The theft of catalytic converters set records in 2022, and 2023 is looking like another record year. The reason for the initial jump in precious metal prices and thefts three years ago was a combination of global demand and the pandemic putting mines out of business. But, even with the prices of platinum, palladium and rhodium at half of their peak prices in 2022, converters are still being stolen at record rates.
In recent months, many states have put new laws on their books about catalytic converter sales and recycling. Most of the new or revised laws mandate more documentation if a catalytic converter is being sold to scrap yards or recyclers. Stipulations also include that the seller must be paid with a check and wait 72 hours to receive their money. Some laws require that a seller of a converter has the title to the vehicle. If you are a repair shop, most of these requirements were already implemented, thanks to the EPA’s requirements for documenting a replacement catalytic converter.
Other laws involve increasing fines and prison sentences if you are caught stealing, buying or possessing a stolen catalytic converter. I applaud these efforts if it reduces the incidents of stolen catalytic converters. To stay updated with new laws that might be coming to your state, visit the Auto Care Association website at www.autocare.org. Information can be found in the “advocacy in action” section of the website.
One law that caught my attention is the requirement that the VIN is engraved or stamped on the catalytic converter. A recently proposed New Jersey law requires that new vehicles and replacement catalytic converters be engraved with the VIN of the vehicle.
It does make sense to be able to connect the vehicle to the catalytic converter with the VIN. If a stolen catalytic converter is found, the police contact the vehicle owner if the thief is caught with a marked converter.
There is an opportunity here for your shop with these new laws. Some shops and law enforcement agencies are hosting events to etch or engrave catalytic converters. Most events have been sold out, with drivers being turned away because the lines were too long. Holding your own event can be a source of free publicity and a chance to gain new customers. Since you are under the car, you can also perform a complete inspection. You can ask for a donation to your favorite charity.
Marking a converter can also be a service that your shop offers every day. It can serve as a theft deterrent and maybe even help to recover the converter if it is stolen.
It is difficult to say when precious metal prices and catalytic converter thefts will return to normal levels. Even with new laws being enacted to regulate metal recyclers, most converters are being fenced by criminal organizations that disassemble the converters and smelt the precious metals. Once these theft rings are put out of business, things might get better.