California to crack down on catalytic converter theft

A pair of new laws signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom over the weekend aims to crack down on this kind of theft within the Golden State.

Updated: September 26, 2022 - 11:27pm

Purchasing a catalytic convertor from anyone other than a licensed auto dismantler or dealer is illegal under a new California law that aims to crack down on theft.

Theft of catalytic converters – devices that are part of vehicle exhaust systems that reduce pollution-causing emissions – has been on the rise within California and nationally in recent years. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, instances of catalytic converter theft rose from 2,198 thefts reported in 2018 to over 14,000 thefts reported in 2020.

Experienced thieves can remove a catalytic converter from the underside of a vehicle in just two minutes, according to the California Bureau of Automotive Repair. Thieves target them due to the precious metals inside the converters, including rhodium, platinum and palladium – the prices of which have increased in recent years due to supply chain issues.

Having a converter stolen is very costly to the vehicle owner. The NICB estimates that car owners end up paying between $1,000 to $3,000 to get their vehicle fixed following a theft.

A pair of new laws signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom over the weekend aims to crack down on this kind of theft within the Golden State.

Senate Bill 1087 would prohibit individuals and core recyclers that buy used vehicle parts from purchasing a catalytic converter from anyone other than a licensed automobile dismantler, automotive repair dealer or car owner. Additionally, the law requires traceable payments for catalytic converters. Violations of the law could result in fines of between $1,000 to over $4,000.

Similarly, Assembly Bill 1740 requires core recyclers to keep more detailed records that include the year, make and model of the vehicle from which a catalytic converter was removed. It also prohibits recyclers from purchasing a catalytic converter from anyone other than a commercial enterprise or vehicle owner.

In a signing video, Newsom emphasized that these measures will help to crack down on the “brokers and middle-men” who pay “top dollar” for stolen parts.

“It’s just another way, just another example of how we’re leaning in to reduce crime in the state and keep Californians safe,” the governor said.