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How Do Catalytic Converters Affect Junk Car Prices?

Marc Skirvin
Marc Skirvin

What's in this Article

Selling junk vehicles is a process that usually starts with a phone call or an online inquiry. After determining that the vehicle is, in fact, junk and not just in need of a few repairs, the next question is always, “how much will you give me for it?”

The answer to that question depends on several factors, but one of the most important is the presence (or absence) of a catalytic converter.

Why are catalytic converters so important? And, perhaps more importantly, how can their presence (or absence) affect the price you’re offered for your junk car? In this article, we’ll answer those questions and more.

What Is a Catalytic Converter?

A catalytic converter is a device that’s fitted to the exhaust system of most modern vehicles. Its purpose is to convert harmful pollutants in engine exhaust gas into less harmful substances before they’re released into the atmosphere.

In other words, catalytic converters help to keep the air we breathe clean. For that reason, they’re required by law in most countries around the world, including the United States.

How Do Catalytic Converters Work?

Catalytic converters work by using a chemical reaction to convert three harmful pollutants in engine exhaust gas into less harmful substances. These pollutants are:

  • Carbon monoxide (CO)
  • Hydrocarbons (HC)
  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx)

The catalytic converter contains a honeycombed ceramic structure that’s coated with a metal catalyst, usually platinum or palladium. When exhaust gas passes through the converter, the catalyst causes a chemical reaction that converts the pollutants into less harmful substances.

  • Carbon monoxide is converted into carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • Hydrocarbons are converted into water vapor and carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • Nitrogen oxides are converted into nitrogen and oxygen (N2 and O2)

Precious metals like platinum and palladium are used because they have a high affinity for catalyzing these reactions. They’re also extremely durable, which means they can withstand the high temperatures that are present in the engine exhaust gas.

In today’s cars, catalytic converters are fitted to the exhaust system after the engine and before the muffler. They can be fitted to the exhaust manifold (the pipe that connects the cylinder head to the rest of the exhaust system), or they can be fitted downstream from the manifold in what’s known as a “close-coupled” configuration.

Types of Catalytic Converters

There are three main types of catalytic converters:

  1. Two-way catalytic converters
  2. Three-way catalytic converters
  3. Diesel oxidation catalysts

Two-way catalytic converters are the most common type of converter. They’re fitted to the exhaust systems of gasoline-powered vehicles and they’re designed to convert carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons into carbon dioxide and water vapor.

Three-way catalytic converters are fitted to the exhaust systems of gasoline-powered vehicles and they’re designed to convert carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides into carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and water vapor.

Diesel oxidation catalysts are fitted to the exhaust systems of diesel-powered vehicles and they’re designed to convert carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons into carbon dioxide and water vapor.

These three types of catalytic converters all work in basically the same way, but they’re designed to deal with different types and amounts of pollutants.

History of the Catalytic Converter

The catalytic converter was invented in the 1950s by Eugene Houdry, a French-born engineer who moved to the United States in 1930. Houdry was working on ways to reduce air pollution from automobiles, and he came up with the idea of using a catalytic converter to convert harmful pollutants into less harmful substances.

Houdry’s catalytic converter was first used on a large scale in 1975 when the U.S. government passed a law requiring catalytic converters to be fitted to all new cars and trucks. Since then, catalytic converters have become standard equipment on most vehicles around the world.

Catalytic Converter Theft

Catalytic converters are often stolen from cars and trucks because they contain precious metals like platinum and palladium. The catalytic converter can be removed from a vehicle in a matter of minutes, and it can be sold for scrap metal for a few hundred dollars.

Theft of catalytic converters is a serious problem in many countries, and it’s often difficult for the police to catch the thieves. In some cases, the catalytic converter can be covered with a metal cage or security device to prevent it from being stolen.

Incidences of catalytic converter theft have been on the rise in recent years, and it’s becoming a major problem for car owners. If you have a catalytic converter fitted to your vehicle, it’s important to be aware of the risk of theft and take steps to protect your property.

In some countries, catalytic converter theft has become so common that insurance companies are now offering special coverage to protect against it.

How Catalytic Converters Affect Junk Car Prices

Now, we know that catalytic converters can affect the value of your junk car because they contain metals that can be recycled. But did you know that catalytic converters can also affect the offer you receive for your junk car? Here’s how:

If your catalytic converter is missing or damaged, it will likely lower the offer you receive for your junk car. This is because catalytic converters can be pretty expensive to replace. The cost of a catalytic converter can range anywhere from $800 to $1,200. So, if your catalytic converter is missing or damaged, it’s likely that the salvage yard will offer you a lower price for your junk car.

On the other hand, if you have a catalytic converter that is in good condition, you may be able to get a higher offer for your junk car. This is because catalytic converters contain metals that can be recycled. So, if you have a catalytic converter that is in good condition, the salvage yard may offer you a higher price for your junk car.

Important to note: if your catalytic converter isn’t an original (meaning, you have replaced it), there’s a good chance that this can lower any offer that you receive when selling a junk vehicle.

