The soaring price of precious metals is being blamed for a huge surge in thefts of catalytic converters with insurers and police warning drivers to be on their guard.

Stop Thief's CartoonThe number of claims for catalytic converter thefts has increased tenfold from the beginning of the year, according to new insurance data.

What’s more, thefts of catalytic converters from cars have soared in London, with police forces around the country also issuing warnings to drivers.

Figures from the Metropolitan Police show there were 2,900 catalytic converter thefts reported in the first half of 2019, against 1,674 in the whole of 2018. The number of such thefts has risen sharply since 2017, when only 173 incidents were recorded in London.

West Yorkshire Police says targeted cars were those with higher chassis, such as sport utility vehicles and 4x4s. However, other vehicles could still be damaged and it has been reported that hybrid models were a specific target as they contained more precious metals than other vehicles as well as delivery vans.

Data compiled by AA Insurance Services found that in January 2019, eight vehicles had their catalytic converters stolen compared to 79 which were stolen during October. Theft incidents have increased throughout 2019, according to the data, but the steep increase has been identified recently with 24 catalytic converters stolen in August, rising to 63 in September.

Catalytic converters contain precious metals such as palladium, rhodium and platinum and can either be sent for scrap or sold privately via online auction sites. The price of scrap platinum has, for example, increased to as much as £26.21 per gram from £20.11 per gram in the past six months.

Catalytic converter theft prevention advice

  • Park car in a locked garage where possible, but if that is not an option, then park it in a well-lit and well-populated area
  • Park close to fences, walls or a kerb with the exhaust being closest to the fence, wall or kerb to make the theft more difficult
  • Avoid parking vehicle half on the pavement and half on the road, as that may make it easier for thieves to access the catalytic converter
  • If parking in a public car park, consider parking alongside other cars and facing the bonnet towards the wall if possible. With the catalytic converter positioned at the front of a vehicle, it will make it harder for thieves to get close enough to steal it
  • If there is a fleet of vehicles, park the low clearance vehicles to block the high clearance vehicles. That will obstruct access underneath
  • If the catalytic converter is bolted on, ask a garage to weld the bolts to make it more difficult to remove
  • Alternatively, also etch a serial number on the converter
  • Purchase a ‘cage clamp’, which is a cage device that locks in around the converter to make it more difficult to remove
  • If someone is seen acting suspiciously under a vehicle, report it to the police. Obtain as much information as possible, including any vehicle registrations.

Source: West Yorkshire Police.