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.

1,682 comments

  1. Hi, is a 2013 Yaris hybrid high risk? You say older cars but don’t give dates. Also, for anyone reading this who wants extra deterrents, I’ve bought a car tilt lock (they’re sold on Amazon and eBay, maybe also Halfords) that sounds an alarm if the vehicle is lifter or vibrates. Might help.

    1. Hi Mez,
      Thank you for getting in touch with us.
      In terms of our vehicles, second and third-generation Prius models (2004-2009 and 2009-2016 respectively) and second-generation Auris Hybrids (2012-2018) have been particular targets for thieves.
      Your vehicle is considered to be lower risk, but any vehicle containing a catalytic converter is in theory at risk of theft. Whilst there is no official Toyota CatLoc available, an ISR marking kit is offered.
      This can be ordered through your nearest Toyota Centre.
      Thanks.

    2. It’s a design fault why should the consumer pay for this. Other manufacturers put the cat deep in the engine ie Lexus 450h.. Toyota should be for this.. recall your cars!

  2. I have a Prius Plus. Bought through Motability so i can get about with my pavement scooter.
    I decided on a Hybrid for various reasons one being Economy.
    £ weeks ago I had my catalytic converter stolen, confining me to home just as I’m able to get out having had jabs.
    Got the car back Thursday last week.
    Cat stolen again this morning. Now stuck in again. When car repaired I will be sending it back. And look for something that they wont steal from. May have to go back to a Diesel even though they are bad for environment.

    1. Hi David,
      Thanks for your comment. We are so sorry to hear that you have been affected by this awful crime.
      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.
      We have also developed theft deterrent devices to try and protect consumers from further attacks, including CatLocs, tilt alarms, bolt caps and component etching, all of which are available for the Prius+.
      Once again, we are very sorry that this has happened to you and hope you are back on the road soon. We’re sorry to see you leave.
      Thanks.

  3. We are in the process of buying a RAV4 Dynamic Hybrid 2019. We were told by the salesman that the catalytic converter is in the engine so it’s difficult to steal, however, after being worried about it and doing further online research it looks like there are 2 Catalytic converters – Now I’m worried.. it would be good if your sales team are 100% correct in the information they give to potential customers I’d hate for this information to be incorrect.

    1. Hi Melissa,
      Thank you for getting in touch with us.
      In order for us to check this with our technical team, can you please provide the UK registration plate of the vehicle?
      Thanks.

  4. Hello

    Please sign the below petition. I know although this crime is a “minority” to Lexus/Toyota/Honda owners please share the hell out of this petition. Action speaks louder than words and we as a community of Victims only a shade below 300 has signed! This crime needs to be on the radar of the Government as with the now the ever growing spate of dog thefts.

    https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/575859?fbclid=IwAR1bjqY9lSTTW2rvN0GWCu_pIOgCUHdYIa-25VWgM24ceRdKztWW2KVUU-Y

    Thank you

  5. May i know if the Toyota C-HR 2018 (Transmission Automatic FWD (CVT)) 1.8 Petrol Hybrids require a catloc? I recently bought this and i am worried about this.

    1. Hi Nathan,
      Thanks for your comment.
      Whilst Auris and Prius models from our range seem to be regularly targeted by thieves, any car containing a catalytic converter is in theory at risk of theft.
      If you are worried about your vehicle, there is a CatLoc available for the C-HR 1.8L Hybrid, and this can be ordered through your nearest Toyota Centre. You can also discuss other theft deterrent options with them.
      Thanks.

    1. Hi Alan,
      Thanks for your comment.
      Whilst any vehicle containing a catalytic converter is in theory at risk of theft, our newer hybrids benefit from a reduced level of precious metals in their catalytic converters, making them less attractive to thieves.
      It is for this reason that an official Toyota CatLoc is not available for the RAV4 hybrid. An ISR marking kit and bolt caps are available, but these are not the same as a CatLoc.
      These can be ordered through your nearest Toyota Centre.
      Thanks.

  6. I just have brought a used 2019 Corolla Estate 1.8 Hybrid and I have the same worries about the huge increase of the Catalytic Converter thieves, can I ask if Toyota has built-in any extra protection for the recent model and any CatLoc available for this model?

    1. Hi King,
      Thanks for getting in touch.
      Whilst any car containing a catalytic converter is in theory at risk of theft, we have taken action to reduce the precious metal content in our newer hybrids such as the Corolla, therefore making them less attractive to thieves.
      There is a CatLoc available for the Corolla 1.8L hybrid, and this can be ordered through your nearest Toyota Centre. An ISR marking kit and bolt caps are also available for this model.
      Thanks.

  7. Hi
    I live in London and we are experiencing a huge increase in C/C theft in the area where i live, three alone last night. I have tried to research C/C protector plates for my car ( Rav4 Hybrid 2018 ) but without success, does such a security plate for my car exist ?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Kind regards.

    1. Hi David,
      Thanks for your comment.
      There is not an official Toyota CatLoc available for this vehicle. An ISR marking kit and bolt caps are available, but these are not the same as a CatLoc.
      Thanks.

  8. I am taking delivery of a Toyota Corolla 2.0 sports hybrid touring estate. I’m wondering if I should cancel. I appreciate Toyota have reduced the precious metals content which is a start. But this car is a completely new design from the ground up. Why have Toyota not taken the initiative to place a cat converter closer to the engine or made more inaccessible? I’m looking at other PHEV with lowest rates of theft now. Mitsubishi have addressed this I read. Will Toyota refund the cost of the cataloc purchase and installation should the cat still get stolen? That would be the logical reassuring guarantee for me to keep my order.

    1. Hi Dr Kaz Farooq,
      Thanks for your order.
      All catalytic converters contain precious metals that can be attractive to thieves, regardless of manufacturer or age. However, targeted Toyota vehicles are almost always older hybrid models we no longer make.
      As the latest 2.0L Corolla is considered low risk, a Catloc is not available at this time. Even if a Catloc was available, there is no guarantee that it will prevent brazen, determined criminal gangs, who use power tools, from taking the catalytic converter. Catlocs for older vehicles are available, but no refund is available from Toyota UK.
      Thanks.

  9. What a shame I’ve just cleared the finance on my Auris – it’s not a hybrid however it does worry me now after paying £17,000 plus over 3 years isn’t a small amount of money this just adds to the stress now. Thank god I never went with another finance agreement with Toyota.

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