Catalytic converter theft: how to protect your car

The theft of catalytic converters 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?

We’re doing all we can. We’ve shared police guidance with customers, and we have 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 also 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.

We worked hard with suppliers in France and Japan, though, and have hugely increased supply.

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

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 1 June 2020, so some of the responses to reader comments below have been superseded by more recent information.

1,591 comments

  1. Hi,

    I purchased a Auris in 2018 and park my car in garage. My issue is that Toyota is OFFERING protection against badly designed car which has its component exposed openly.

    Can you imagine having a car with a bonnet partially covering the engine? No that’s a silly thing to do on many grounds.

    In other words, its the designer who is at fault. If the components were hidden and locked into position, then I think even with heavy duty power tools,it would be diffecult to remove.

    I personally feel this is just another way of making money. Toyota is ‘offering’ = funny.

    1. You haven’t understood why hybrid’s are being targeted and clearly have no knowledge of car design. It’s an unintended consequence because hybrid engines are so clean that the cat is worth stealing. They aren’t in other vehicles. Suggest you stick to diesels.

      1. I do so feel for Toyota as all they do is make the most reliable cars filled with class leading battery technology and in return their cars are targeted by scumbags who sell on the removed catalytic converters to unscrupulous scrap dealers here in the UK for the most part. A law against unscrupulous scrap dealers was brought in during 2013 I understand, however, years of reducing police numbers and local authority inspectors has brought us here, where the criminals know they won’t get caught and the scrap dealers won’t get checked!
        I understand that the problem is worse in hybrid cars, with Toyota being the largest seller for years, as the petrol engine is run less than pure petrol or diesel vehicles and therefore the special metal value in the stolen catalytic converters is much greater.
        WHY AM I POSTING THIS, well I’m looking to buy my retirement car after 40 years of company cars and after days of evaluating I identified that a used Toyota 2017/2018 hybrid RAV4 was my best bet but with group 28 insurance, or perhaps a 2019 used Prius Plus, with around group 15 insurance.
        Then I read my first article on the catalytic converter criminal scourge, then a friend had his Corolla hybrid catalytic converter stolen from his drive and now, I’m forced to buy diesel in the hope that diesel catalytic converters are low down on the list of valuable cats, although I’m likely to end up buying a vehicle with a dud DPF filter due to short journeys, you just can’t win can you?
        Perhaps all replacement cats and those on newer vehicles, both of whom should have much lower levels of valuable metals in them should be RED, so stupid crooks will instantly see that their dodgy scrap dealer won’t buy this one off them.
        TOYOTA? seriously great products and used to have a Prius in 2007 so know the dealers that I had experience of were so professional, so knowledgable and I would never question their ethics, ever!

  2. I have just had my catalytic convertor stolen from my 2018 Auris in broad daylight, opposite a busy junction, on a busy high street street – it took them 3 minutes. People witnessed them do it, but though they were changing a tyre until it was too late and then they were gone – and of course nobody gave then a second look wearing face coverings these days. I am totally shocked to come on here and find first of all a warning page dedicated to these types of thefts when NOBODY at my dealership Pinkstones in Stoke made me remotely aware that these cars or in the top 4 group most likely to be targeted (the Pirus also being one). Where is your duty of care to your customer ? Its not good enough to shrug it off by saying it could be any car – there must be a good reason why you are in the top 4 with these models ? Not good enough that nobody from the dealership mentioned it when you have a page dedicated to it and a forum with posts going on for 64 + pages !!! I am on my fifth Toyota, my Dad drives one, my daughter’s first car, and my husband (after me convincing him) is on his third Toyota . NO MORE ! I won’t be buying another or will my family ever again. Where is the trust ? Where is your proactive plan to resolve the issue ? Not good enough Toyota – just not good enough. I have had (like many others) enough mental and financial stress over the last 12 months and did not need this to add to it it . I’ve had 25 years of no claims on my insurance – so now I face losing this & paying the price with my insurance going forward, or coughing it up myself which put even more financial stress on my family. Fed up with your lip service – I want to see you commit to actually a) compensating your victims by free replacements b) design the cars to prevent anyone going through this even one more time ! Its about time you LISTENED, OWNED IT and ACTED Hang your heads in shame Toyota !

