When thieves ripped the catalytic converter out of Will West’s car in broad daylight, he thought it was the worst. The 40-year-old piano teacher left his Honda Jazz safely in a multi-storey car park in Chichester, West Sussex, while he went to give a music lesson. When he returned, he was horrified to find that his car was inoperable.
But when Will contacted his insurer to file a claim, the situation took a turn for the worse. Like thousands of victims of this crime, he was told he had been found “guilty” of theft. This means he will have to pay an excess of hundreds of pounds to fix the car.
It would also lose its no-claims bonus, likely to increase its premiums next year by at least a quarter – a penalty that alone would add almost £140 to the £554 cost of the average premium car.
Threat: Thieves lift car to get catalytic converter, which they can sell for precious metals
Will is one of a rapidly growing number of drivers who have had their car’s catalytic converter stolen.
London alone saw 10,000 burglaries last year, up from just 173 in 2017, according to the Metropolitan Police.
Thefts often occur in waves. Last month, 17 visitors to Legoland in Windsor had their catalytic converters removed while visiting the theme park, and earlier this year doctors and nurses in Surrey hospitals were targeted as they worked long shifts.
Catalytic converters are an important component of vehicles with internal combustion engines as they help filter out harmful emissions. However, they contain precious metals, making them prime targets for thieves.
According to the Scrappie website, converters receive several hundred pounds from scrap metal dealers for palladium, rhodium and platinum, which have risen in price in recent years. Some with particularly high metal content can fetch over a thousand pounds.
In particular, the price of palladium may continue to rise because Russia is a leading producer. The country has come under severe sanctions that limit supplies.
Alex Kindred, a car insurance expert at Confused.com, says that insurers classify catalytic converter cases as a “fault claim” because no one else is believed to be at fault for the problem, so the blame falls on the claimant.
He says: “If your car insurance policy covers third party fire and theft, you will be covered against theft of the catalytic converter. But making a claim will affect your no-claims bonus.
Will West says, “That’s a bit of weird logic. It’s not my fault that it was stolen from me – I don’t think that the insured should bear the cost if he became a victim of theft. It’s not that I was careless.’ Will arranged the repairs himself rather than going through the insurer, losing the no-claims discount and paying the excess on the policy.
Although it is illegal to drive a car without a catalytic converter, victims must either file a claim or finance the repairs themselves.
Cheaper cars are written off
Replacing a catalytic converter costs around £464 on average. But the full cost of getting a car back to working order can easily stretch to £3,000 due to the damage caused. This means that many cheaper cars are simply written off.
This can be especially difficult for older drivers who are used to their beloved car. In the worst case scenario, a car write-off due to catalytic converter theft can mean the end of a person’s driving life if they don’t have the confidence and funds to buy a replacement car and get used to it.
Targeted: Will West faced with a bill of hundreds of pounds
Stuart Daines, chief mechanic at online repair marketplace ClickMechanic, says thieves do more damage to cars when they remove the converters because they remove them during the day.
“This type of crime was usually committed at night under the cover of darkness,” he says, “but more often than not, thieves brazenly take them off in daylight.”
Daines adds: “This means thieves need to remove the catalytic converter as soon as possible so they are more likely to damage the bodywork and other parts when they cut it.” Thieves can steal the converter in a matter of minutes. Victims may not even know until they try to drive their car and make a loud roar as soon as they start the engine.
Danes’ firm has seen an increase in thefts over the past month. He says evidence of crimes is steadily moving from the south to the north of the country.
Daniel Briggs, chief executive of specialist car leasing group Motorfinity, says: “Unfortunately, a direct result of the cost of living crisis is an increase in crime – and motoring incidents are not immune to this effect.”
Vehicles are the most vulnerable to thieves
James Jackson, who runs car repair platform Bumper.co.uk, says hybrid cars are particularly sought after by thieves.
This is because they only run on an internal combustion engine for some time, so their catalytic converters work less and are generally in better condition than petrol or diesel cars. ClickMechanic’s Danes adds that BMWs are often singled out because they have two catalytic converters, one of which is fairly easy to access.
Large 4×4 vehicles are also a popular target for criminals. “Because they are further from the ground, catalytic converters are more easily accessible,” says Daines. “They also have bigger engines and therefore bigger catalytic converters, which means more profit for the crooks.”
Japanese cars, especially the Honda Jazz, are also a particular target due to their precious metal content.
How to protect your car
One way to stop thieves is to install a “cage” around the catalytic converter.
Installation costs around £200 – a small price to pay compared to repairing or replacing the car if the converter is stolen.
You can also have a mechanic weld the bolts on your converter to make it harder to steal.
Mark your catalytic converter with a “smart water” pen, which allows you to identify it in the event of theft. The pens cost around £18 and the markings they produce can withstand heat and wear. You can also put a sticker on the car window to say the converter is marked, which can act as a deterrent.
Confused.com’s Kindred also wisely recommends parking near a wall so thieves can’t get under your vehicle as easily.
“Tachum alarms that go off when the car leans can also be a powerful deterrent,” he adds.
Report any theft to the police immediately. If you see criminals in action, be careful not to approach them. However, if it’s safe to do so, you can try taking a picture of them and their car – especially the details of the number plate.
If you are a victim of this crime, make sure your insurer treats you fairly. Check your policy documents to see what you are entitled to.
If you are unhappy with the insurer’s response, you can make a formal complaint and, if necessary, refer it to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Go to financial-ombudsman.org. uk for more information.
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Insurers blame car drivers for theft of catalytic converter
Source link Insurers blame car drivers for theft of catalytic converter