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. Hi,
    I have 2017 Toyota Prius Hybrid , does it have a catalytic converter ? Is the car at high risk ? And is there a Catloc for this model ?

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Helen,
      All vehicles fitted with a catalytic converter are technically at risk of theft.
      Your Prius does have a catalytic converter, and a CATLOC is available.
      Thanks.

      1. Hi Rob,
        A CATLOC is available for this vehicle.
        Please contact your nearest Toyota Centre for further information on fitting.
        Thanks.

  2. Hi

    I have Toyota Estima Hybrid 2012 imported from Japan, is there a catlock available for this model?

    Kind regards
    Konrad

    1. Hi there,
      We do not have any information on imported vehicles.
      Your Toyota Centre would be best placed to advise on the options available.
      Thanks.

  3. So as a owner of 2 Toyota Auris Hybrids it was only a matter of time before ours got robbed and tonight was the night. What surprises me more than anything is how easy it was to do. We park our cars on a private drive outside our house and we have gravel outside and a dog yet they still manage to steal our catalytic converter tonight in what must have only taken around a min at 8:30pm whilst the whole family was in. It seems like it’s such a quick easy job and so disappointed. My worry is now they’ll be back for the other car ot once this one is replaced they’ll be back again as our house is probably ‘marked’ as a Hybrid owner. They also took the converter from the newest car which I found strange but perhaps they were planning on taking both anyway. Up until this point I couldn’t recommend the cars enough (that’s why we brought enough so me and my wife had one each) however now I feel the only way forward is for us to sell both cars and no longer have a Toyota which is a shame but the only way we’re going to have a good night’s sleep from now.

    1. Hi Richard,
      We are very sorry to hear that your vehicle has been targeted by thieves.
      Currently, we are supplying theft deterrent devices such as CatLocs, tilt alarms and bolt caps. Please contact your Toyota Centre for further information on fitting these.
      However, criminals are using high-grade power tools that are difficult for any manufacturer to completely protect against.
      We are working with the police and various other agencies to put a stop to this horrible crime.
      Once again, we are very sorry that this has happened to you and hope you are back on the road soon.
      Thanks.

      1. No worries, we’ve decided to sell both of our Auris now just so we can sleep at night even after spending a small fortune on installing cctv. I purchased a cat lock but this would only delay them and not stop them and you didn’t have any smart water in stock even though I had booked in advance but this doesn’t matter anyway if its been stolen, stored on a shipping container and smelted down abroad. I just can’t understand why consumers of Toyota are having to pay these extras.

    1. Hi Ray,

      Technically, any car fitted with a catalytic converter is at risk of theft.

      Your vehicle isn’t deemed as high risk though.

      Thanks

  4. My Prius cat was stolen whilst on my driveway.
    On Toyota recommendation I fitted their cat lock.
    The catlock and catalyst have now been stolen again.
    The car isn’t safe outside of a locked garage, which I don’t have.
    It’s effectively scrap.
    The Service manager at the lock fitting Toyota garage in St Ives doesn’t return my calls.
    Great!
    doesn’t it!

    1. Hi Neil,
      Technically any vehicle is at risk of catalytic converter theft.
      However, your RAV4 is classed as a low risk vehicle.
      Thanks.

    1. Hi Edward,
      We would recommend contacting your nearest Toyota Centre to see what protection is available for your RAV4.
      Thanks.

  5. I have a 2018 Prius and assume this is ‘low risk’. Please confirm this.

    But, more helfully in deciding what to do, can you (Toyota) please provide the statistics that set out the number of catalyctic converter thefts that you have recorded from each generation of Prius. Another way to do it, would be to list how many of the old, as opposed to the new (84% precious metal reduced), converters you have replaced or sold. You will be keeping such statistics and they would be a useful resource for your loyal customers.

    1. Hi Roger,
      Please provide the registration of your Prius so we can look into this for you.
      Furthermore, we are unable to share internal data like this.
      Any vehicle fitted with a cat converter is at risk of theft.
      Second and third generation Prius vehicles are considered most at risk.
      This is why we recommend the installation of a CatLoc.
      Please contact your nearest Toyota centre for further information on theft deterrence.
      Thanks.

  6. My auris 2011 just got its cat stolen I was in a B&Q car park in Preston for less than 20 min and came out and it had gone obviously only found out when I started the car it’s ridiculous that these can be taken off your car in such a short time now I am left with a bill of around £800 to get a new one fitted

    1. Hi Andrew,
      We are really sorry to hear that you have been affected by this crime.
      Please be aware we are constantly monitoring this situation and are doing all we can to support our customers that have been impacted by this horrible crime.
      We have also developed and are supplying theft deterrent devices at zero profit to Toyota UK such as CatLocs, tilt alarms and bolt caps to protect consumers from further attacks.
      However, criminals are using high-grade power tools that are difficult for any manufacturer to completely protect against.
      Once again, we apologise about the distress that this crime has caused.
      Thanks.

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