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Catalytic converter thefts plague New England rental companies

By Brock Huffstutler

June 6, 2023

Catalytic converter

It’s well known among businesses that maintain a fleet of vehicles — like those in the equipment and event rental industry — that catalytic converter thefts are skyrocketing. A recent rash of such thefts has hit rental businesses in the Northeast.

“Our fence was broken into. The culprits cut a 4-in. hole in our chain-link fence and stole catalytic converters out of two 16-ft. gasoline box trucks and our delivery van. To replace all the missing units is costing about $25,000. Luckily, we have insurance, but we still have to pay our deductible on each truck. The police said that it probably took the thieves about 10 minutes to grab all the catalytic converters,” says Tom Byrne, president, Connecticut Rental Centers, Middletown, Conn.

Catalytic converter thefts continue to rise year-over-year due to inflated prices of the precious metals used in making catalytic converters — palladium, platinum and rhodium. Thieves can remove catalytic converters from vehicles in minutes and extract the precious metals for resale.

Stolen catalytic converters can be sold on the black market anywhere from $200-$350, with the replacement costs to vehicle owners averaging more than $2,500, which has been exacerbated by supply chain woes.

Another recent theft illustrates the cost to rental companies not only in dollars but also in unexpected down time.

“A catalytic converter theft hit our company; 10 of our trucks went down,” says Elijah Wilper, vice president of operations, Taylor Rental Center, Manchester, Conn. “According to the police department, a black Ford Explorer hit a few places in the space of a couple of days in Manchester, Middletown and Plainville. Rental stores should be vigilant and put up lots of cameras.”

The current lack of traceable identifying marks makes theft difficult to curb as converters cannot be linked to vehicles from which they were stolen.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports a 1,215 percent increase in catalytic converter thefts since the pandemic began. Last year, American Rental Association (ARA) members alone reported 38 percent more instances of theft.

Currently, there is little deterrent for thieves who commit these property crimes. There has, however, been a bill introduced in Congress called the Preventing Auto Recycling Theft (PART) Act that would assist law enforcement in combating rising catalytic converter theft by providing a national framework that would mark catalytic converters with an identifying mark traceable to the Vehicle Registration Number (VIN), establish federal criminal penalties and create a more transparent market that deters theft.

The ARA and NICB support the passage of the PART Act along with the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA), American Truck Dealers (ATD), American Trucking Associations (ATA), Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA), National Auto Auction Association (NAAA), National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA), National Independent Automobile Dealers Association (NIADA), National RV Dealers Association (RVDA), National Salvage Vehicle Reporting Program (NSVRP) and Association for the Work Truck Industry (NTEA).

The PART Act has received bipartisan sponsorship in the U.S. Senate (S.154), as has companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 621). Those interested in advancing the PART Act can reach out to your member of Congress to encourage their support:

You can find talking points for support of the PART Act here.

Get contact information for your elected official under the “Your Elected Officials” tab here.