What’s Inside a Catalytic Converter?

Catalytic converters are made up of three main parts: the housing, the catalytic converter itself, and the substrate.

The housing is typically made of stainless steel or aluminum. The catalytic converter is made up of a honeycomb-shaped substrate that is coated with platinum, palladium, and rhodium. The substrate is what catalyzes the reaction that converts harmful emissions into harmless gases. The catalytic converter also has a washcoat, which is a layer of material that helps to keep the catalytic converter clean.

These primary metals —platinum, palladium, and rhodium—are what make catalytic converters so valuable. As of this year, the average price of platinum has increased to $1,021 per ounce, while palladium has increased to $2,049 per ounce. Rhodium, on the other hand, is not traded on exchanges and its price is not publicly available. However, experts estimate that the price of rhodium could be as high as $15,500 per ounce!

This is why catalytic converters can have such a big effect on junk car prices. If you have a catalytic converter that is in good condition, you may be able to get a higher offer for your junk car. However, if your catalytic converter is missing or damaged, it will likely lower the offer you receive for your junk car.

How to Find Your Catalytic Converter

If you’re not sure where your catalytic converter is located, don’t worry! We’ve got you covered.

The catalytic converter is located under the car, between the engine and the muffler. It’s typically a cylindrical shape and it’s usually made of stainless steel or aluminum.

catalytic converter under car
Catalytic converter under a car

If you can’t find your catalytic converter, or if it’s missing or damaged, you can always contact a salvage yard and ask for a quote. Most salvage yards will be able to give you an estimate over the phone.

How To Know the Price Of a Catalytic Converter

The price of a catalytic converter can vary depending on a few factors.

The first factor is the size of the catalytic converter. Catalytic converters come in different sizes, so the price will vary depending on the size of the catalytic converter.

The second factor is the type of catalytic converter. As we have mentioned earlier there are three types, two-way, three-way, and diesel catalytic converters. The price will vary depending on the type of catalytic converter.

The last factor is the condition of the catalytic converter. If the catalytic converter is in good condition, you may be able to get a higher offer for your junk car. However, if your catalytic converter is missing or damaged, you will likely get a lower offer for your junk car.

This is why it’s important to know the condition of your catalytic converter before you sell your junk car.

Tips For Selling Your Junk Car

Now that you know how catalytic converters can affect the price of your junk car, here are some tips to get the most money for your junk car:

Make Sure the Catalytic Converter Is Attached

If your catalytic converter is missing or detached, it will likely lower the offer you receive for your junk car. So, if you’re planning on selling your junk car, make sure the catalytic converter is attached. If it’s not, salvage yards may be able to help you attach it or they may give you a lower offer for your junk car.

Know the Condition of Your Catalytic Converter

As we mentioned earlier, the condition of your catalytic converter can have a big effect on the price you receive for your junk car. So, before you sell your junk car, make sure you know the condition of your catalytic converter.

If it’s in good condition, you may be able to get a higher offer for your junk car. However, if it’s missing or damaged, you will likely get a lower offer.

Don’t Remove the Honeycomb From the Shell

The honeycomb is the part of the catalytic converter that contains the precious metals. So, if you remove the honeycomb from the shell, you will likely get a lower offer for your junk car.

Salvage yards typically pay by the pound, so if you remove the honeycomb, you will be paid less for your junk car.

Make Sure the Shell of the Catalytic Converter Is Intact

The shell of the catalytic converter is important because it protects the honeycomb inside. The honeycomb is made of ceramic and contains platinum, palladium, and rhodium. These precious metals act as a catalyst, meaning they help the catalytic converter do its job. When the catalytic converter shell is damaged, it can’t protect the honeycomb as well as it should. This makes the catalytic converter less effective, which can reduce the offer on your junk car.

Contact More Than One Salvage Yard

When you’re ready to sell your junk car, it’s a good idea to contact more than one salvage yard. This way, you can compare offers and get the best price for your junk car. If the prices are much lower than you expected, that could be a warning sign that the salvage yard is trying to take advantage of you or that they don’t know the true value of catalytic converters.

Ask About Recycling Programs

Some salvage yards offer recycling programs for catalytic converters. These recycling programs allow you to get paid for your catalytic converter even if it’s damaged.

If you’re planning on selling your junk car, make sure to ask about recycling programs. You may be able to get paid for your catalytic converter even if it’s damaged.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, catalytic converters can have a big effect on the price of your junk car. So, before you sell your junk car, make sure you know the condition of your catalytic converter and make sure it’s attached. If your catalytic converter is missing or detached, you will likely get a lower offer for your junk car.

If you have any questions about catalytic converters or how they affect the price of your junk car, contact a local salvage yard. They will be able to help you out and give you more tips on how to get the most money for your junk car.

Want to get an instant offer on your vehicle, fill out our online form by clicking here.

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About the Author

Marc
Marc

Marc is the Co-Founder of Cash Auto Salvage and Director of daily operations. He retired from a leading Internet Marketing company in 2013 and has been involved in the automotive industry ever since.

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