Thefts of cars and catalytic converters — a pricey and essential car part — surged in 2020, adding stress to consumers during an already-trying time.
Law enforcement experts, insurance industry insiders, and even mechanics have all seen the spike effect their professions.
In 2020, auto thefts increased 9.2% over 2019, according to a study by the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Overall, the group counted 873,080 thefts throughout the year compared with 799,644 in 2019.
In addition to entire cars, thieves have been sawing catalytic converters off the vehicle undercarriages, because the devices contain precious metals, mainly platinum, palladium and rhodium, which have seen sharp price increases in recent months. Rhodium's price hovered around $28,000 an ounce this week.
Experts say the economic effects of the pandemic and high metal prices are among the factors emboldening thieves. But consumers can take steps to protect themselves by locking their cars and not leaving their key fobs in the vehicle, and installing anti-theft devices for catalytic converters.