Scrap Catalytic Converter 101

Have you ever wondered what happens to your Toyota after you hit a deer and the insurance claims it's totaled?

Usually, it bounces around on the back of a tow truck a few times before ending up at a scrapyard.

The catalytic converter will be removed and sold somewhere along the journey for a decent chunk of change.

While many parts are usually removed from a vehicle to resell or reuse, scrap catalytic converters are among the most common. This is due to the value placed on the metals used to create the cat. 

What is a catalytic converter?

A catalytic converter, or cat for short, is a part of the exhaust system. Reducing the emissions of certain gases from the vehicle's engine is the main purpose of a catalytic converter. They started being required on manufactured vehicles in the 1970s, and removing them from the vehicle is illegal if you plan to continue driving it.  

Prices of scrap catalytic converters

The materials inside of the catalytic converter help break down certain gases, such as carbon monoxide or nitrogen dioxide. These materials are usually precious metals such as palladium, platinum, or rhodium. These metals cause a chemical reaction that changes these poisonous gases into carbon dioxide and water vapor.

Removing the harmful gases emitted by the vehicles allows car manufacturers to stay below the limits imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency. It also reduces the number of dangerous gases we breathe in daily. 

Why are catalytic converters valuable? 

Catalytic converters are one of the most scrapped items from a car. They're also a part that is often reported stolen!

Why would someone go through all of the difficulties of removing a cat?

Besides ruining your day, catalytic converters are one of a car's most valuable scrap parts. This is due to the rare and precious metals used to create the part. 

Metals Worth Scrapping in a Catalytic Converter

Precious metals in the catalytic converter


Platinum is one of the more common metals put into a catalytic converter. It is worth over a thousand dollars per ounce and can be used in other commodities such as electronics or jewelry. 


Palladium is also commonly used in catalytic converters. It is usually used in gasoline engines, while platinum is more common in diesel vehicles. This metal is currently worth almost triple the price of platinum. 


Rhodium is another metal used in cats and is the most valuable by a long shot. Rhodium is used because it takes less metal to do a much better job of creating the chemical reactions needed to reduce emissions. A quick search of the rhodium market shows it is worth over $20,000 for an ounce of this rare metal. 

How much are scrap catalytic converters worth?

Determining scrap catalytic converter prices is a challenge that requires some experience and market knowledge.

If capable of removing the cat, a regular Joe might not be able to make the total value of a cat by selling it. These parts typically have very small amounts of valuable metals, which means you would need many catalytic converters to make a lot of money. 

The market for scrap catalytic converters is very competitive. Automotive shops receive multiple phone calls weekly from people looking for catalytic converters scrapped from totaled vehicles.  

These people collect as many as possible to separate them by the metals they are made from and extract the valuable ones.  They are also valuable to thieves.

Extracting these metals is another reason you might not get an excellent price for the catalytic converter in your garage. It takes work to remove the metals worth selling, so you may only get $20-40 if you sell your cat to a scrap guy. 

There are many different types of catalytic converters, and the type of cat is a huge indicator of its worth.

Small, medium, large, foreign, domestic, and even aftermarket converters exist.

You can tell the difference between some of these by their size, shape, and even the stamps put into the metal, which indicates the manufacturer. For example, a large foreign cat could bring you a couple hundred dollars, while an aftermarket one is probably worth less than ten. 

In conclusion, the true value of a catalytic converter depends on the market and the material. If people are willing to buy scrap catalytic converters, extract the metals, and resell them, catalytic converters will be worth something.

The easiest and quickest way to make money selling a scrap catalytic converter is selling it to your scrap yard. A scrap yard will be able to determine the type of cat you bring in and give you the best price based on the current market value of those particular catalytic converters.

How To Sell A Scrap Catalytic Converter?

Selling a scrap catalytic converter may take a bit of time and patience. Negotiations may need to commence if the seller wants to seek the best price. Below are the five main steps to sell a scrap catalytic converter.

  • Research the current market valuation of rhodium and palladium
  • Locate 1-2 scrapyards in the local area via a Google search
  • Provide the scrapyard with the serial number on the converter
  • Accept the quote if it's a fair value; negotiate higher if it is not
  • Bring the catalytic converter to the yard and receive cash

Learn more about the process of selling a scrap catalytic converter.

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