Catalytic converter theft: how to protect your car

Catalytic converter theft from cars isn’t a new crime, but it has increased significantly in recent times.

Police forces around the UK, including those in West Yorkshire, London and Nottinghamshire, are advising owners of any car fitted with a catalytic converter to take precautions.

Any car fitted with a catalytic converter could be at risk. In Toyota’s case it is second and third-generation Prius models (2004-2009 and 2009-2016 respectively) and second-generation Auris Hybrids (2012-2018) which have been particular targets for thieves.

Below we’ve gathered the best advice for Toyota owners who may be concerned.

What is a catalytic converter? 

The catalytic converter is part of the car’s emissions control system. It cleans up the exhaust gases before they are expelled from the car through the exhaust pipe. Its internal elements react with the gases, breaking them down into less harmful substances and water vapour. All cars sold in Europe since 1993 have had to be fitted with catalytic converter by law.

Why are they a target for thieves?

Clearly the police are best placed to offer advice on the motives behind this crime, but we understand that in the main, the value of the catalytic converter for recycling is the main attraction to thieves, because they contain precious metals such as rhodium, platinum and palladium.

What is Toyota doing to stop its cars being targeted?

In May 2021, Toyota (GB) announced that it would be covertly marking more than 100,000 catalytic converters in order to combat theft. By working with police and Smartwater, catalytic converters can be tagged with an invisible yet traceable marking, meaning that a stolen catalytic converter can be traced to a specific crime, helping police in their attempts to fight the organised gangs responsible. It also raises the risk to all those handling the devices along the criminal chain, from theft to eventual disposal and recycling.

It is free to get the catalytic converter marked, all customers need to do is call their local Toyota or Lexus retailer to arrange a visit.

In addition to this, Toyota has issued 20,000 Smartwater kits to police to support their local anti-catalyst theft initiatives. The company is also working with the AA, Toyota’s roadside partner, so its patrols can point customers to where they can get a free kit.

We have also developed and reduced the price of a ‘Catloc’ device which can deter theft and make it more difficult. Toyota teams in the UK and other countries are urgently exploring new technical possibilities to deter criminals as well.

We are working with the police, as well as talking to government about changes in the law around scrap metal sales that would make it harder for criminals to sell stolen catalysts for cash.

However, these are criminal operations and our scope is therefore limited. A number of police forces are taking action and some forces, such as Nottinghamshire, are also starting awareness campaigns. It is vitally important for anyone who is a victim of this crime to report it to their local police force as quickly as possible.

In the main, it remains older cars that are targeted because advances in efficiency and technology mean the latest generations of Toyota catalytic converters contain vastly lower amounts of precious metals, whilst still doing their job just as well or even better; this means their value for recycling is very low and they are not attractive to thieves.

Does a Catloc give my car 100% protection from thieves?

Sadly not. It can make theft more difficult but thieves are using high-powered cutting tools to remove catalytic converters and because of this it is not possible to make catalytic converters ‘unstealable’. A Catloc makes it harder to steal a catalytic converter, slowing thieves down and acting as a deterrent. As mentioned above, we’re doing all we can to seek further technical options for customers.

Is Catloc available for my Toyota?

Catloc devices are available for a growing proportion of our range, but not all. We recommend speaking to your local Toyota centre.

How much does it cost to replace a catalytic converter?

Toyota’s first priority is to do all we can to support our customers who have been victims of crime.

We have moved to reduce the prices of replacement catalytic converters and Catlocs to a level where Toyota GB does not make any profit from supplying them to customers.

Your nearest Toyota centre can advise on exact costs after inspecting your vehicle.

Is it true that there is a long wait for replacement catalytic converter parts for Toyota cars?

The rapid rise in this crime in 2019 is one we could not have envisaged, set against many years of low incidence of catalytic converter theft. This initially impacted our ability to source enough of the parts we needed in some cases, for which we sincerely apologise.

Toyota has restarted production lines in Japan and France that made catalysts for many of the older models targeted in order to supply affected owners, developed a Catloc security device which helps deter theft (and has been granted a “Sold Secure with Gold Status” security ranking) and ensured it makes no profit at all from the sale of replacement catalysts or from Catlocs, providing them at cost.

If I’m worried about my Toyota model, what should I do?

