How much is a catalytic converter worth? This is a question we hear a lot in the converter recycling industry and the answer is both simple and complex at the same time. The simple answer is, if you are selling one converter to a scrap yard or recycling facility, “It’s worth what they will offer you.” The real answer is more complex – and that is – a converter’s value is determined by the precious metal loadings it contains.
That being the case, how can a seller, or buyer for that matter know with certainty, the value of each converter? In truth, they can’t. While converter recycling companies often have guides to price converters, these guides can only provide ballpark estimates for individual units, not the actual values of every end-of-life catalytic converter. It’s important to understand that any price sheet or app price is derived from the laboratory analysis of individual units. This means that any price you are given is an estimate that comes from precious metal loadings that were present in the unit(s) that have been analyzed – not the unit you hold in your hand.
The value of a single catalytic converter can be different from unit to unit, and this happens for a few of reasons. First when converters are made, they are loaded with precious metals that adhere to an environmental standard outlined by the country or state where a vehicle is schedule for sale. The process for loading converters with precious metals leaves room for metal loading variations while meeting the standard. Simply put even a brand-new converter that is the same as another will have a slightly different loading and recycling value right from the start.
Second depending on the environmental standards of the country/state the vehicle is being sold in there can be different loading requirements for what would appear to be the exact same unit. Meaning very specifically a unit that was originally sold in California is more valuable than a unit that was shipped to Texas because there are higher emissions standards in California. Therefore, if a company only has data on the California unit the Texas piece is overvalued.
Lastly, every converter will live a different life regardless of where it was originally sold. Meaning that over time the loading in a converter will be depleted with use. It is hard to give an exact amount of depletion, but it is fair to say that the unit could lose between 5% to 20% of its original recycled value during a vehicle’s life span. Further to this point if the same type of converter enters the recycling stream after 50,000 miles, it will have a higher value than the same on entering at 500,000 miles of use.
With all these factors in mind, when a converter buyer is evaluating an individual unit, they need to ensure that they will profit from the transaction. To do so, all the above considerations will be made. Further they must consider the present precious metal market and the market that they will be able to sell the unit at along with their profit margin for the transaction.
In the case of the single unit being sold it may be beneficial for the seller check around. From the perspective of the buyer, it is best to have a robust database and be selling the units in bulk to a converter refiner or toll refiner. Most importantly for any catalytic converter transaction, both the buyer and seller should have a good understanding of what factors are being considered when a unit is being priced.
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