Thefts of cars and catalytic converters – an expensive and indispensable auto part – increased in 2020 and weighed on consumers in an already difficult time.

Law enforcement experts, insurance industry insiders, and even mechanics have all seen the spike affect their professions.

According to a study by the National Insurance Crime Bureau, car thefts increased 9.2% in 2020 compared to 2019. In total, the group counted 873,080 thefts over the course of the year, compared to 799,644 in 2019.

In addition to entire cars, thieves saw off catalytic converters from the vehicle’s chassis because the devices contain precious metals, mainly platinum, palladium and rhodium, which have seen prices rise sharply in recent months. Rhodium’s price hovered around $ 28,000 an ounce this week.

Experts say the economic impact of the pandemic and high metal prices are among the factors encouraging thieves. However, consumers can take steps to protect themselves by locking their cars and not leaving their key fobs in the vehicle and installing catalytic converter anti-theft devices.