By Andrew Ganz
The innocuous Toyota (NYS:TM) Prius hybrid is a prime target for thieves. They’re not after a high-speed (or high-efficiency) joy ride, however. They’re after the precious metals contained in the small car’s catalytic converter.
According to data analyzed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released in November, theft claims have skyrocketed for 2004-2009 Prius models. In 2016, owners claimed just 1.4 thefts per 1,000 insured vehicles. Last year, it was a staggering 58.1 claims per 1,000 vehicles filed with insurers.
Thieves are after the precious metals housed in the catalytic converter, an essential part of the exhaust system that reduces noxious gas emissions through the tailpipe. The catalytic converter used in 2004 through 2009 Prius models is particularly valuable, commanding $1,022 on average in scrap value compared to less than half that for a 2010 through 2015 Prius.
Predictably, those later Prius models haven’t seen anywhere near the number of insurance claims.
Learn more: What to do if your catalytic converter is stolen
The IIHS notes that would-be thieves typically find it fairly easy to sell catalytic converters to recyclers. While some states may require a driver’s license to drop one off with a recycler, the Vehicle Identification Number is not stamped on a catalytic converter. As a result, there is no easy way to prove if one has been stolen when dropped off at a recycler.