Cost to replace a catalytic converter

Quotes for our sample vehicles averaged between $900 and $4,500

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a catalytic converter

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, more than 64,000 catalytic converters were stolen in the U.S. in 2022. That’s almost four times as many as there were in 2020.

But catalytic converters can also simply fail, especially when a vehicle isn’t maintained well or has mechanical issues.

Regardless of the reason your catalytic converter needs replacement, the price can vary quite a bit based on your vehicle’s make and model. We surveyed mechanics from around the country to get real-world estimates for catalytic converter replacement costs so you can know what to expect.


Key insights

Average estimates for replacing the catalytic converters in our sample vehicles ranged from $933 to $4,414.

Jump to insight

Comprehensive car insurance can help if your catalytic converter is stolen, while warranty coverage can help in the event your converter stops working.

Jump to insight

Catalytic converters are crucial in curbing vehicle emissions, and you probably can’t drive long without one.

Jump to insight

What is a catalytic converter?

A catalytic converter (or “cat”) is a crucial component of a modern vehicle’s emissions control system. Cats reduce the release of certain pollutants (such as carbon monoxide, nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide and hydrocarbons) by converting them into carbon dioxide or steam using rare earth metals (like platinum, rhodium or palladium).

The catalytic converter is typically under the car — usually right after the exhaust headers transition into the exhaust pipe. To find it, just look under your vehicle and trace backward from the exhaust tip toward the engine.

How does a catalytic converter work?

If you open up a catalytic converter, you’ll see what looks like a dense, honeycomb structure. This structure is made from heat-resistant ceramic, and it’s there to provide more surface area for exhaust gasses to flow over. This honeycomb grid is also laced with precious metals, typically from the platinum family.

Each metal functions in a specific way:

  • Reduction catalysts, like rhodium and platinum, react with nitrogen oxide by removing oxygen and breaking the molecular bonds into nitrogen and oxygen, which are harmless.
  • Oxidation catalysts, like palladium and platinum, change carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide by adding oxygen.

Once this happens, the resulting exhaust gasses are moved out through the tailpipe into the air.

How much does it cost to replace a catalytic converter?

We used three sample vehicles to get estimates from five different mechanics across the country to help you set expectations for what a catalytic converter replacement may cost you.

The Honda Civic, generally the most affordable of our sample vehicles, had by far the most expensive catalytic converter replacement costs of our sample vehicles. Meanwhile, the BMW 740i had the lowest average parts cost but a much higher labor cost. The Ford F-150, one of the most popular vehicles in America, had the lowest average replacement costs by far.

Some vehicles, like Toyota and Honda, have a much more expensive catalytic converter than brands like Ford..”
— JAY JINDAL of JINDAL-ANDRE AUTOMOTIVE SERVICES

» LEARN MORE: How much does it cost to replace an engine

How much does it cost to repair a catalytic converter?

A repair isn’t possible if your catalytic converter is missing, but if your “cat” just isn’t working right, there are some situations where fixing it makes more sense than replacing it. Just don’t expect any huge savings until you talk to your mechanic.

Jay Jindal of Jindal-Andre Automotive Services in Washington, D.C., explained that “cleaning a cat may seem like a good idea to save a few bucks, but most of the time it ends up costing about as much to replace it with a new one. Granted, some vehicles, like Toyota and Honda, have a much more expensive catalytic converter than brands like Ford. It’s best to weigh out the options.”

Cleaning a cat may seem like a good idea to save a few bucks, but most of the time it ends up costing about as much to replace it with a new one.”
— JAY JINDAL of JINDAL-ANDRE AUTOMOTIVE SERVICES

When it comes to catalytic converters, “repair” usually means removing the catalytic converter from your vehicle and giving it a thorough cleaning to clear out any gunk that’s lingering on the inside. Although the cleaning process isn’t difficult, getting the catalytic converter off and on can be a challenge, especially if it’s been on your vehicle for 10 or 15 years.

If there is damage to your catalytic converter beyond just clogging, then repair is generally not practical, and your cat should be replaced.

Plus, it’s hard to predict whether a cleaning will even save you money because cat repairs are billed by the hour at local labor rates. That makes getting an estimate ahead of time difficult because a shop doesn’t know how dirty your catalytic converter is until it’s removed from your vehicle.

Finally, you may have to spend more money figuring out why your catalytic converter clogged up in the first place.

» MORE: Most expensive car repairs

What are the signs of a faulty catalytic converter?

