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Catalytic Converter Cost: Repairs & Replacements

Catalytic Converter Cost: Repairs & Replacements
Kelly Boyer Sagert
Kelly Boyer SagertUpdated September 11, 2023
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
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.

What Does a Catalytic Converter Do?

As mentioned above, a catalytic converter is a critical part of a vehicle’s emission control system. The converter typically sits in the exhaust system and helps control the engine’s combustion.If your car runs on gasoline, a properly functioning catalytic converter can minimize the amount of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and hydrocarbons that come out of the tailpipe.

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.

Why Catalytic Converters Cost So Much

The raw materials used in the manufacturing of catalytic converters can include platinum and other precious metals. The underlying raw materials are typically costly, so that explains why a catalytic converter can cost hundreds of dollars in parts alone.

Labor Cost of Replacing a Catalytic Converter

The labor cost of replacing a catalytic converter can vary from $70 to $130 per hour, depending on your mechanic. Replacing catalytic converters may not cost as much as replacing shocks and struts, but the labor charge can add up. 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 and 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 and 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.Recommended: How Much Does a Timing Belt Replacement Cost?

Why Might You Replace or Repair a Catalytic Converter? 

You might consider replacing a catalytic converter for the following reasons:

Environmental Protection

When your car has a poorly performing catalytic converter, it propels toxic components into the environment. Carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and hydrocarbons are among the tailpipe emissions that can pollute the air. You may decide to repair or replace your catalytic converter as an eco-friendly action.

Better Car Performance

As mentioned above, a bad catalytic converter can cause your engine to misfire. If your car is experiencing performance issues caused by a degrading catalytic converter, repairing or replacing yours can make driving more efficient and enjoyable again.Recommended: Cylinder Head Replacement Cost Guide

Can You Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft?

As mentioned earlier, catalytic converters are made from raw materials that can include platinum. That can make them a prime target for thieves who might sell the part as scrap metal.Fortunately you can take the following steps to help prevent catalytic converter theft:
  1. Install a catalytic converter security shield
  2. Install a motion-detection alarm system
  3. Park in safe areas

Can You Drive a Car 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 You Don’t Replace Your 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.Recommended: Car Axle Repair & Replacement Costs

How Often Do Catalytic Converters Need To Be Replaced?

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of a bad converter and your car is 10 or older, you may want to proactively have your catalytic converter checked out by an experienced mechanic. On average, this part lasts 10 years.

3 Ways To Pay for a Catalytic Converter Replacement

Here are three ways you can pay for a catalytic converter replacement:

1. Cash

If paying for a catalytic converter replacement with cash 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.

2. 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 may accrue. Some credit cards have an introductory 0% annual percentage rate, but average APRs can otherwise exceed 20%.

3. 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 debt is an unsecured personal loan, you wouldn’t need to put up any collateral.Recommended: Car Repair Loans

Typical Cost of Other Common Car Repairs

There are cheap car repairs and expensive car repairs, depending on your maintenance issue. Common car repairs 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 $7,000.Recommended: Average Cost for Transfer Case Replacement & Repairs

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. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a catalytic converter cost?
What happens if you don’t replace your catalytic converter?
How do you pay for a catalytic converter replacement?
Will your car drive with a bad catalytic converter?
What is the cheapest way to fix a catalytic converter?
Photo credit: iStock/Dean Mitchell

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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