The rhodium business, the metal that is worth more than gold and is in the catalytic converter of your car

If you happen to find someone crouched under a car, they are probably trying to steal the catalytic converter. A very common practice that never goes out of style, since they contain metals that, on the black market, are highly valued. In addition, it is a very easy piece to steal, since with a couple of tools and some skill it can be stolen in just two minutes.

But what is the catalyst? The catalytic converter is a component of the exhaust system whose function is to chemically modify the gases to reduce polluting emissions. It contains a ceramic panel with a palladium, rhodium and platinum coating that, when in contact with harmful gases, react and generate noble or inert gases that are less polluting.

The goal of the thieves is to do business with these three precious metals. Rhodium is the most expensive, as it currently has a value of 28,250 dollars per ounce (at the beginning of March it reached almost 30,000), which becomes 830 euros per gram, fifteen times more than the price of gold, with a value of 53 euros per gram (1,836 dollars per ounce). Without a doubt, rhodium is a rising value. In 2016, around 19 euros were paid for a gram, and in 2020 all records were broken, costing 634 euros.

In contrast, palladium has a value of 85 euros per gram (2,925 dollars per ounce). The curious thing is that five years ago, a gram of palladium cost 15 euros, between five and six times less than its current value. Finally, platinum reaches 36 euros per gram (1,232 dollars per ounce). A bargain for thieves, since one to two grams of platinum can be found in each car, an alleged profit of 36 to 72 euros, to which the extraction costs, quite laborious and expensive, should be subtracted.

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What to do if the catalytic converter is stolen?

Luckily, the theft of the catalytic converter does not cause any mechanical damage to the car. Of course, in the economic aspect it is something else, and that is that its replacement can exceed 500 euros and up to 1,000 euros if other parts are damaged. If the catalytic converter is stolen, it is normal for the insurance compensation to cover at least 80% of its cost, although there are insurers that do not take responsibility if it is the only element stolen from the vehicle.

Some Toyota owners have demanded that the automaker add anti-theft protections, such as metal shields, to the catalysts to make them harder to steal. The Japanese firm’s spokesman, Ed Hellwig, has described the theft of these pieces as “a challenge for the entire industry.”

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