If your catalytic converter is still in place but you suspect that it’s not working properly, there are several signs you can look for to see if it’s faulty:

  • Poor fuel efficiency: If a catalytic converter gets clogged, it can cause a backup of airflow coming out of the engine. This will lead to a drop in efficiency that you can see at the pump.
  • Check engine light: One of the purposes of your vehicle's electronic control unit (ECU) is to monitor your vehicle’s systems. The ECU measures air-to-fuel ratios regularly, and if this ratio is out of whack, it will trigger a “check engine” light. Although this is not a guarantee the catalytic converter is at fault, certain engine fault codes usually indicate a problem with the catalytic converter.
  • Rotten egg smell: If a cat is clogged up or becomes damaged, the smell of rotten eggs can waft into your car. This happens due to the partial conversion of nasty pollutants, which manifests as sulfur dioxide.
  • Poor performance: Due to a lack of exhaust gas movement, a clogged catalytic converter can have a major effect on performance. Since the exhaust gases must escape, the back pressure may cause your engine to stall or completely shut off.
  • Failed emissions tests: Most people find out their catalytic converter has bit the dust when the vehicle fails an emissions test due to high levels of pollutants being emitted.

What if you have a warranty or insurance?

Whether you should contact your insurance company or auto warranty provider for help paying for a catalytic converter repair or replacement depends on your situation.

  • If your catalytic converter was stolen, you’ll want to check with your car insurance provider to see if you’re covered. Comprehensive car insurance should cover the cost of a catalytic converter replacement in this case. Just keep in mind that you may still need to pay your deductible, and some comprehensive policies require high out-of-pocket costs.
  • If your catalytic converter failed and your vehicle is under warranty, you may not need to pay to have it repaired or replaced. The Environmental Protection Agency mandates that automakers provide special warranties for emissions components, including catalytic converters. Under these warranties, major emissions components are covered for eight years or 80,000 miles, whichever happens first.

» MORE: Car warranty vs. car insurance

If your vehicle hasn’t been maintained properly, your warranty coverage will likely be denied.

Should you find yourself outside your vehicle’s factory warranty, it’s worth pointing out that most extended car warranties will not cover your catalytic converter.

» LEARN: What does a car warranty cover?

However, an extended warranty may cover whatever caused your catalytic converter to fail in the first place. For example, a blown head gasket can allow coolant to burn off in your engine, and that coolant can gunk up the catalytic converter. An extended warranty may not cover the cat, but it will help you fix that pesky leaking head gasket to stop the issue from recurring.

A reviewer from Ohio felt that their extended warranty was still worth it even after they had to pay out of pocket for their catalytic converter replacement: “After not receiving a discount on my catalytic converter failure, I was hesitant when my mechanic submitted the list of items that needed repaired on my Jeep. … CarShield covered items that I didn't expect them to cover, including the rental car, front and back brakes, water pump assembly with everything that was associated, and saved me thousands of dollars.”

» MORE: Best Extended Car Warranty Companies

Quick and easy. Find an auto warranty partner now.

    FAQ

    What can happen to my car if I don’t repair my catalytic converter?

    According to the EPA, the catalytic converter is your car's most important pollution control device. If this fails and you don’t repair it, several things can go wrong. For starters, you won’t pass any emissions testing, which is a requirement in some states. You will also find that you are spending more on gas, and eventually, if left untreated, it will cause significant engine and exhaust system damage.

    What should you do if your catalytic converter is stolen?

    One of the telltale signs that your catalytic converter has been stolen is that your car is suddenly quite a bit noisier than normal. Because catalytic converters are placed before mufflers in most exhaust systems, your car will make significantly more noise now that there’s a gap in your exhaust system.

    If you suspect your catalytic converter is gone, pop your head under your car near the front seats and look for any missing sections in your exhaust system.

    If your catalytic converter has been stolen, you should get it replaced as soon as possible. Not only is driving without a catalytic converter loud — it’s also often illegal.

    Your best bet to replace the catalytic converter is to visit a respectable muffler shop or automotive repair facility. You can go to the dealer as well, but you may pay quite a bit more money.

    How long does it take to replace a catalytic converter?

    Replacing a catalytic converter is a relatively straightforward process for mechanics that should take about two hours to complete.

    Do extended car warranties cover catalytic converters?

    Most extended car warranties do not cover defective catalytic converters. However, they may cover the issue that caused the converter to fail.


    Article sources
    ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
    1. National Insurance Crime Bureau, “Big spike in thefts of catalytic converters is hitting Dallas vehicle owners .” Accessed Oct. 4, 2022.
    2. National Insurance Crime Bureau, “Catalytic Converter Thefts Surge Nationwide, According To New Report.” Accessed Feb. 14, 2024.
    3. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Frequent Questions related to Transportation, Air Pollution, and Climate Change .” Accessed Oct. 3, 2022.
    4. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “What you should know about using, installing, or buying aftermarket catalytic converters.” Accessed April 19, 2024.
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