Rising Cost of Parts Fuels Interest of Car Thieves

DES PLAINES, Ill.—If you own a late model car or truck, and you’ve been in a wreck, you may still be shaking your head over the repair bill. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) says today’s vehicles are loaded with expensive parts and technology that increase the costs of repairs, even in what may be considered a minor accident.

And those expensive parts will continue to drive car thefts as criminals steal cars and trucks to strip them and sell the parts on the black market.

Thefts of vehicles in the U.S. rose again last year by more than four percent, according to preliminary 2017 crime data from the FBI. Many of the vehicles that are recovered are missing wheels and rims or other key parts, while ones that are never recovered end up in chop shops where they are quickly dismantled and sold piece by piece.

The NICB looked at the cost of replacement parts for the top 10 stolen 2016 models. Average original equipment manufacturer (OEM) part prices were pulled from a database of over 24 million vehicle damage appraisals generated for insurance claims from 2016 and 2017. Parts such as bumpers, doors, fenders, hoods and headlights were on the list. Major components like the engine and transmission were not included.

See our video here. Download an infographic here.

The 2016 Toyota Camry, the most stolen 2016 model in our latest “Hot Wheels” report, had 15 commonly replaced components valued at nearly $11,000. That’s not including labor.

The 2016 Nissan Altima had 14 standard components worth more than $14,000, including a single headlamp assembly valued at more than $1,000.

And the 2016 GMC Sierra pickup truck included a $1,100 headlamp and a rear bumper worth more than $1,100. The 20 standard components rang in at more than $21,000.

“For the professional theft ring, stealing and stripping vehicles for parts has always been a lucrative business,” said NICB Senior Vice President and COO Jim Schweitzer. “On today’s cars and trucks, the parts are often worth more than the intact vehicle and may be easier to move and sell. That’s why we see so many thefts of key items like wheels and tires and tailgates…there’s always a market for them.

“We support law enforcement efforts, especially the auto theft task forces that focus on these kinds of theft rings. Shutting down a theft ring and a chop shop can have a major impact on reducing thefts in a community.”

Catalytic Converter Thefts Still Smokin’

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports that from 2008 through 2015, there were 25,394 catalytic converter thefts across the nation. In 2008, there were 3,246 thefts of catalytic converters. That number rose to 3,986 at the end of 2015—an increase of 23 percent—according to a review of insurance claims data. These numbers reflect just insured thefts, so the actual number of all catalytic converter thefts is likely to be much higher.

For example, an online search of “catalytic converter thefts” produced news stories describing this activity occurring from Michigan to North Carolina and from California to New York—just this summer alone.

Catalytic Converter Thefts

Insured Thefts of Catalytic Converters Are Up 23% Since 2008

California is the state where the overwhelming majority of catalytic converter thefts occurred during this time frame—8,072. It was followed by Texas (1,705), Illinois (1,605), Ohio (1,439) and Georgia (1,215).

The top five cities where insured thefts were reported were: Chicago (980), Sacramento (850), Los Angeles (550), Atlanta (407) and Indianapolis (353).

The full report is available here and the complete dataset is here.

Why catalytic converter thefts?

Stolen metals have been converted into cash by scrap metal operators who may have been acting within the law, but who may also have unwittingly enabled the proliferation of these kinds of thefts by providing a cash conversion point for purloined materials. As these kinds of thefts intensified–often disabling roadway lighting and airport runway lighting—they captured the attention of lawmakers around the country who, eventually, passed tough, new recycling laws to tighten regulations over metal recyclers.

But unlike base metals and other materials, catalytic converters are unique in that they each contain a small amount of one of three precious metals: platinum, palladium, or rhodium. The presence of those metals is what drives catalytic converter thefts as they can easily bring anywhere from $20 – $240 in recycling value depending on the amount and type of precious metal they contain.

An aggressive thief can easily collect 10-15 or more converters in a single day. They often target sport utility vehicles (SUVs) because their ground clearance is sufficient for the thief to gain access to the converter without having to deploy a jack. And that saves time.

While the replacement of a catalytic converter alone may be relatively inexpensive, many times vehicles are significantly damaged in the theft process making repairs much more costly. NICB recommends that consumers–particularly owners of SUVs—consider taking some preventive measures to deter the theft of their catalytic converters. Etching the catalytic converter with the vehicle identification number (VIN) is an effective deterrent and there are after-market security devices available as well.

Insurance Fraud Headlines for June 19, 2015

Here are the top insurance fraud stories for today:

* Authorities Arrest Doctor, 3 Others in Complex Insurance Fraud Scam (NewsChief)

* Twelve charged in Western District of Kentucky as part of largest national Medicare fraud take-down in history (WHAS-TV)

* Car Thieves Now Targeting Vehicles for Parts (Insurance Journal)

* Car Shopping? How to Identify Flood Damage Before Buying (NY Times)