Honda CR-V that was the seventh-best-seller last year. That gets turned around in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, the Honda CR-V leading the top-10 lists for stolen cats in both areas. The Toyota Prius takes third nationwide and first in the West, the hatchback hugely popular on the left coast and its hybrid catalytic converter containing more precious metals.
A couple of unexpected entries include the Ford Econoline van range in sixth on the nationwide list, the Chevrolet Equinox in seventh, and the Chevrolet Cruze in 10th. Among regions, the Nissan NV van is a surprise placing in 10th in the Southwest region, as are the Kia Soul and Jeep Patriot pulling up the last two spots in the Plains region, and the Mitsubishi Outlander hitting the charts in the Mid-Atlantic, the South, and the Southwest.
Check out the CarFax piece for the full rankings to get a bead on just how careful you need to be depending on what you drive and where you live.