If you are worried about potential catalytic converter theft from your Toyota, we recommend you use our locator tool to find your nearest Toyota centre and contact them to discuss the best way to protect your car.

This article was last updated on 13 May 2021, so some of the responses to reader comments below have been superseded by more recent information.

2,041 comments

  1. Dear Toyota, We have just had the catalytic converter stolen from our 2009 Prius. We’d had the car for 12.5 years. Great car, no problems. We hoped to get many more years from it. As a result of the cat. being stolen it is now a write-off! We’d like to buy another Prius (seen a great 2016 one). Please convince me that I should spend a huge amount of money on a car when it seems likely that even with a CatLoc the cat. will be stolen again causing stress, worry and expense? What are the security measures incorporated in the car to truly prevent it from happening again? I read on here that it had happened to a 2019 model!

    1. Hi Heather,

      Thanks for getting in touch. We are very sorry to hear that you have been a victim of crime. As you know, Toyota has developed cat locking devices for a number of vehicles within its car and light commercial ranges. These can act as a deterrent for opportunistic thieves. However, there is nothing Toyota – or any other manufacturer – can do to prevent brazen, determined thieves from using heavy duty power tools to remove catalytic converters, or the preventative measures developed to try and deter them. Additionally we’re afraid we cannot guarantee a replacement vehicle will not be targeted by criminals either. Thanks.

  2. Took delivery of my brand new 2019 Prius in mid July. CC stolen 1 August. £1400 pounds for a new one oh and by the way, the parts aren’t available until end of September. Had the car for two weeks, will be in the garage for at least 8 weeks. Well at least I can get a Catloc right? Wrong. There isn’t one for new models. To quote my mechanic ‘Catloc is useless anyway to any thief with an angle grinder’. Rang Toyota customer care to complain. They are very sorry to hear about this. Not going to do anything about it though. All in all, a complete mess. Thanks Toyota.

    1. Hi Josh,

      We’re really sorry you have been a victim of crime. There is nothing Toyota – or any other manufacturer – can do to prevent brazen, determined thieves from using heavy duty power tools to remove catalytic converters, or the preventative measures developed to try and deter them. We’re looking into developing Catlocs for all of the models that are affected. Due to the unexpected demand for replacement catalytic converters, some customers need to wait for additional supply to arrive. We are working as hard as we can to do this. Thanks.

  3. I have been very happy with my 2012 prius plugin. But my catalytic converter was stolen on 23rd July. First it was to be fixed by 5th August. Then 21st August. Now 31st August. I have little faith in that date.

    Very sad I will get rid of car as soon as it comes back. This appears to be design fault that needs a recall to fix. You really are doing nothing to put peoples minds at rest. I’m scared it will be targeted again before I can rid of it.

    1. Hi Roger,

      Thanks for getting in touch. We are very sorry to hear that you have been a victim of crime. We also apologise for the delay in getting a replacement part fitted to your car. We are working as hard as we can to secure additional supply of catalytic converters for our customers.

      Catalytic converters contain materials that can be valuable on the second hand market and, as such, the industry sees theft levels increase when the precious metals market is high.

      Toyota has developed cat locking devices for a number of vehicles within its car and light commercial ranges. These can act as a deterrent for opportunistic thieves.

      However, there is nothing Toyota – or any other manufacturer – can do to prevent brazen, determined thieves from using heavy duty power tools to remove catalytic converters, or the preventative measures developed to try and deter them.

      Once again, we’re very sorry that you have been targeted by thieves and would recommend contacting your insurance provider and the police force in your area for further advice.

      1. I was told at my Toyota Dealer that they do not do a Toyota Cat Loc for the 2012 Prius (gen 3). But you can get an aftermarket Cat loc.

