Catalytic Converter
Mar. 01 2024
Catalytic Converter
Mar. 01 2024

Three new laws went into effect Jan. 1 to address the theft of catalytic converters in California. One makes it illegal to remove a VIN from a catalytic converter, among other provisions.

Another requires dealerships to have the catalytic converter engraved with the VIN before a new or used vehicle is sold. The third redefines what constitutes an automobile dismantler and creates criminal penalties for anyone acting illegally as an automobile dismantler.

Why thieves target catalytic converters

These important emissions control devices contain precious metals, such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium. Because these rare metals have a high recycle value on the black market, catalytic converter theft has become rampant nationwide, with California leading the way. And experienced thieves can remove a catalytic converter in one to two minutes using basic tools.

Three new catalytic converter laws in CA

 Following are summaries of the three new laws aimed at deterring catalytic converter theft in the Golden State. Use the links below for the full text of the bills, including penalties for violations.

AB 1519 – Vehicles: Catalytic Converters This law makes it illegal to remove a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) marking from a catalytic converter. It also makes it illegal to possess three or more catalytic converters that have had their VIN markings removed.

SB 55 – Vehicles: Catalytic Converters This law requires a motor vehicle dealer or retailer to have the catalytic converter engraved or etched with the VIN before a new or used truck is sold. The law does allow for the purchaser to decline having the VIN etched or engraved on the catalytic converter.

AB 641 – Automobile Dismantlers: Catalytic Converters This law redefines an automobile dismantler to include individuals in possession of nine or more catalytic converters. Additionally, the law creates penalties for an individual acting illegally as an automobile dismantler. Individuals and businesses that have a legitimate purpose for having catalytic converters, such as repair shops, will be excluded from the penalty.

Meanwhile, in other states

A number of states already have catalytic converter laws in place or are planning to strengthen them. Last year in Delaware, it became a felony to purchase, sell or offer for sale, a catalytic converter that was detached from a vehicle, unless the sale is being made by a scrap metal purchaser following all the required provisions.

Minnesota also enacted a new law in 2023, establishing criminal penalties for unauthorized possession of catalytic converters and only allowing registered scrap metal dealers to purchase detached converters.

Oregon Senate Bill 803 came into effect in 2021. This law makes buying or selling catalytic converters from unauthorized sellers illegal. Also, the dealers of catalytic converters in Oregon must always maintain a record of catalytic converters, noting the model, make, license number, and VIN of the converters in use. NADA and industry coalition push Congress to act on catalytic converter theft bills

Last year, the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), joined by 20 industry partners, sent a letter to the leaders of the U.S. House and Senate Commerce Committees in support of H.R. 621/S. 154, a bipartisan bill to combat rising catalytic convertor theft. The “Preventing Auto Recycling Theft (PART) Act” addresses the growing national problem of catalytic converter thefts, which are costing businesses and vehicle owners millions of dollars annually. The bill is currently in committee review.


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