    1. Hi Judy,

      We are very sorry to hear that your vehicle has been targeted by thieves. Technically any car fitted with a catalytic converter is at risk of theft, but organised criminal gangs have been targeting some of our older hybrid models due to the higher amount of precious metals within the catalytic converter. These materials were fitted to make the catalytic converter more efficient at removing harmful emissions, making the car cleaner. There was no way we could have envisaged the value of these materials rising so high in the last few years. As our hybrid systems have become more efficient our newer models have much reduced precious metal content in the catalytic converter, making them less attractive to thieves. This is a criminal issue, and we working with various agencies, including the Police, to try to put a stop to it. Once again, we are very sorry that this has happened to you and hope you are back on the road soon.

      Thanks

  3. i think Toyota and Lexus should solve this problem. And it shouldn’t be a paid service. We pay for the car anyway. We pay for a service that really doesn’t cost cheap. I think they should have car catalytic converter protection for free

  4. My cat was stolen yesterday (happy Mother’s Day to me) from my 10 plate Auris. I am wondering if you do a cat lock for this model Auris?

    1. Hi Caroline,
      Thanks for contacting us. We’re so sorry to hear that you vehicle has been targeted by thieves.
      If you could please provide us with your UK reg, we will then be able to look into this for you.
      Thanks.

      1. Hi Caroline,
        Thanks for getting back to us.
        There should be a CatLoc available for your vehicle.
        We would recommend contacting your nearest Toyota Centre to order this.
        Thanks.

  5. To add to the misery of all these messages, I returned to my Toyota Prius (bought new in 2011) tonight, parked in my school carpark all day, to find the catalytic converter stolen. It’s only now, having done some research, initiated by the kind RAC breakdown guy who attended to the car initially, that I discover what a HUGE problem catalytic converter thefts from Toyota hybrid vehicles are. Reading through all these messages, it’s abundantly clear that Toyota has a corporate response to these thefts- we can’t stop criminals with high-powered cutting tools. So where does that leave your customers Toyota? I spent a great deal of money on my car, have never been warned that this was a potential problem and it’s only now after I have become a victim of the crime, that I learn how prevalent this crime is. My question to Toyota is what do you intend to do about it? Seems to me as though Toyota and the criminals are the winners here and us Toyota drivers the mugs who pay a lot for cars and get absolutely no protection or help with what is a design fault- as somebody said earlier, why haven’t you come up with a way to ensure that these items cannot be removed in broad daylight? Appalled, disappointed, won’t buy another Toyota that’s for sure. Please don’t send the stock response about how sorry you are, and hope I’m back on the road soon. I don’t want platitudes, but a guarantee that when my car is repaired, this will not happen again. To me or anyone else. Toyota you need to wake up and fix this problem for your customers.

  6. Hi. Can you please advise if layer models of the Prius are primary targets (I have a 67 Reg). From what I can see, it is earlier models that are more susceptible. Is that correct. Was shocked to read all about the theft.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Suzanne,
      Thanks for contacting us.
      Whilst criminals seem to be targeting older vehicles, all vehicles fitted with a catalytic converter are technically at risk of theft. Auris and Prius models, including yours, seem to be regularly targeted.
      There is a CatLoc available for this model, and this can be purchased through your nearest Toyota Centre.
      Thanks.

  7. My Auris estate converter was stolen over the weeked when parked on my drive.never heard a thing. Only when I went to start it .Did I realise what had happened. Been recommended to have a security plate fitted at my extra expense. Toyota should be fitting these for free as standard. As it only takes thieves a couple of minutes to remove the unit. Why are we customers lining Toyota pockets when they should helping us.Due to poor design. This will be my last Toyota.

