Hide Your Aged Toyota Prius Before Catalytic Converter Thieves Strike

Who knew that aged Toyota Prius models were so valuable? Certainly, the retail value of any Prius in the open market is competitive, but it is a particular part that is commanding the most interest…and money. At least for thieves.

According to the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), a spike in demand for precious metals has thieves targeting 2004 to 2009 Toyota Prius vehicles. Notably, the catalytic converters in hybrids contain a higher percentage of precious metals to work properly. These types of vehicles don’t run as hot as the converters installed in gas-only vehicles because the internal combustion engines are active on a reduced basis. With the highest concentration of such costly metals, these specialized catalytic converters get the job done.

2006 Toyota Prius
This second-generation Toyota Prius is a favorite of car part thieves.

Cost of Precious Metals

What’s driving the demand is substantially elevated prices for palladium, platinum, rhodium, and other valuable metals, which are found in all catalytic converters. Indeed, catalytic converter thefts averaged 100 units per month in 2018, then rose to 1,200 units per month in 2020, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Thieves may not be wise, but they’re far from stupid. They’re aware of the intrinsic value that Prius catalytic converters have, thus Toyota’s best-selling hybrid is targeted. When stolen from vehicles, converters are sold to recyclers who pay a higher price for the contraband.

Surging Claim Costs

The HLDI says that the theft claim occurrence was 58.1 claims per 1,000 insured vehicle years for the 2004 to 2009 Toyota Prius in 2020. That’s up from 1.4 claims in 2016. From a financial standpoint, overall theft losses per insured vehicle year surged from $3 in 2016 to $137 in 2020. That represents a 45-fold increase. Compare that to all other vehicles and the overall losses remained nearly constant at $7.

“Car thieves know their market,” explains HLDI Senior Vice President Matt Moore. “The demand is high for catalytic converters, and they seem to know which ones command the highest prices, like those on the older Priuses.”

Prius Catalytic Converter Prices

Insurers track scrap prices and have found that the GD3+EA6 catalytic converter used in the 2004-09 second-generation Prius 1.5 was $1,022, as reported by AutoCatalystMarket.com. On the other hand, the scrap price for the GP1+TB1 converter used in the 2010-15 third-generation Prius was $548. Those prices are far higher than what other models command. For instance, the converter used in General Motors models such as the Chevrolet Impala and Pontiac Grand Am from 1999-2006 is valued at $269. As for the converter used in the 2007 Ford F-150 FX4, it was priced at only $143. Clearly, the enhanced cost rests with the Prius models.

Treating catalytic converters for their metals necessitates utilizing advanced equipment. However, bulk scrap buyers have proliferated with the surge in prices for particular metals. Most states require purchasers to track sellers’ driver’s license numbers or other official documentation. Many forbid cash disbursements above a certain limit. Yet, for the reason that catalytic converters are not engraved with vehicle identification numbers, it isn’t easy to detect pilfered components once they have been offered as scrap.

Pandemic Exacerbation

Prices for precious metals have skyrocketed owing to a decrease in mining manufacturing in recent years. That development was aggravated by the global COVID-19 pandemic. In the meantime, the recent strengthening of emissions standards means that the latest catalytic converters demand more precious metals.

What can Prius owners do to prevent theft? Not much if you park in a public place. But, if you have a garage or can park your vehicle in a well-lit or trafficked area, the odds of any theft occurring drop considerably. Besides that, there isn’t much that can be done if someone wants to purloin any part.

Photo Attribution

User Kowloonese on en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

James Benjamin Bleeker, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Matt Keegan
Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan is a journalist, media professional, and owner of this website. He has an extensive writing background and has covered the automotive sector continuously since 2004. When not driving and evaluating new vehicles, Matt enjoys spending his time outdoors.

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