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.

1,908 comments

  1. Today I was parked in John Lewis car park, did my shopping went back to my car only to find when I started it up the catalytic converter had been stolen. I have a Toyota Auris 2011. Could you please tell how much will cost to replace.

    1. Hi there,
      We are really sorry to hear that you have been affected by this crime.
      Please contact your nearest Toyota Centre for information on getting your catalytic converter replaced.
      Thanks.

    1. Hi Sayan,
      Your Yaris Hybrid is a low risk vehicle.
      However, a CATLOC is able to be fitted.
      Please contact your nearest Toyota Centre for more information on this.
      Thanks.

  2. I think Toyota should give serious thought about the re-designing the vehicle for protection of such a valuable component such as Catalytic converter. Catalytic Converter theft protection should be inbuilt in Toyota in all its models and without this protection 100000s customer across world becoming a victims. Toyota should take responsibility.
    More over replacing stolen Catalytic Converter will cost you a lot of money, whether you or insurance company pays. In the UK it cost around £2000.
    My Cat converter were stolen and the insurance company had to pay £2000 for replacing it which is not good for anyone. As result the cost of vehicle insurance raises.

    1. Hi there,
      Thanks for your comment, we are sorry to hear that you have been affected by this crime.
      All vehicles fitted with a catalytic converter are technically at risk of theft, and theft of catalytic converters has been happening since they have been a legal requirement on all new petrol and diesel cars since 1993.
      Catalytic converters contain precious metals that can be attractive to thieves, regardless of the vehicle manufacturer.
      Targeted Toyota vehicles are almost always older hybrid models we no longer make. This is because previous generations of catalytic converter for our hybrid vehicles had much larger quantities of precious metals in them, to help reduce vehicle emissions.
      Due to improved hybrid technology, our newer hybrids have up to 84% less precious metal content, meaning they are not “worth” stealing.
      Ultimately, this is a criminal issue and we’ve been working with and supporting the Police to help put a stop to this awful crime, as well as producing a Catloc, which was developed specifically for targeted vehicles and is provided to customers at zero profit to Toyota UK. 
      Once again, we are really sorry to hear that you have been affected by this crime.
      Thanks.

  3. Hi, I have a 2002 Toyota Camry. Would it be at risk from this type of crime? Can a CATLOC be fitted to this model?
    Thanks

    1. Hi Ivor,
      All vehicles fitted with a catalytic converter are technically at risk of theft, and theft of catalytic converters has been happening since they have been a legal requirement on all new petrol and diesel cars since 1993.
      The Camry is a low risk vehicle for catalytic converter theft.
      Please contact your Toyota Centre to see if a CATLOC is available for this vehicle.
      Thanks.

    1. Hi Christopher,
      Thanks for your comment.
      Please provide your vehicle registration so we can look into this for you.
      Thanks.

  4. Just had my catalytic converters stolen, sawn off while my car was parked in front of my building and I was watching tv. Appalling and really makes me wonder if I have to stay loyal to the brand that cannot design a basic guard to protect this converter from theft. Toyota Prius 2011, always very happy but now as I have to waste half month of my wages, I do really start asking myself questions if I have to stay with Toyota in the future.

    1. Hi Akira,

      We are sorry to hear that your vehicle has been targeted by criminals. We have developed a Catloc to deter thieves, but ultimately it is impossible for us to completely prevent organised criminals gangs who use power tools to cut off pieces of cars. We are working with a number of agencies, including the police, who are responsible for dealing with serious vehicle crime. We’ve also made 10,000 Smartwater kits available to Toyota owners. These can be applied at a Toyota centre. Again, we are very sorry that your vehicle has been targeted by criminals, and we hope that you are back on the road soon.

      Thanks

    1. Hi,

      Organised criminal gangs tend to target older hybrids due to the higher precious metal content of the catalytic converters. However, any car fitted with a catalytic converter is technically at risk.

      Thanks

  5. Hi
    Have been attacked last night in under 3 minutes by a 3 man team with one acting as lookout with a baseball bat and now having to wait a week to have replaced does not help me much when it takes so long for you to stock my main dealer.
    You admit that a catlock is not foolproof.
    Can you not wind a piece of 2 core copper external fireproof cable around the cat area so when it is cut the alarm is set off. ?
    Can you otherwise get the alarm to go off when the car is jacked up from one side when locked. ?
    Both these costs would be nominal compared to the replacement cost.

    1. Hi Graham,
      We are really sorry to hear that you have been affected by this crime.
      Criminals are using high-grade power tools that are difficult for any manufacturer to completely protect against.
      Some of our highest risk vehicles are able to have a tilt sensor fitted, which will set an alarm when the vehicle is jacked up from one side.
      Ultimately, this is a criminal issue and we’ve been working with and supporting the Police, both publicly and behind the scenes to help put a stop to this awful crime.
      Once again, we are really sorry about the inconvenience this has caused and we hope you are back on the road soon.
      Thanks.

    1. Hi Rita,
      All vehicles fitted with a catalytic converter are technically at risk of theft.
      Your C-HR is classed as a low risk vehicle.
      Please let us know if you have any further questions.
      Thanks.

  6. Hi – Is there a catlock available for a 2019 Prius Plug-in? I was told by my local dealership this is not necessary – is that correct?

      1. Hi – is the catlock needed for the 2019 Prius Plug-in? My Toyota dealership told me this was not necessary as the position of the cat converter has now changed. Great if you could confirm.

      2. Hi James,
        The CATLOC is not compulsory. However, it is available for your Prius Plug-in if you wish to have it fitted.
        Thanks.

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