Cash for Clunkers

Tara Hornor
Written byTara HornorUpdated - October 19, 2023
Tara Hornor
Tara Hornor

Tara Hornor is an experienced writer and entrepreneur with over two decades of experien... | See full bio

John Rush
Edited and Fact-Checked byJohn RushEditor
John Rush
John Rush
Automotive Content Accuracy Auditor|||

With over four decades of experience, John Rush is a highly accomplished business owner... | See full bio

Catalytic Converter Issues?

Your car not running well? Struggling with power, sudden drop in fuel economy, failed an emissions test, or have an odd, pungent odor from the car’s exhaust?

This can’t be good news!

It likely means the catalytic converter is malfunctioning and you need to do something about it immediately.

Fortunately, there are several great Universal Catalytic Converter options for consideration. Please check out this post breaking down top rated options.

This can be a big repair – read on to better understand your options and if it’s worth fixing your junk car or sell the catalytic converter to salvage yard. The replacement costs may be more than the value of your junk car and it could be time to sell. 

Catalytic Converter Cost
Catalytic Converter Cost


Finding out how much it costs to replace a catalytic converter is important for answering these questions.

First Step: Figure out if your catalytic converter it is failing… this is an expensive repair! You need to be sure.


Check out this quick and informative video to quickly diagnose the issue below:

What is a catalytic converter?

To put it in a nutshell, this is an emissions control device housed in the exhaust of most vehicles.

The catalytic converter function is to reduce toxic gases and pollutants produced by internal combustion engines of cars as a byproduct of their design, and convert them into gases that are less toxic. The inside of a catalytic converter is a honeycomb structure made up of different particles such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium, which the exhaust gases pass through and interact with, thus reducing their toxicity. These gases are emitted from the tailpipe.

How does a Catalytic Converter Work

How does it work?

The design of catalytic converters is fairly simple. There aren’t any moving parts or elaborate computer tech involved. The inside of the catalytic converter houses a ceramic honeycomb component that is coated in catalyst particles of platinum, palladium, and rhodium. When the vehicle operates, exhaust gases flow through the catalytic converter and three harmful compounds – hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide – are superheated, and react with the catalyst that converts them into emissions that are less harmful.

How to Spot the Signs of a Faulty Catalytic Converter


The Car Failed Its Emissions Test

Several states have made emissions testing compulsory. If the catalytic convertor isn’t functioning properly, then your car is likely to be released more exhaust gases than it should.

The Check Engine Light is On

If the catalytic converter is malfunctioning, the oxygen sensor in the exhaust stream could be sending a signal to the engine control unit to indicate something is wrong. That is why the engine check light goes on. Take your car in for a diagnostics test, so you can know for sure if the cause for this phenomenon is a poor catalytic converter.

Rotten Egg Smell Coming From the Exhaust

The unpleasant odor of rotten eggs is often due to a compound called hydrogen sulfide. Typically, this is converted into sulfur dioxide that is totally devoid of any smell, but when the catalytic converter isn’t working the way it should, the hydrogen sulfide comes out of the exhaust pipe with a horrible smell.

The Car’s Acceleration Is Poor

An excess of carbon buildup in the honeycomb design of the catalytic converter can eventually lead to failure. It leads to partial blockage in the converter, which adversely effects vehicle performance. Internal combustion engines depend on airflow to operate. When the converter is blocked, it generates an improper amount of backpressure in the exhaust system, which compromises airflow. The lesser the airflow, the lesser the power, which means poor acceleration!

Fuel Economy Issues

If your catalytic converter is blocked up, then your engine won’t be getting the airflow it needs to function properly. It must work harder to generate the same power, which means using up more fuel.

Catalytic Converter Cost

What are the reasons for the failure of a catalytic converter?

The common logic is that catalytic converters don’t have moving parts, so they ought to last forever. It is for this reason that they are usually designed to last for at least 10 to 15 years, which is the lifespan of a car. But the components of a vehicle are all interlinked, so if one fails to operate properly, the effects cascade onto the rest. Moreover, no one keeps a car for 15 years anymore! These are the general reasons for catalytic converter failure:

  • The oxygen sensor isn’t functioning properly.
  • Spark plugs or wires are faulty.
  • Oil or unburned fuel has seeped into the exhaust.
  • Antifreeze has leaked into the exhaust.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Catalytic Converter? 


To determine the average cost to replace a catalytic converter, sever factors must be considered, such as:

Vehicle make and model

If your car model dates back to the nineties, then the catalytic converter replacement is going to be much less than compared to a car bought in the 2000s. Depending upon the model, the cost of the unit could be a few hundred bucks up to a couple thousand to replace a catalytic converter!

Quality of Replacement Unit

Remember not all catalytic converters are created the same. There are universal fit units that cost less than $100, and direct fit, purpose-built converters can cost $1000 or more. There is also a big difference in the internal design of a converter. As stated, they are made of catalyst metals like palladium, platinum, etc. Cheaper units generally have a much lower density of these particles, so they are less efficient and fail quickly. Expensive units have high catalyst density, often up to 6 times as compared to the budget versions.

Labor Cost to Replace a Catalytic Converter

Labor costs to replace a catalytic converter can range anywhere between $70 and $130 an hour. The amount of time needed to replace the catalytic converter must be factored in as well, which varies for every car. It varies depending on the placement, accessibility, and what your mechanic needs to do to replace the unit. They might have to cut out the old, welded converter and clamp in a new one. You have to pay more for vehicles with dual exhaust systems, as it means twice the labor cost and expenditures of components.

 failing catalytic converter cost

Diagnosis and repair of other problems


There could be other things wrong with a vehicle that can cause the catalytic converter to fail. Some issues might only be able to be detected by professionals once they examine the car. Those problems will cost extra to fix.

Depending upon the choice of catalytic converter quality and type of vehicle you own, the average cost to replace a catalytic converter is in the range of $1000-2500. Is it worth the cost to repair your junk car or should you replace it? If you feel your car has run its course, then replacing a catalytic converter is of no use, and it might be time to consider getting cash for your car. You can use the money to make a down payment on your next car!





How it Works!

Verified by

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.