Cars revolutionized our lives, as personal mobility is one of the most important aspects of modern society. What once took hours to travel can now be done in minutes. But time wasn’t the only concern — safety was too, as was physical prowess.
Before cars, people were dependent on horses for personal transportation. Horses can be unpredictable and can be dangerous when angered. Plus, they tire just like us and need to rest. Last, they aren’t suitable for nighttime travel, which makes getting around in the dark very dangerous.
Cars are one of America’s most important inventions. They have transformed the way we live, work, and play. But they didn’t just change traveling — they also shaped the society around them to allow them to exist. In 2014, there were 829.9 cars per 1000 people in the United States. Most cities are built with car-centric designs, so it makes sense that most of us drive to work, school, or the grocery store.
Cars are also a significant part of our economy. The car industry employs millions of people, and the U.S. has a lot of automakers like Ford and General Motors, as well as foreign makers like Toyota, Honda, and others.
With such a strong presence in the country, you might think cars are among the biggest polluters. But that’s not the case. Since their invention, automobiles have come a long way, and many cars today produce little emissions.
And a lot of this reduction is thanks to catalytic converters. They work as a filter in your car, removing toxic chemicals from the exhaust system. Without them, there would be a lot of pollution.
This article will teach you everything you need to know about catalytic converters. Their impact on the environment. Their effect on the economy. And how they came to be in our cars in the first place. We will also see the most expensive models and compare their performance and efficiency with conventional converters.
The History of the Catalytic Converter
When cars first appeared in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the technology was crude. Gasoline engines were slow and inefficient, emitting much smog into the environment. If you compare today’s car emissions with back then, it’s easy to see how far we’ve come.
When cars started going widespread, catalytic converters weren’t even a thought. This led to severe pollution problems in major cities, with smog so thick you could barely see the buildings across the street. We like to blame coal plants for that — and these definitely played a role. But, cars and trucks had their fair share of emissions as well.
The first prototypes of catalytic converters were made in France at the end of the 19th century. But the patent came much later in the 20th century to the French mechanical engineer Eugene Houdry.
As with every technology, catalytic converters in their infancy had some issues. The most glaring one was their inefficiency, especially at temperatures below freezing. Still, the technology was promising, as it still worked well to lower emissions, improving air quality in cities.
The first mass adoption of catalytic converters came in 1975 following a regulation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This regulation mandated catalytic converters for every gasoline car, which accelerated the technology’s mass adoption and sped up research and development.
The Catalytic Converter Market Today
Catalytic converters have proven very effective in combating emissions. This is why every single gasoline car out there uses catalytic converters.
Editor’s note: Electric cars do not use catalytic converters, as electric vehicles don’t produce emissions while running.
Every carmaker has its own proprietary design and technology. You can’t attach any catalytic converter to your car and expect it to work. But universal converters work on a wide range of car models.
You could create a funny Frankenstein monster by attaching a Ferrari F430’s catalytic converter to a Chevrolet Spark. It’s going to look ludicrous, but it will work perfectly! Technically, any experienced wielder can make any catalytic converter fit any car.
Catalytic converters are among the most expensive components in modern cars. That’s because a lot of rare minerals go into the manufacturing of catalytic converters. To build their converters, carmakers must pay top dollar to secure a steady supply of palladium, platinum, rhodium, and other rare elements.
The converters’ making process also plays a significant role in determining their value. Modern catalytic converters are cast in ceramic molds before being placed into the exhaust system. This is done to ensure they can take high temperatures without breaking down. And this process is costly.
In fact, these converters are so valuable that thieves target them all the time. They can sell these converters for hundreds or even thousands of dollars each.
Catalytic Converters and Carmakers
As previously mentioned, each carmaker makes its own converters. There are several reasons for this:
- It standardizes the production process, making each unit more efficient.
- It allows carmakers to modify the converter’s performance, making it more suited for their particular engine.
- It gives carmakers more control over the technology’s progress.
Also, most people are forced to rely on their car’s maker to replace stolen or broken catalytic converters. This is because only licensed mechanics can work on modern vehicles, and work on them carmakers require their technicians to pass a certification exam. It’s a brilliant way to extract more money from their products, as sad as that may sound.
There is a strong correlation between a car’s price and its catalytic converter’s value. Obviously, you won’t find a cheap converter on a Lamborghini, much like you won’t find a premium one on a Ford Fiesta. Although you will find enthusiasts who think they’re in real life Need for Speed and modify their vehicles by replacing the catalytic converter with a higher-end one, such as from Ferrari.
But why would they do that? The answer is simple: improving their car’s efficiency and looks.
Why Replace Your Car’s Converter with a Higher-End One?
When you replace your catalytic converter, you replace the entire exhaust system. This is because the catalytic converter is mounted at the very end of the exhaust manifold.
The whole exhaust system consists of the following:
- The exhaust manifold. This is the part connected to the engine. It’s the one that receives the exhaust gasses and redirects them to the catalytic converter.
- The header. This is a pipe that connects to the manifold and collects all the emissions from the engine’s cylinders.
- The intermediate pipe. This is where dangerous gasses (like CO2 or carbon monoxide) are filtered out.
- The cat assembly. This part transforms these gasses into harmless ones, like water vapors and nitrogen.
- The tailpipe – This is the part that sticks out of your car, where the emissions are released.