    1. Hi Mike,
      Thanks for getting in touch. We’re truly sorry to hear this.
      Criminals are targeting catalytic converters due to the precious metals they contain, and therefore any vehicle containing one is in theory at risk of theft.
      These thieves are using high-grade power saws to remove the catalyst, so in reality they are as easy to remove from any vehicle. The design is not so relevant.
      We have developed and are supplying theft deterrent devices at zero profit such as CatLocs, and there is one available for the Auris.
      Once again, we are really sorry to hear your vehicle has been targeted by thieves, and we hope you’re back on the road soon.
      Thanks.

  8. I am surprised a Catlock was not offered for my 2015 Auris.
    I bought the car new in 2015 from a Toyota garage in Sheffield where I have a service contract. The last service was only three months ago.
    They send me plenty of emails so know how to contact me.
    It might have saved me from discovering, this morning, that my car had had its catalyst stolen.
    I think Toyota should be contacting all owners of vulnerable cars to offer them a Catlock and tilt sensor. Also Toyota dealers should not be selling these cars with unsecured catalysts.

    1. Hi Gerry,
      Thanks for contacting us. We’re so sorry to hear that your vehicle has been targeted by these brazen thieves.
      A CatLoc is available for your Auris, and there are also other theft deterrents available such as tilt sensors, bolt caps and component etching. However, criminals with high-grade power tools are very difficult to completely protect against.
      We would recommend contacting your nearest Toyota Centre for more information.
      Once again, we are truly sorry to hear that you have been a victim of this awful crime.
      Thanks.

      1. I am now aware that a Catlock is available for my car.
        My point is that Toyota should have made me aware of this before my catalyst was stolen.

  9. I enquired about a catloc being fitted on my car, and the Toyota dealer wanted £600! That doesn’t scream “at no cost” to me

    Now, it’s been stolen and a decent quality aftermarket catalytic converter, with an antitheft plate is £400-£500. The anti theft plate is just £40. If Toyota charged only a small amount for putting a catloc on, then I think more people would get it

    1. Hi Waqas,
      Thanks for you comment. We’re so sorry to hear that you have been a victim of this crime.
      Our Customer Relations team are best placed to discuss your specific situation with you in further detail, and they can be contacted here: https://www.toyota.co.uk/help-centre/email-us
      Once again, we’re really sorry to hear your vehicle has been targeted by thieves.
      Thanks.

      1. Perhaps they might be able to help with regards to selling me a new catalytic converter but when I’ve seen quotes of £200 from other Toyota dealers, it seems like that the local Toyota is trying to make a quick bit of profit. Why should the customer have to deal with this?

  10. Had our catalytic convertor stolen off our Prius 2019 plate, 2 days ago. My husband went out to try and stop the 3 men and was met with metal poles, they also tried hitting our dog! I now have to pay the excess on our insurance to get my car repaired. The worry is endless as I KNOW they will return and do this again and after reading about the CATLOC what is the point in more expense, I am just worried sick! I am having sleepless nights and the children are not sleeping due to seeing what happened!
    These cars should be made as so this doesn’t happen, why should the customer have to pay more when even then they can’t guarantee 100% that the CAT won’t be stolen!!!!!! Furious about it all

    1. Hi A Bolton,
      Thanks for contacting us. We’re really sorry to hear that you’ve been a victim of this awful crime and appreciate the distress this must have caused.
      Organised criminal gangs using power tools are very difficult stop, but we are working with the police and other agencies to try and put a stop to it.
      Due to the nature of this part, we are limited on where the catalytic converter can be located. It must be between the engine and the exhaust.
      As catalytic converters contain precious metals, any car containing one is in theory at risk of theft.
      Over time, we have developed CatLocs and other theft deterrent devices to try and protect customers from further attacks, although criminals with high-grade power tools are not easy to stop.
      We would recommend contacting your nearest Toyota Centre to discuss theft deterrent options.
      Once again we are truly sorry to hear that your vehicle has been targeted by thieves.
      Thanks.

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