Catalytic Converter Primer

Catalytic converters are devices that can be found in the exhaust systems of many vehicles. This device helps to convert the harmful pollutants that a vehicle generates when in use into ones that are not as harmful. It works by creating what is called a “redox reaction” within the exhaust to change carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons into carbon dioxide and water. With platinum or palladium on the inside of the catalytic converter, it is easily the most valuable item that can be scrapped on the average vehicle.

The technology behind the catalytic converter was invented by a French engineer named Eugene Houdry, who moved to the USA in 1930. He received his first patent for this technology in the 1950s, but it wouldn’t be until the US government moved to regulate fuel efficiencies and emissions that the technology would become widely available.

What Are Catalytic Converter Prices in the USA?

Most scrap yards that will take catalytic converters are generally going to offer you a price based on an entire car that is being scrapped. You do have the option to remove the catalytic converter on your own to scrap just this piece of a car as well. To get the best price, you’ll need to turn in the full unit. If it is missing any part of its core, then it may be paid at a rate that is 25-75% of the going rate. Catalytic converters that are completely hollow are paid at scrap steel rates.

The catalytic converter price will then be based on the platinum, rhodium, and palladium trading prices that are available on that given day. These are considered to be precious metals, so the trading on them is more volatile than other scrap metals you’ll be able to find. Here are the average prices to consider, but always check of the current spot price.

Platinum: $900 per ounce
Palladium: $790 per ounce
Rhodium: $850 per ounce

You’ll often find a scrap car price that includes catalytic converter recycling may add $125 or more to the overall price of the junk vehicle. This may or may not be the best way to get a good price from the unit. It all depends on what precious metals are contained within the catalytic converter. The best option to scrap this unit might be to open it up, remove the precious metals, and scrap them instead.

A Quick Note: Catalytic converters outside of the United States may be composed of different metals, so knowing where the scrap originated is important. Outside of North America, catalytic converters tend to have copper in them. Iron, manganese, cerium, and nickel are also metal options in certain regions in the world.

Since 2013, these precious metals have been slowly declining in value. If you have a catalytic converter to be scrapped, right now might be the best time to act before prices dip even further and your scrap becomes less valuable.

Where To Find Catalytic Converters

Auto manufacturers in the United States have been equipping catalytic converters to vehicles since 1975. The American autos were the first to use this item on almost all vehicles made, so older foreign vehicles from this era might not have one. Later models offer two-way or three-way conversions to help reduce pollutants and may have more precious metals contained within them.

If you don’t have a catalytic converter on your vehicle, there are some other places where you can find them available for scrap. Forklifts are often equipped with units, as our buses, trucks, and even train engines. Some motorcycles that are only good for scrap may also have a catalytic converter. Any vehicles made in 1974 or before, however, will not generally have a unit installed on them unless it was custom added later on.

Some electrical generators have also been known to be equipped with a catalytic converter to help reduce pollutants that are released. You’ll find scrap catalytic converters around mining equipment and sometimes in homes that have a wood stove because they help to control emissions that occur during the burning process.

How To Get the Best Prices For a Catalytic Converter

Scrap catalytic converter prices are dependent on the trace amounts of precious metals that are contained within the unit. To get the best possible price, you’ll need to know how much of each precious metal your particular unit contains. It is also important to note that the recycling process for catalytic converters can be a very intensive process, so unless you can strip out the metals yourself, the best bet is to turn your unit into an auto scrapper.

You’ll want to avoid scrap yards that offer one generic price for all catalytic converters – unless the generic price is better than your make and model price, that is. You’ll also need to know whether or not your catalytic converter is a factory model or an aftermarket model. Factory units always command a better price because there is a documented percentage of each precious metal that the catalytic converter contains from the manufacturer.

If your local scrap yard is not an auto salvage yard, you might actually receive a better overall price for your catalytic converter. You’ll have to bring the unit to them to get paid, however, and that may not always be possible depending on the condition of the vehicle or processing unit that has a catalytic converter. Always call ahead to make sure your scrap yard will take full or half units and what price you can expect, then compare that quote to other local yards and regional rates found online to know if you’re getting the best price.

Most catalytic converters tend to be worth about $100 on any given day. Larger units are not always worth more because the pricing is based on the actual metals contained within the unit. Foreign units tend to have more of the precious metals in them, so they tend to be worth the most. Ford catalytic converters tend to have the least amount, so you may find them priced in the $40 range at some scrap yards.

What Are the Traps To Avoid When Scrapping a Catalytic Converter?

The primary issue that you’ll need to watch out for when scrapping a catalytic converter is a scrap yard telling you that you’ve got an aftermarket part. An aftermarket catalytic converter may be worth as little as $4. If you’ve got a large foreign unit that has over $100 worth of value, that’s a huge profit margin to be giving up. Aftermarket units are usually stamped as such, so you’ll be able to tell them apart. Auto manufacturers also tend to label their parts as being genuine in some way.

Another ploy that is sometimes used is to base the quoted price on the lowest precious metal that the catalytic converter contains, which is typically platinum in the US. With more than $200 per ounce in difference, even a trace amount of palladium or rhodium can bring in several extra dollars when scrapping one of these units.

Sometimes another method used to reduce the amount paid for catalytic converters is to discuss the outside rust and corrosion that is typically seen on vehicular units. The outer casing is steel and has no bearing on the interior components whatsoever.

What Catalytic Converters Will Sell and What Will Not Sell

You can always sell the interior components of a catalytic converter. Even if it is just loose material, you can receive $4-$6 per pound on most days with where these precious metals tend to trade. What will not sell are the outside components and casing of the unit itself. If a catalytic converter is completely hollow, then you’ll only receive a generic bulk ferrous rate for your scrap metal.

Your best option here depends on what you’re trying to recycle. If you have a junk vehicle that is just taking up space in your yard, trying to remove the catalytic converter to recycle it independently may not be worth the work it takes to get it. If you receive a fair price for the vehicle from your local scrapper and they’ll haul it away for you, then it may be better to just take that deal.

If you have access to a bulk amount of precious metals from these converters, then you may wish to bypass the scrap yard completely. There are bulk suppliers who will offer a lower premium for the metals in each unit because more of them are being processed at once.

The best catalytic converter scrap prices come from the actual amount of precious metals each unit contains. For American vehicles, General Motors tends to offer units that have the best value. Jeep and Chrysler also have high value units. Foreign vehicles sold in the US, however, almost always have the best scrap potential. Follow this guide, get a fair price, and you’ll have plenty of money coming your way.

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