Theft and What You Can Do to Protect Your Vehicle

Since 2020, our nation has seen a dramatic increase in auto and catalytic converter thefts, costing both policyholders and insurance companies thousands of dollars per claim. Stillwater wants to help by providing some tips to help you minimize your risk and hopefully avoid becoming a victim of this national crime wave.

Auto theft

Most car thefts are perpetrated by organized crime rings. Stolen vehicles are dispensed to chop shops within minutes of their theft to be cut up and sold piece by piece. And with today's supply chain issues, this criminal enterprise is even more profitable. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) recommends you use a "layered protection" approach to help avoid this happening to your vehicle - the more layers of protection you can implement, the more of a challenge it will be to steal.

  • LAYER 1: Always Use Common Sense

    • Lock your doors.
    • Remove your keys from the ignition.
    • close your windows completely.
    • Park in well-lit areas.
    • Don't leave your car running to heat or cool it without using an automatic start device that allows you to do so without leaving your keys in the vehicle and/or doors unlocked.
  • LAYER 2: Use a Visible or Audible Device

    • Audible alarms
    • Steering column collars
    • Steering wheel/brake pedal lock
    • Brake locks
    • Wheel locks
    • Theft deterrent decals
    • Identification markers in or on vehicle
    • Window etching
    • Micro Dot marking
  • LAYER 3: Install a Vehicle Immobilizer

    • Smart keys
    • Fuse cut-offs
    • Kill switches
    • Starter,ignition and fuel disablers
    • Wireless ignition authentication
  • LAYER 4: Invest in a Tracking System

    • Put your vehicle on the radar screen by installing a tracking system that emits a signal to the police or monitoring service when the vehicle is reported stolen.

Catalytic converter theft

You may be asking, "What's a catalytic converter, and why would anyone want to steal one?" A catalytic converter is part of a car's exhaust system that converts the engine's hazardous exhaust into less harmful gasses using the precious metals inside them: platinum, palladium and rhodium. The value of these metals is what makes catalytic converters so desirable to thieves. Vehicles with higher emissions standards have the most valuable catalytic converters because they contain more of these precious metals.

Besides being very valuable, catalytic converters are also easy to steal, as they can be cut off the exhaust system in about 3 minutes using a small electric saw. SUVs with higher ground clearance are largely a target since their catalytic converters are easier to access.

Catalytic converter thefts happen in parking lots, driveways, and while vehicles are parked on the street. Because it's such a crime of opportunity, you could find your vehicle is missing its catalytic converter at any time - and it could cost you between $1000 and $3000 to replace it!

Here are some things you can do to deter a thief from targeting yours:

  • Use the paint and etch technique. Painting your catalytic converter with high-heat fluorescent paint and etching your VIN number into the painted surface could deter thieves by making the converter traceable and more difficult to scrap at a reputable scrap metal shop. Thieves may just move on to another vehicle rather than take the risk.
  • Install an anti-theft device. There are numerous devices available online designed to safeguard your catalytic converter and make it more difficult to remove, which vary from cage-type enclosures to cables and locks. Some mechanics and muffler specialty shops will install them for you; call around your local area to find one. There are also a multitude of DIY instructions available online.
  • Turn up your vehicle's alarm. If possible, increase your vehicle's alarm sensitivity so that it goes off if your vehicle is jostled or jacked up. There are also some DIY motion alarms available online.
  • Install motion sensor lights and cameras where you usually park.
  • Park in high-traffic, well-lit areas.

What does your insurance cover when it comes to theft?

Check your policy or call your insurance company. If you have full coverage - which includes liability insurance, plus collision and comprehensive coverages that repair or replace your car - your policy will cover a theft of your vehicle or a stolen auto part. If you have a deductible, you will be required to pay that first. A deductible is in your policy agreement and is your share of the costs to repair or replace your vehicle. Liability only policies will not cover you in the event your vehicle or catalytic converter is stolen.

What should you do if your car or catalytic converter is stolen?

  • Document - note all details including location, time, etc. Take pictures of the scene and the damage done to your vehicle, and when applicable, file a police report.
  • Contact your insurance company and report the theft.
  • Need to make a claim with Stillwater?
    • Login to your Stillwater account and click "File a claim"
    • Login to our mobile app
    • Call us at 1-800-220-1351

How to purchase a policy from Stillwater:

  • Online: It's quick and easy. Answer a few questions and you'll have a quote in two minutes. You can purchase the policy instantly.
  • Call us at (855) 712-4092. Our licensed reps are available Monday through Friday from 8am-9pm EST, and 8am-3pm EST on Saturday.
  • Visit a local independent agent. Click here to find an agent near you.