How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Catalytic Converter?

Last Updated on November 19, 2021

Catalytic converters are expensive to replace.

Catalytic converter replacement costs vary between vehicles, but you should expect to spend somewhere between $1,100 and $2,600 to replace your catalytic converter, including parts and labor.

Do you need to replace your catalytic converter? How much should it cost to replace a catalytic converter? Does insurance cover catalytic converter repairs or replacements? Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about replacing a catalytic converter.How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Catalytic Converter?

Table of Contents:

What Is a Catalytic Converter?

A catalytic converter is a part of your vehicle that controls emissions. It looks like a muffler.

Each catalytic converter has a honeycomb-like structure inside. Exhaust gases must pass through this structure before leaving your vehicle.

As gases pass through the catalytic converter, they interact with particles like platinum, palladium, and rhodium inside the honeycomb. These particles break the gases down into less harmful emissions. When gases leave your tailpipe, they’re much less harmful to the atmosphere and the environment.

Do I Need a Catalytic Converter?

You need a catalytic converter in most states and countries. If your state requires an emissions test or smog test to pass inspection, then your car will fail that test without a properly-functioning catalytic converter.

If you don’t have a catalytic converter, or if your catalytic converter is performing poorly, then you cannot drive your vehicle until you repair or replace it.

Catalytic converters are also crucial to vehicle performance. If you have a poor-quality catalytic converter, for example, then it could restrict airflow, leading to bad engine performance. When left untreated over a long period of time, a bad catalytic converter could even lead to engine failure.

Catalytic converters can even lead to vehicle fires. A poorly-performing catalytic converter can glow red hot, leading to a car fire.

Of course, catalytic converters are also important for air quality and environmental pollution. Cars without catalytic converters, or cars with poorly-performing catalytic converters, contribute to air pollution, air quality issues, and breathing problems, among other hazards.

For all of these reasons, you need a catalytic converter.

Where Is the Catalytic Converter?

The catalytic converter is beneath your car. It’s part of the exhaust system.

Look for the catalytic converter midway down your exhaust pipe, after the exhaust manifold and before the muffler.

If the catalytic converter has been factory-installed, then it will be welded into the exhaust pipe. If it’s a replacement converter, then it will be clamped into place.

Signs You Have a Bad Catalytic Converter

Catalytic converters could fail over time. Fortunately, it’s easy to spot a bad catalytic converter.

If you have a bad catalytic converter, then you could notice all of the following symptoms:

  • Your check engine light is on
  • Your engine runs poorly, stalls, or has other unusual issues
  • Your tailpipe expels an unpleasant, rotten egg odor
  • You hear the catalytic converter rattle when the car is idling
  • During or after driving, the catalytic converter has a red hot appearance
  • Your car’s fuel economy has dropped

Sometimes, you have a bad catalytic converter even without any of these symptoms. Your car might appear to be functioning normally, for example, even if you have serious catalytic converter issues.

Most people notice they have catalytic converter issues when they fail a smog test. The mechanic may recommend buying a new catalytic converter to ensure your vehicle passes its next inspection.

Types of Catalytic Converters

There are two main types of catalytic converter fits in the United States. There are also two main types of emission standards. Depending on which type of catalytic converter you choose, your costs could vary.

Catalytic Converter Fit Types

Direct-Fit: Direct-fit catalytic converters are specially designed for your specific make, model, and year of vehicle. They’re easy to install, but they tend to be more expensive and harder to obtain.

Universal Fit: Universal fit catalytic converters fit any vehicle, but they take more work to install. The parts tend to be cheaper, although you may pay higher labor costs.

Catalytic Converter Emission and Performance Types

Federal: Federal catalytic converters meet emission standards set by the United States government. These catalytic converters meet emission standards in most states and will allow you to pass a smog test. However, they are not strong enough to pass smog tests in California, New York, Colorado, Maine, and other states with stricter emissions standards.

CARB: California Air Resources Board (CARB) catalytic converters, also known simply as California catalytic converters, meet CARB emission standards. These standards are stricter than federal standards. California, New York, Colorado, Maine, and several other states require vehicles to meet CARB emission standards to pass inspection.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Catalytic Converter?

