Submit a catalytic converter theft into insurance claim?

Your cats been jacked, now what?

Here are some considerations on when and how to go through your car insurance in the event of a catalytic converter theft. I talk about my own 2009 Toyota Prius when it’s catalytic converter was stolen. I ultimately decided to file a claim with my car insurance company. There was some surprises and lessons learned I’m happy to share with you.

Is it covered by your car insurance?

When your catalytic converter gets stolen it might be something insurance can help with. This type of damage to a car is typically covered by the comprehensive coverage portion of your car insurance.

You’ve got 3 types of coverage that can make up a car insurance policy: collision, comprehensive and liability coverage. You might also see medical/injury coverage, rental coverage, etc. This also might vary state-to-state as some items may be required or optional depending where you live.

Coverage TypeWhat is actually covers in most cases
LiabilityPays for damage you cause to other people and their property.
CollisionPays for the cost of repairing damage to your car caused by an impact with a vehicle or object.
ComprehensiveWill reimburse you if your car is stolen and other events outside your control such as acts of weather, vandalism, fire, accidents with animals (deer), etc.
Insurance Coverage Table. Mississippi’s Insurance Department does a good job describing these in detail.

You’d need to be sure that your car insurance includes comprehensive coverage. You can often deduce this from your policy fairly easily. If not give your agent a call and ask before taking next steps.

You’ll also want to know what your deductible is for a comprehensive claim is. This is out-of-pocket money from you prior to insurance starting to pay. This would vary from policy to policy and be another line item outlined on your paperwork. I’ve seen deductibles from $0 to $1000, it all depends on what you’ve got setup and are paying for. My own deductible when I filed for a comprehensive claim was $250.

What’s the process look like when using insurance?

Before you start a claim there’s some things to be aware of about the process. First, know that once you initiate a claim you can’t “undo it” or decide to go a different route. Once a claim is filed it’s a moving process you can’t really unwind.

This is what the claim process looked like for me:

  1. Called my insurance agent and explained the situation and events that took place.
  2. They asked if I had filed a police report (I did). They also want the case # of the report to add to their records
  3. They send an adjuster out to look over the car and determine the cost to repair it.
  4. Once they know how much it costs to fix it they will let you move ahead with repairs or take other action (such as totaling out the car).

How much will it cost to repair (according to insurance)?

Once you’ve established that you have comprehensive coverage and understand your out-of-pocket deductible you can consider filing a claim. As part of the process, your insurance company will try to estimate what it will cost to get our car back on the road.

They will, more often than not, do so using OEM parts and a quality repair shop. Insurance Companies won’t skimp on cheap aftermarket or universal fit exhaust parts. They also won’t consider budget repair shops like Monroe or Meineke. They want it done right and to spec.

For something like my Gen 2 Toyota Prius you might be in for a shock. The cost of an OEM replacement catalytic converter (Toyota part # 17410-21500) is astronomical–something like $2300-2700 for the PART alone. Add in labor, an Oxygen sensor, a exhaust gasket, and other bits and bobbles and you’re topping $3K easy.

Now, keep that $3000 repair bill in mind as you consider the value of your vehicle.

Can an insurance claim total out my car?

Totally. Insurance companies will declare a “total loss” if a repair is more than 70% of the value of your car. That means your car, in their eyes, is not worth repairing and should just be replaced. They’d cut you a check for the value of your car (minus some stuff) and be done with it.

If your Prius is old enough and/or has enough mileage on it do not be surprised if they value it somewhere around $3000-5000.

Remember, catalytic converter theft on a Prius creates a repair that is often quoted out at about $3200 in parts and labor, if not more.

Some quick math:

$5000 is the value of the car. $3,500 for the repair.
Insurance companies like to total cars out if repairs exceed 70% of the value of the car.

5000 x .70 = 3500

A $3,500 repair on a car worth $5,000 hits that 70% threshold. If your car is worth less than $5,000 it’s even easier to total out your car.

My final decisions and opinion

When I filed a claim I had no idea that the costs of repair would be so high. My insurance company did indeed declare my Prius a total loss.

That doesn’t mean you have to give up your car if everything else on it is fine and you don’t want to. You can decide to keep the car. Your insurance company will cut you a check for a majority of the value of the car and re-title the car as “rebuilt”. It will now have an “R-Title” or “rebuilt title” or “reconstructed title” depending on where you live. A car with this kind of title can be hard to sell later, and often your insurance company will want to drop collision coverage on it (meaning they won’t pay to repair it if in an accident that’s your fault).

In my case, I’m driving this 2009 Prius into the ground. I don’t plan to sell it at any time soon, for any real money. I also don’t think I could find a similar suitable replacement for the kind of money they were offering. So I’d opt to keep it and drive it til the wheels fall off, sort-of-speak.

I’ve got some tips to get the repair costs down from $3200 to something more reasonable as well, saved for a future post.

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