      2. Catloc for Gen 3 Prius has been available since the end of July 2019. Here’s the part number: GBNGA-CATLO-C9. Thanks.

  4. I had my Cat Converter stolen from my 2004 Prius in February outside my house in a well lit road in South London. Police wrote it off as a common theft and with no evidence nothing they can do. I immediately looked for alarms and catloc systems but was advised that really nothing is going to deter thieves wanting a Prius cat converter. I asked the insurance company if they would fit an after market converter and they said they only fitted genuine Toyota spares so we thought then that surely the thieves would know that if they pass by the car again it would have a lovely new cat converter on it! There is no alarm to fit to an exhaust system and the underbody is not well adapted to fitting a steel plate across the whole thing and garages are reluctant to do it. So I fitted a CCTV system to at least give me some security. Well 6 months later they did came back! 2 weeks ago in the middle of the night again. At least I know it was 2 tall guys in hoodies in a black BMW but just missed the number plate. Took under 2 minutes to remove it. Police again can do nothing. I had no intention of getting rid of my lovely Prius but I sold it straight away and have no intention of buying another Prius or Honda or other car with a high value converter. Toyota realises they have a problem but they do nothing to highlight the problem to the wider public or provide any assistance to help with the fitting of deterrents or alarms. For sure my insurance premiums will now go up after 2 claims in a year for the same thing and I am left with the stress of wondering what car to buy next. We are all very vulnerable now and I feel sorry for every Prius owner. Be warned – stay away from Prius until the danger passes or Toyota do something to stop their cat converters being stolen. IT IS A NATIONAL EMERGENCY!!!.

    1. Hi Des,

      Thanks for getting in touch and we are deeply sorry to hear you have been the victim of this theft. We appreciate the seriousness of this issue and are working as hard as we can to develop a range of Catlocs for all vehicles at risk of this crime, this also involves us working closely with UK Police to continuously assess the situation.

      We understand that what we say now doesn’t change your situation and once again, we are extremely sorry you have experienced this, and we apologise for the stress your situation must have caused. If you would like to discuss this further, please feel free to contact our customer relations team, whose details you’ll find via this link: https://www.toyota.co.uk/contact-us/

      Thanks.

  5. I’ve just been a victim of this shocking type of theft on my 2006 Prius. I do have to admit I did see a video doing the rounds on social media showing thieves stealing the converter from a parked, red Prius but thought this couldn’t/ wouldn’t happen to me. It did. I’m obviously very shocked and especially at the price I’ll have to fork out to replace it, but I thought I’d leave a comment to let other owners know that this is a real problem and it could happen to any owner of the targeted models.

    I also believe Toyota should seriously acknowledge this epidemic and notify, by all means, existing owners of the risks and things that could be done to prevent it (maybe an information pack sent via email/post)?

    I definitely would have considered fitting something to my car had I received a formal communication from Toyota and not just a video of a theft in action making its way onto Facebook.

    It has been a joy driving my Prius but sad to say I probably won’t be repairing due to the vulnerability of this model.

    Thanks,

    1. Hi,

      Thanks for your comment and your feedback. Toyota wrote to owners of 2nd generation Prius in late July, warning them that this vehicle has been a particular target for thieves. It sounds like you didn’t get that letter though, which may be because we don’t have up to date contact information for yourself. We’re really sorry about that, and of course we regret that your vehicle has been targeted by criminals. If you do plan to get your vehicle repaired, please contact your local Toyota centre.

      Thanks.

  6. I am a victim of my Prius’ catalytic converter being stolen today. Toyota must recall the affected Prius’ and fix the issue. It is a big shame that Toyota have done nothing to address the issue so far.

    1. Hi Anna,

      Thanks for getting in touch and we are extremely sorry to hear you have been the victim of theft. We completely understand and appreciate the seriousness of this issue and are currently working closely with UK Police to continuously monitor this situation whilst we continue to look into developing Catlocs for all our vehicles at risk.

      We would like to open a customer relations case on your behalf in order to investigate your situation further and have emailed you regarding this.

      Thanks.

      1. Surely a solution lies in having an under body panel extending under the catalytic converter. Such panels would be difficult to work around when lying under the car – but relatively easy for a mechanic to remove with the car on a lift. Some cars already seem to have this as a feature of reducing wind resistance.

      2. Hi John,

        Thanks for getting in touch. We are constantly developing and always appreciate customer feedback as part of that. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, we will pass it on to the relevant teams.

        Thanks.

  7. I had my cat stolen off my Auris in broad daylight two months ago from Oxford Parkway train station. Car still at garage. Weekly calls to say they can’t get the part. However, today, I was offered an alternative cat brand. Would fitting a non Toyota part invalidate my 5 year warranty?

    So worried this will happen again when I get the car back. Seriously thinking of giving it up at the end of my deal, just too stressful. Love Toyota but you really can’t produce cars for mass market with this kind of flaw.

    1. Hi Estelle,

      We’re really sorry to hear that your vehicle has been targeted by thieves.