When you replace your catalytic converter, you’re replacing all these parts with a newer, more efficient model. Not only will this improve your car’s performance, but it will also help reduce emissions.
Some people upgrade their cars’ exhaust systems by installing high-end headers, high-flow catalytic converters, etc. The most popular modification is replacing a car’s stock converter with a higher-end piece, like from Ferrari or McLaren.
The Most Expensive Catalytic Converters
Whether you’re on the market to replace an old converter that broke down or want to improve your car’s performance, a catalytic converter is a significant investment. Not only will it improve your car’s performance, but it will also save you money on fuel in the long run.
Unsurprisingly, the most expensive catalytic converters are those built by luxury carmakers like Ferrari and McLaren. The more expensive a car brand is, the higher quality its catalysts will be.
But you also have to make sure the catalyst fits your car. Some people make the mistake of buying a high-end part only to find out it’s incompatible with their vehicles. However, an experienced mechanic should be able to fit a catalyst into any car model, no matter how old or rare.
Let’s see a few brands that make high-end catalytic converters.
Editor’s note: Beyond buying the catalyst, consider you need to get them installed. Only some mechanics can do this, so you may have to take your car somewhere specialized, which adds to the cost.
Ferrari is among the top 3 most popular luxury car brands worldwide. To make it on the coveted list, you’ll have to buy a Ferrari and then mistreat it. They keep a list of individuals who are banned from buying their cars to protect their reputation. Celebrities who are on the blocklist include Justin Bieber and Floyd Mayweather.
When you buy a Ferrari car, you’re purchasing one of the finest pieces of engineering in the automotive world. And that quality extends to their catalytic converters as well. For example, you will find many F430 catalysts selling around the $3,500 and $4,000 price points. Here’s one model that goes for $4,130.53, and here’s another that sells for $3,837.11.
Other models that sell for a lot of money include the F360’s catalyst (here’s one that sells for $6,389.23) and the F599 GTB Fiorano’s catalyst (here is a model for sale for $5,900.00). Rarer pieces from old models that are no longer produced can fetch even higher prices. Look at this beautiful F50 catalyst from 1995 that goes for $12,211.89.
Like Ferrari, Lamborghini is one of the top luxury car brands in the world, especially among younger buyers. Their cars are costly — for a good reason. They are a work of art.
If you’re looking for a Lamborghini catalytic converter for your car, you have many options. The picture of this used Aventador exhaust, priced at $016.68, shows it’s been heavily used. Still, high-quality products feel the toll of time less than cheap, low-quality ones.
Other catalysts that sell for a lot of money include the Diablo’s (here are the left and right hand that goes for $5,300 each — yes, you need both to have a full exhaust), the Murcielago’s (here’s a piece that goes for $2,699, and here’s a brand new set that goes for $6,323), and the Aventador’s (here’s one that sells for $6,999.99).
For all the talk about luxury supercars we’ve had so far, what’s up with a truck brand? Ram’s catalytic converters are pretty good. And expensive.
Ram trucks are made for people who want to handle heavy jobs and long journeys. And that’s why their catalytic converters are on par with luxury supercars — they can take a beating and still perform at top quality.
For example, you can buy this 2004-2007 Dodge Ram catalytic converter for $4,907.00. Or this Dodge Ram 1500 catalyst for $2,990. Another excellent piece is this catalytic converter for the Dodge Ram 1500 that sells for $4,347.
But be careful, as these are made for Ram trucks with different specifications than the average car models. Make sure to do your research before buying one.
Ford builds cars and trucks that are well-beloved by the American public. And their catalytic converters match the build quality of their vehicles, making a great brand for anyone looking to buy one.
The good news is that you can find Ford catalytic converters for a wide range of their car models, including the E-150 (here’s one that goes for $6,451, and here’s one that goes for $6,390). Switching model here’s a Ford Explorer catalyst selling for $4,224. And here’s a Ford Freestar catalyst for $4,051. And obviously, we couldn’t mention the legendary Ford Mustang. This Mustang G.T. catalytic converter is selling for $3,510.
BMW cars are known around the world as a luxury brand that offers high-performance cars with advanced technology and premium materials. And their catalytic converters are no exception. If you’re looking to buy a high-end catalytic converter that will offer premium quality, then BMW is the brand for you.
Here’s an example of a MOS M4 GT4 catalyst that sells for $5,311.46. And here’s another one for a Sedan that goes for $4,580.11. Rounding up our list we have this BMW 328I 328is M3 catalytic converter that will be yours for $3,547.
Catalytic converters are essential to ensuring that your car runs smoothly and doesn’t cause any harm to the environment. Replacing your car’s stock catalyst with a high-end one will improve your car’s performance and efficiency.
One thing to note is that while we link to online catalysts for sale, it’s better to first shop at local auto parts stores and ask if they have the catalytic converter you need. Places like scrap yards, junkyards, and auto repair shops carry many of these. They may also be available to install them for you for a fee.
You don’t need to buy a premium catalytic converter, though. Consider purchasing a universal one if you’re replacing yours because it’s broken. These usually have the same materials as their more expensive counterparts, but they sell for much less. They’re also easier to install, giving you more options when picking a mechanic to do the job.
Good luck with your search. With the right catalytic converter, your wallet and the environment will thank you.