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.
Somewhere along the journey, the catalytic converter will be removed and sold for a decent chunk of change.
While there are many parts usually removed from a vehicle in order to resell or reuse, scrap catalytic converters are one of 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. This component's only purpose is to reduce the emissions of certain gases from the vehicle's engine. They started being required on manufactured vehicles in the 1970s and is actually illegal to remove from the vehicle if you plan to continue driving it.
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.
By removing the harmful gases emitted by the vehicles, it 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 on a daily basis.
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 the most valuable scrap parts from a car. This is due to the amount of rare and precious metals used to create the part.
Metals Worth Scrapping in a 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 many other commodities such as electronics or jewelry.
Palladium is also commonly used in catalytic converters. It is usually used in the cat of gasoline engines, while platinum is more common in a diesel vehicle. 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 that it is currently 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 still might not be able to make the full value of a cat by selling it. These parts typically have very small amounts of valuable metals in them, which means you would need many catalytic converters in order to make a lot of money.
The market for scrap catalytic converters is very competitive. Automotive shops receive multiple phone calls a week from people looking for catalytic converters scrapped from totaled vehicles.
These people collect as many as they can so they can 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 a great price for the catalytic converter sitting in your garage. It takes work to remove the metals that are worth selling, so you may only get $20-40 if you are selling 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.
There are small, medium, large, foreign, domestic, and even aftermarket converters.
You can tell the difference between some of these by their size, shape, and even stamps put into the metal which indicates the manufacturer. For example, a large foreign cat could bring you a couple of hundred dollars, while an aftermarket one is probably worth less than ten.
In conclusion, the true value of a catalytic converter simply depends on the market and the material. As long as 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.