      Fitting an aftermarket CatLoc will not affect your warranty.

      We appreciate that this is a difficult situation for owners, and we hope your car is back on the road as soon as possible.

      Thanks

  8. Hi, had my taken from my 05 Prius Saturday afternoon 17/8/19 in broad daylight in the middle of a busy car park in Guildford whilst shopping! Never heard of this before then. It has left me shocked and feeling very vulnerable. Definitely seems to be an easy crime to commit and messes up your life, I will not be able to work this week.

    1. Hi Kay,

      We’re really sorry that your vehicle has been targeted by thieves. The theft of catalytic converters from cars isn’t a new crime – it has been going on for years. However, the significant increase in value of the materials found inside catalytic converters has seen a rise in this type of crime. We’d recommend getting a CatLoc fitted by your nearest Toyota centre. These act as a deterrent to opportunistic thieves.

      Thanks

  9. I bought my Toyota Auris 6 months ago 2017 Reg. My Catalytic converter has been stolen yesterday I am very disappointed because I use it for cabbing.

    1. Hi Ahmed,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      We’re very sorry that your vehicle has been targeted by criminals.

      We’d recommend contacting your nearest Toyota centre who can fit a CatLoc for you.

      Thanks

      1. Like everyone else here, I’ve just had the catalytic converter stolen from my 2007 Prius. Can you please explain why Jemca on Edgware Road have given a telephone quote of £2,200 (w/o VAT) when you say above that the cost should be less than £1,200 incl. VAT? Is there a reputable Toyota dealer in London who actually charges this price?

      2. Hi Lee,

        Thanks for getting in touch and we are really sorry to hear you have been a victim of this crime. The £1200 figure covers the cost of a new Catalytic converter and Catloc, however in some cases other parts may be needed in order to repair the damage caused by criminals. Unfortunately, this is likely to be what has occurred in your current situation.

        We appreciate this is an incredibly difficult situation and once again we are deeply sorry you have experienced this. If you would like to discuss this further we would recommend contacting our customer relations team whose contact details you will be able to find via this link:
        https://www.toyota.co.uk/contact-us/

        Thanks.

      3. Hi Linda,

        We apologise for any confusion. We meant once the replacement Catalytic Converter is fitted, we would recommend having a Catloc fitted also.

        Thanks.

    2. Hi Toyota, had my catalytic converter stolen from my 2017 Auris on 22 Aug at Alton Towers car park. What is most concerning is that 7 other cars got done that day and they were all Toyota’s Hybrid cars not any other brand. Although the insurance company are sorting this out I have been told it could be at least 2 to 3 months before the repair shop can get the genuine Toyota part.
      Toyota help is really needed…

      1. Hi James,

        Thanks for getting in touch and we are deeply sorry to hear you have been a victim of this crime. We appreciate you have already contacted your insurance company, however our customer relations team would also be more than happy to help investigate this further. If you would like to get in touch with our team, you can find their contact details via this link: https://www.toyota.co.uk/contact-us/

        We are also extremely sorry about the delay in replacement parts; this is down to the increased demand caused by the increase in thefts. We are working as hard as we can to help our customers through this and are closely monitoring the situation with UK Police, whilst developing Catlocs for our models deemed at risk.

        Once again, we are extremely sorry to hear about your situation and the distress it may have caused.

        Thanks.

  10. There is a case here of manufacturing defect. If the thieves are targeting particular Toyota Prius and Auris models surely this points to a design fault.

    The thieves are fully aware of this vulnerability and are exploiting it. Plenty of anecdotal evidence here in this very blog.. Toyota you need to take urgent steps to rectify this otherwise your reputation is going to take a dive. 

    1. Hi Rico,

      Thanks for getting in touch. We appreciate this is an extremely sensitive issue and we are working hard to support our customers and combat this problem regarding Catalytic converter thefts and as a result, we have developed a Catloc range of accessory that is included in the International Security Register and approved by UK Police.

      From a Toyota Manufacturing perspective, there isn’t a design fault with the models being targeted. Due to the nature of the part, most vehicles have their Catalytic Converter in a similar place, however this is not exclusive to Toyota and is an industry wide issue.

      We are happy to investigate any cases further in order to provide additional support and would recommend contacting our customer relations team whose contact details you can find via this link in order to discuss this further: https://www.toyota.co.uk/contact-us/

      Thanks.

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