Does a Missing Catalytic Converter Affect Resale Value in Denver?

If you are a Colorado native, you have likely heard rumblings of catalytic converters. And while many may have taken that statement as tangible audio, hearing the rumbling of cars flying through the Denver highways with the missing component, I meant it in a more metaphysical sense. The catalytic converter has become something of a gold mine for criminals with sharp saws. According to KDVR, there were 25 catalytic converter thefts in Colorado in 2019. That grew to 2,185 thefts in 2021, a 7,948% increase. These numbers have put Denver as one of the top places to get your converter stolen in the nation.


Simply put: if you are a Colorado denizen, you have probably heard about converter theft (or experienced it). And with the possibility becoming shockingly high, it’s likely you are going to come across cars for sale that doesn’t have them. Or, you are going to attempt to sell your car without one.

As a car-selling website, we have to discuss the overall drop in resale value if your car is missing a catalytic converter. Is it significant? Will it be better to buy and install a new one than to drop the resale value?

Let’s discuss:

What Is It?

Let’s start with some basic knowledge. What exactly is a catalytic converter? What will happen if you don’t have one?

First introduced in the 1970s, the converter is part of the car’s exhaust system. While it’s not necessary to operate, it grew in popularity due to its muffling mechanics. This system converts a car’s harmful engine-exhaust pollutants into something more environmentally pleasant, lowering the car’s carbon footprint drastically. As noted, it also works to significantly lower exhaust sound. If a car doesn’t have one, you’ll hear it.

The converter is usually the size of a loaf of bread and is located between the engine and the muffler. It’s often made of platinum, palladium, and rhodium.

Therefore, a car can still operate without a converter. It will often run significantly louder, pollute more, have less gas mileage efficiency, and will not pass Colorado’s emissions inspection. Theoretically, you can run a car without it. We wouldn’t recommend it. It’s also important to note that Colorado’s laws regarding it are significantly strict. As of 2021, Colorado issued stricter catalytic converter regulations. All vehicles must have an OEM or approved aftermarket catalytic converter that meets the standards under Regulation Number 20.

If you are caught driving without a catalytic converter in Colorado, the maximum fine is $47,357 per day for each day that you don’t replace it. 


Why Are They Stolen?

Time to dive into the mind of a thief, I suppose.

Firstly, it’s important to note how easily converters can be taken off. While it does require a hacksaw (or other sharp objects), it’s efficiently accessible on most cars. The thief can quickly drop down and saw it off, allowing them to hit multiple cars a night.

Secondly, the price of the materials and metals in the converter is ever-growing. For example, rhodium was $1,600 per ounce in 2001, it jumped to an average of about $18,000 in 2021. Palladium had a similar hike, going from $600 per ounce in 2001 to a high of nearly $2,400 in 2021. Some companies and junkyards offer about $140 to $1,500 per converter.

With the increase in thefts comes an increase in demand. With the increase in demand comes an increase in prices, which causes more thefts. It’s a vicious cycle.

How Can You Protect Your Car from Catalytic Converter Theft?

If you hadn’t lost your converter, you wouldn’t even be pondering this article. Right? Therefore, prevention is the best thing to do.

Unfortunately, due to the exposed nature of the converter, it’s difficult to lower theft danger. You cannot reinforce it or move it to a harder-to-reach spot. It has to remain where it is, like all call parts. But, Colorado has attempted to create a solution for the mind-numbing number of thefts. In 2023, the state is providing free marking kits.

These kits involve a sticker and an adhesive that bakes a physical etching of a unique code onto the surface of the metal. Therefore, even if the sticker is removed, the ID number remains. This allows the converter to be identified when stolen, hopefully reducing the purchases of companies from thieves and speeding up the theft identification process.

It’s not a foolproof option, but it’s better than nothing. Learn more on the state’s website.

Will a Missing Catalytic Converter Lower Resale Value?

Long story short: yes. Yes, it will. But is it significant enough to get it fixed before selling?


Overall, you can sell a car without important mechanical parts. In fact, you can sell cars that don’t work. You can sell anything online.

This is when profit margins start dipping, though. If you don’t have a catalytic converter, the buyer would have to dump somewhere between $300-$1500 to get it fixed. Therefore, they may not be willing to offer you the full price that you are asking for. Therefore, you would have to bump the average price of a replacement off of the overall price of the car. The lower the asking price for a car, the more significant the number is.

For example, if you are asking for $3,000 for the car, but you don’t have a converter, you may have to drop $500-$1,000 off to finalize a sale. That’s a third of the asking price.

Though the vehicle operates fine (though probably loudly), they still have to pay to fix it. You can’t expect them to offer full price. Therefore, we recommend getting the repair quoted. For example, if your mechanic offers to do it for $400 and online buyers were offering you $600 less because of it, take the bite and fix it.

It all depends on the profit margin and cost of repair. If your car is drastically more expensive, the slight dip in profit might be worth not having to take it to a shop.

It also depends on time, too. If you want to sell a car quicker, you might not care about taking it to a shop. You might be able to drop the price just for time’s sake.


A good rule of thumb is to drop the average price of a catalytic converter replacement off the value of the car. If the asking price for the car is lower, you may want to see if you can get the part replaced before selling it.

If the market value for the car is drastically higher than the price of repair, you may not care to get it fixed before selling. A lack of time before selling may play a factor, too.

At the end of the day, it’s all up to your wants and needs. But, beware that it will affect resale and does require open communication about it.

A New Alternative: Sell My Car Colorado

Time to talk about ourselves (my favorite thing to do).

Looking for an alternative for where to sell your used car? Tired of dealing with private messages and seedy dealerships? Don’t want to deal with the hassle of selling a car with missing parts? Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Sell My Car Colorado will buy your used or junk car immediately. One of our qualified dealers will give you an offer. If you accept, we will come to pick the vehicle up from you. Even if it is inoperable, we will tow it free of charge. You don’t have to leave your home or office.

Furthermore, we will offer you valid and fair prices for your vehicles. We also guarantee $100 more than the competition. Plus, we sell cars, too. Regardless of your windshield status, we will buy your vehicle!