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Why are catalytic converters so expensive?

Why are catalytic converters so expensive?

A part of a car’s exhaust system which cleans harmful emissions should be relatively inexpensive. Instead, it should be a cheap filter, but it’s not true. An experienced mechanic could easily say that catalytic converters can be even more expensive than the whole vehicle in some cases, especially when talking about older models. As a part, the converter catalyst itself is most often made of a mix of precious metals, mainly from the platinum group. As far as we know, platinum is the most active and widely used catalyst. Palladium and rhodium are two other standard options.

Of course, only some cars with an internal combustion engine have a valuable converter. Sometimes those parts could be practically worthless. It’s all about precious metal content in catalytic converters that could be extracted from them. So, vehicle recycling services sometimes pay a lot for them, mainly because of due metal contained in them. Thanks to the transparency in our sampling, assay, processing, and experienced precious metal trading team, Blancomet provides the best total return on your scrap catalytic converters.

Catalytic converters are expensive, mainly because they are made of three of the earth’s most precious metals (Palladium, Rhodium, and Platinum). Sometimes they are called PGMs (platinum group metals) because they have similar physical and chemical attributes. In total, there are six types of elements that belong to PGM. They are highly valued because of their usage in automotive, electronics, industrial, and medical fields. Their applications are even more extensive, but those four use most of them. So, we need to talk more about PGMs found in the catalytic converter.

Platinum is usually associated with jewellery. In Spanish, Platina means “little silver” primarily because of its colour and rarity. Besides luxury jewellery, it has many other uses: wires, optical cables, electrodes, etc. It is in very high demand because not just mining, but even proper recycling requires a lot of work.

Palladium is not only used in catalytic converters but also in jewellery and even dental crowns. By its appearance, it looks like lustrous silver, so it’s often used as a substitute for platinum. Of all the metals that are up there, palladium is best for absorbing hydrogen. It can absorb more than 900 times its volume, so it is easy to guess why it is used in catalytic converters. Like platinum, this precious metal is difficult to mine or recycle. And the main reason for that is its rarity.

Rhodium is one of the rarest precious metals in the whole world. So, it also means it is the most expensive of all three. It was discovered less than a hundred years ago, and today, the largest rhodium deposit is in South Africa. By itself, it is not dangerous or harmful for humans, but the chances of finding it are slim. Nowadays, around 80 percent of all rhodium is used in catalytic converters, mainly because it effectively cleans internal combustion engine emissions.

Since a catalytic converter is made of all three metals is not hard to understand why this part is so expensive. Its price can change even a few times in a single hour. All according to its supply, demand, and all the speculation that affects rhodium, palladium, and platinum prices.

So, it is not a big surprise that there are a lot of thieves who steal catalytic converters as the catalytic converter scrap price is so high. Since even a tiny amount of those metals is precious, those converters sometimes can cost even a few thousand. But don’t get us wrong, only some of them are so expensive. It all depends on the amount of those precious metals used.