Mostly I’ve been trying to write something difficult again, which is always painful for me. But my temper has had other trials as well, in the shape of unknown thieves who one night stole the catalytic converter from our 2004 Prius.
Yeah, we’ve been driving this car for nearly 20 years. We don’t drive much—the mileage is under 50,000 even after all this time. It was paid for years ago, and has been remarkably cheap to run. We planned to keep it for another decade at least.
So when the converter was taken, we contacted our repair shop and the insurance company and had it replaced. Our insurance was comprehensive and so we were only charged our deductible for the repair, which cost around $3,500 overall.
Our car arrived home maybe ten days later, once again driveable since no other part of the car was harmed. We parked right next to our front door, installed a large motion-sensing light nearby, and made an appointment with a muffler shop to have a cage installed over the converter to help deter thieves (the cages can’t guarantee a determined thief won’t get through, but they help).
And so, of course, the day I went to drive to the muffler shop, I turned on the car and once again heard the loud ROAR of exhaust that let me know our replacement converter had been stolen as well.
The insurance company had already re-written our policy. Blue Book on a Prius this age was under $4,000 and only that high because of the very low mileage. They didn’t want to pay for another converter, and honestly neither did we, not with the chance of yet another theft always hanging over us. So as you can imagine, the emotional tenor at our house has been a mixture of crankiness and anguish, as we dealt with this disruption in our lives and plans.
In the end, we donated our disabled Prius to Colorado Public Radio. They sent a tow truck and will do the work to transfer title and so on. I am so sad to see the end of a car that really should have kept working for many more years, but given that theft of these devices is incredibly common, we can’t keep a car that might need thousands of dollars of repairs, again and again (old Prius are especially targeted for reasons).
We are older folks and quite privileged in that over the years we’ve acquired assets, in our house and in retirement funds, and in cash and credit scores, that allow us to easily get another car. We’ve always said to each other that if we did ever need a new car, it would be an electric vehicle. The fact that EVs do not have catalytic converters has absolutely sealed that choice. We’ll get a much newer car, probably something like the 2021 Nissan Leaf shown in this picture. The Inflation Reduction Act included a lot of excellent tax credits for EVs, both new and used, and we’ll take advantage of that.
We’ll move into a newer world with a car that actually has USB ports and rear camera views and other updated items our old Prius didn’t have. Some years ago when we installed a number of solar panels and a Powerwall battery system we also upgraded our electrical boxes so installing a charger at home should be easy enough. I’m excited to add an electric vehicle to the system where it will function as extra storage of the electricity we generate. We’re quite committed to eliminating fossil fuels from our home as much as possible.
But still cranky, not only for ourselves but for the many other people who’ve been through this same miserable experience. The tow truck driver told me she’d seen many of these thefts nearby, including lots of folks who didn’t have comprehensive insurance and so had to take a total loss on their cars while also coming up with the cash for another one.
Catalytic converters, when sold on the black market, get the thief maybe a hundred bucks a pop. Easy money I guess, but the replacement cost is so high that these thefts have a dramatic impact on everyone who is a victim of them. Clearly, with parts going for these prices, someone is making bank on this particular cycle of theft and repair.
And this isn’t just a story about Colorado. In California, for example, thefts are so high that when yours is stolen you may not be able to get a replacement for months if at all (no gift links at the LA Times, sorry).
With thefts still high, California Prius drivers wait months for new catalytic converters
When the catalytic converter was stolen from Vanessa Reimer’s Toyota Prius in Long Beach, she thought the repair would be a simple one, taking a few weeks at most.
Then her local dealership delivered the bad news: The replacement part could take six months to arrive. Reimer, who is pregnant, may have a baby before her Prius has a new catalytic converter…
For several years, older Priuses have held the dubious distinction of being the No. 1 target of catalytic converter theft in California. Drivers whose converters have been swiped are now experiencing a second indignity: Thousands of Prius owners are ahead of them in line for the same part, and the delays could stretch on for months….
I wish I understood why this crime is not taken more seriously. I can think of several ways to break the theft chain, most of which would involve cracking down on whatever market is purchasing the stolen property. But when I reported both of these thefts to our local police, no one so much as contacted me for follow-up. If we had dozens of burglaries in my nabe, I’d expect the authorities to be on the case in a much more focused way.
Well, our house is out of the cycle now, and hopefully will stay so, at least for another 20 years. I’m getting quite old and I won’t be driving forever. With luck, I’ll never deal with anything like this again.