It costs $1,100 to $2,600 to replace a catalytic converter on most vehicles, according to our research. These costs include parts and labor.

Expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $130 per hour for labor, depending on the cost of labor in your region.

Specific replacement costs vary based on the make and model of your vehicle. Specialty cars, rarer cars, and foreign cars tend to have higher catalytic converter replacement costs, for example, while domestic cars and common cars have cheaper replacement costs.

Costs also vary based on the quality of the replacement converter. Some catalytic converters are cheap and basic. They do the job, but that’s about it. Others are custom-fit, specialty converters that maximize vehicle performance.

Based on all of these factors, you could pay anywhere from $1,100 to $2,600 to replace your catalytic converter.

Factors that Impact the Cost of Catalytic Converter Replacement

Although it costs $1,100 to $2,600 to replace the average catalytic converter, you could spend more or less, depending on several factors.

Factors that impact the cost of catalytic converter replacement include:

Quality of Catalytic Converter: Cheap catalytic converters have a lower density of internal particles like palladium and platinum. These metals are expensive, and higher-quality catalytic converters have a higher density of particles, making them more effective for reducing toxic emissions. Not all catalytic converters are created equal.

Vehicle Make, Model, and Age: Cheaper vehicles tend to have cheaper catalytic converter replacement costs than more expensive vehicles. Additionally, older vehicles tend to have cheaper replacement costs than newer vehicles.

Labor Costs: Different regions have different labor costs. There’s significant labor involved in catalytic converter replacement. Mechanics may need to cut away the old, welded converter, for example, and clamp in a new unit.

Unique Vehicle Features (Like Dual Exhaust Systems): Certain vehicle systems raise the cost of catalytic converter replacement. If your vehicle has dual exhaust systems, for example, then you’ll need to pay twice as much to replace your catalytic converter (because it requires twice as much labor and twice as many components).

Other Issues with Your Vehicle: Sometimes, replacing a catalytic converter doesn’t fix your vehicle’s problems. Your vehicle may have other issues causing it to fail. Until the professionals replace your catalytic converter, you may be unaware of these issues. Your vehicle might have other problems that caused your first catalytic converter to fail, for example. These problems could add thousands to the cost of repairing or replacing your catalytic converter.

Type of Catalytic Converter: There are multiple types of catalytic converters. You can find direct-fit catalytic converters, for example, that are built for the specific make, model, and year of your vehicle for easy installation. There are also universal catalytic converters that fit any vehicle, but require more work to install. You can find federal catalytic converters (that meet emission standards set by the federal government and many states). Or, you can find California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved catalytic converters that meet stricter emissions standards (as required in California, New York, Colorado, Maine, and certain other states).

Based on all of these factors, you could pay anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars to replace your catalytic converter.

Does Insurance Cover Catalytic Converter Replacement?

Car insurance may or may not cover catalytic converter replacement, depending on how the damage occurred.

If your catalytic converter has broken down because of normal wear and tear, for example, then insurance will not cover it. Wear and tear is an expected part of car ownership. You expect to replace certain parts over time, and a catalytic converter is one such part.

Car insurance will, however, cover catalytic converter theft. Catalytic converters are common targets because of the valuable metal components inside. If you have comprehensive coverage and were a victim of catalytic converter theft, then your insurer should cover catalytic converter replacement costs.

Final Word on Catalytic Converter Replacement Cost

It can cost anywhere from $1,100 to $2,600 to replace your catalytic converter, depending on several factors.

If you do not replace your catalytic converter, then you could fail emissions tests, worsen vehicle performance, and increase the risk of vehicle damage.

Contact a repair shop in your area to ask about catalytic converter repairs and replacements. Or, contact your insurer to file a claim for catalytic converter replacement after theft.

James Shaffer
James Shaffer James Shaffer is a writer for InsurancePanda.com and a well-seasoned auto insurance industry veteran. He has a deep knowledge of insurance rules and regulations and is passionate about helping drivers save money on auto insurance. He is responsible for researching and writing about anything auto insurance-related. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bentley University and his work has been quoted by NBC News, CNN, and The Washington Post.
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