Extremely Valuable Metal Driving Catalytic Converter Thefts Could be in Short Supply Through 2025
In just the past week, Andrew Reichenbach’s car repair shop has had three Mitsubishis come in with their exhaust pipes sawed off. The thieves were after a precious metal — tucked into almost all American vehicles — in such demand that it costs 15 times the price of gold.
“We’ve had 60 or 70 in just our shop alone if that gives you a sense of the magnitude of these thefts,” the mechanic said. “Most of my customers are just baffled. Like, why would somebody do this?”
The metallic element is housed in a bulbous piece of aluminum, called a catalytic converter, that encases a honeycomb structure that filters fumes. A single troy ounce, which is slightly heavier than a regular ounce, of rhodium cost around $27,000 last week — more than a brand new Toyota Prius. That’s up from $1,700 three years ago.
Because of shortages, the high value of rhodium is expected to persist until at least 2025.
Criminals who steal rhodium-containing catalytic converters usually sell them to a network of scrap merchants, officials say. Each converter generally contains about $400 worth of the precious metal.