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Catalytic Converter Cost: Repairs & Replacements

Catalytic Converter Cost: Repairs & Replacements
Kelly Boyer Sagert
Kelly Boyer SagertUpdated March 14, 2022
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If you believe that your vehicle’s catalytic converter is no longer functioning well, you’ll likely be wondering just what the catalytic converter replacement cost might be. Here you can learn the symptoms of a bad catalytic converter, whether you can keep driving while deciding how to fix the issue, and ways to pay for repair or replacement costs. 

What is a Catalytic Converter? 

The catalytic converter is an important part of a vehicle’s emission system. It converts hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide and water. This process helps to protect the environment by reducing the amount of harmful substances in the atmosphere. In appearance, a catalytic converter resembles a muffler. It’s located near the car’s engine by the muffler. 

How Much Does a Catalytic Converter Cost? 

Prices can vary significantly. Options include universal ones (they aren’t created for a specific vehicle) and direct-fit ones, which are specifically designed for a vehicle’s year, make, and model. As one benchmark, a muffler shop may charge $200 to $300 to weld in a new universal model. For many newer vehicles, though, only direct fit catalytic converters will work—with pricing ranging anywhere from $300 to $2,500. 

Catalytic Converter Replacement Cost: Labor Fees 

Costs can vary from $70 to $130 per hour, depending on your mechanic. Ask the shop if the price they are quoting includes parts and labor. 

Symptoms of a Bad Catalytic Converter 

Signs include:
  • Loss of engine power
  • Unusual smell
  • Engine light
  • Car misfire
  • Rattling & stalling
  • Emissions test

Loss of Engine Power 

With a bad catalytic converter, gasses will build up in your vehicle instead of being appropriately released, which puts pressure on your car’s engine. You may notice that your vehicle isn’t starting well. Plus, it can be hard to accelerate. 

Unusual Smell 

This car part converts sulfate in your vehicle’s fuel to a less harmful substance but, when a catalytic converter isn’t working properly, it doesn’t manage the sulfate well. This substance remains in the fuel and produces a smell of rotten eggs.

Engine Light

When your check engine light goes on, this can indicate a variety of issues—and one of them is a problem with your catalytic converter. So, when this light turns on, don’t ignore it. Find out the cause. 

Car Misfire 

With a faulty catalytic converter, your vehicle’s engine can misfire. When the engine is misfiring, this can further shorten the lifespan of a catalytic converter and trigger a meltdown.

Rattling & Stalling 

The loss of engine power described above could make your vehicle stall out—and, although a bad catalytic converter won’t directly cause rattling, it can damage another part: a honeycomb mesh. When this mesh is damaged, the vehicle may very well rattle.

Emissions Tests 

If your state requires emissions testing, your vehicle may fail the test because the catalytic converter isn’t effectively doing its job. So, to pass the test to continue to drive legally, you need to maintain this car part.

Why Might You Replace or Repair a Catalytic Converter? 

When your car has a poorly performing catalytic converter, it propels toxic components into the environment. You may decide to repair or replace yours as an eco-friendly action. Plus, nobody wants to deal with the performance issues described above and, if caused by a degrading catalytic converter, repairing or replacing yours can make driving more efficient and enjoyable again.

Can I Drive With a Catalytic Converter Problem? 

Early on, you may be able to drive with plugged parts. As you continue to notice some driving problems, though, the damage to the catalytic converter may well be getting worse and affecting your car’s engine. 

What Happens if I Don’t Replace My Catalytic Converter? 

Eventually, this can lead to serious enough engine problems that you won’t be able to drive your car. As the flow of exhaust lessens, the engine can’t get the necessary amount of air and, eventually, it can shut down altogether.

How Often Do Catalytic Converters Need to Be Replaced? 

On average, this part lasts 10 years. This means that if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms and your car is approaching, at, or beyond this age, you may want to proactively have your catalytic converter checked out by an experienced mechanic.

How Do I Pay For a Catalytic Converter Replacement?

Ways to finance it can include:
  • Cash
  • Credit card
  • Personal loan

Cash 

If paying for your catalytic converter costs out of pocket is no strain on your budget, then that can be a straightforward way of taking care of the expenses without having to pay any interest charges.

Credit Card

It isn’t always practical to pay for your catalytic converter repair cost or replacement cost from cash in your savings or checking account. When that’s the situation, credit cards can be a convenient solution. You can pay over time and perhaps earn rewards. If the balance isn’t paid in full, though, interest charges will accrue.

Personal Loan 

You can typically get a lower interest rate on a personal loan than on a credit card (although monthly payments may be higher). You’d make regular installment payments until the balance is paid off and, if the loan is unsecured, you wouldn’t need to put up any collateral. 

Typical Cost of Other Common Car Repairs

Other car repairs/replacements that you may need to make include:
  • Engine replacements
  • Airbag replacements
  • Transmission replacements
Here’s more about each.

Engine Replacement Cost 

The cost of engine replacement will vary, based on your vehicle and whether you're actually replacing the engine or having it rebuilt. A new engine may well cost $4,000 (or several thousand dollars more). If your engine is worth rebuilding, you can save some money. This may cost $2,500 to $4,000 but, because this may take a couple of weeks to complete, you could have rental car fees to pay, too.

Airbag Replacement Cost 

This protective cushion can inflate during a collision to protect you and your passengers during a crash. If yours is deployed, the cost of airbag replacement may be $1,000 to $2,000. If multiple ones act to protect you during an accident, costs can go up. In some cases, you can have an airbag reconfigured to save money. Other times, you may be able to find a used steering wheel with a still-functional airbag, which can also translate into savings.

Transmission Replacement Cost 

Although your vehicle’s engine creates power, the transmission regulates how much reaches your wheels at a particular time. The cost of transmission replacement can be $2,500 to $4,500 when one can be rebuilt and a brand new one coming in between $4,000 and $8,000.

The Takeaway 

So, how much does it cost to replace a catalytic converter? There are a range of possibilities, including when a universal model is usable and when a direct fit one is desired or required. If you're wondering, “How much does it cost to fix a catalytic converter?”, there are times when mechanics may be able to weld together a solution at a more affordable price. 

3 Auto Loan Refinance Tips

1. Refinancing your auto loan could lead to lower monthly car payments and more money in your budget. Lantern by SoFi can help you find the right auto refi loan for you.2. Lengthening the term of your auto loan can decrease your monthly payments and free up funds for other financial goals. 3. You may have trouble refinancing the loan on a car that is worth less than what you owe. For more info, check out When Is the Right Time to Refinance a Car?
Photo credit: iStock/Dean MitchellThe tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.SOLC0122006

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a catalytic converter cost?
What happens if I don't replace my catalytic converter?
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About the Author

Kelly Boyer Sagert

Kelly Boyer Sagert

Kelly Boyer Sagert is an Emmy Award-nominated writer with decades of professional writing experience. As she was getting her writing career off the ground, she spent several years working at a savings and loan institution, working in the following departments: savings, loans, IRAs, and auditing. She has published thousands of pieces online and in print.
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