Car Thieves Went Wild In 2020

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Catalytic converters are being pinched at an alarming rate too.

When times get tough, the tough get to stealing. At least, that's what the National Insurance Crime Bureau has found in its 2020 study. Car thefts were up 9.2 percent last year from the previous, and catalytic converters are selling like hotcakes. The total of almost 900,000 vehicles stolen came as a surprise, considering that car theft has been on the decline for years.

As you'd expect, certain states are worse for car thefts, and certain makes are stolen more often. California, Texas and Florida are the easiest states to get your car stolen, while Ford and Chevy pickups, and Honda Civic and Accord are the most often pinched. CNBC notes that many auto crimes are crimes of opportunity, like unlocked street cars, but high-end cars sometimes invite professional thieves.

CNBC - YouTube

With the price of precious metals rising, catalytic converters are also hot property. The NICB found an average of 1,203 converters stolen per month in the US, which is more than four times the 282 per month that were taken in 2019. Catalytic converters have platinum, palladium and rhodium, all of which increased in value recently. Ironically, it's the auto industry that needs most of these metals. It accounts for 80% of the demand for rhodium and palladium and 40% of the demand for platinum.

The poor Toyota Prius took the brunt of these thefts, as it has two converters per car that are less used than less efficient vehicles. Converters are also easy to take from high-riding vehicles like pickup trucks and SUVs. A repair shop owner in San Jose, California said he's seeing about ten cars a month in his shop that need their converters replaced. Those stolen converters sell to recycling plants or shady shops for $50-$200 apiece.

CNBC - YouTube

They can be cut off in minutes with a battery-powered saw. Allstate recommends some obvious measures to protect them, and some not-so-obvious measures. Park in a well-lit area near a building entrance or park inside the garage. It also says you can have the converter welded to your cars frame, which makes it harder to steal. You can also get them engraved with your vehicle identification number, which will dissuade shops from buying them, and possibly help catch the criminal.

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There has also been a rise in carjacking in 2020. Chicago, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Kansas City and Washington DC lead the way here. Those cities saw 100-300% increases in the practice of taking someone's car while they're still in it. All of the above leads to higher insurance for all of us.

Michigan, Louisiana and Washington DC have the highest rates, according to the Insurance Information Institute. A Louisiana resident pays an average of more than $1,500 per year. North Dakota, Maine and Iowa are the cheapest states, with residents of North Dakota paying 56% less than Louisiana's average. Check out the video to see where your state falls.

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