How Much Platinum / Palladium / Rhodium in Catalytic Converters – And Approximate Worth

Latest update: April 19, 2020
Platinum, rhodium and palladium are some of the elements known as platinum-group metals, otherwise known as PGMs.

The PGM's reside in the honeycomb region of the catalytic converter. The much-older catalytic converters originally used pellets, before the more efficient and less expensive honeycomb design came into use.

The amounts and proportions of PGM's depends on the age and type of vehicle.
  • Cars, light-duty trucks, and motorcycles average total is 2-6 grams.
  • Larger-engine SUV's and trucks average total can range anywhere from 6-30 grams.
28.35 grams equals an avoirdupois ounce. 31.1 grams equals a troy ounce.

Gasoline-powered-vehicle catalytic converters use all three of the aforementioned rare-earth metals. Diesel-powered-vehicle catalytic converters use only platinum and rhodium. As a side note, PGMs are also in heavy demand in the electronics industries.

How Much Is a Catalytic Converter Worth?


The Shorter Answer...

Depending on the age and type of vehicle, the PGMs in a catalytic converter can be worth anywhere from $200 to a rare $1,000 or more. The newer and/or smaller cars being closer to $200. The larger, older vehicles could have catalytic converters worth $600 and up. As for the $1,000 and the skyrocketing price of rhodium, older vehicles with the original converter are becoming more and more valuable; something to consider when selling an older vehicle.

Regarding the catalytic converter, keep in mind that what the PGMs are worth is not what you will be paid. There is the labor, cost of metal extraction, overhead, and the buyer's expected profit margin; not to mention the greed factor. It would also be wise to be able to prove ownership. Otherwise, a phone call might be being made inside while you are talking with the potential buyer outside. Driving in with the actual vehicle or at least the vehicle's paperwork will give you more legitimacy and probably even a higher price. Do extensively ask around and shop around. As a side note, oxygen sensors also use PGMs and have a recycle value.

The Longer Answer...

As a general rule: the older the vehicle, the more platinum present in the catalytic converter. Because of the high cost of platinum, industry continually strives to reduce the amount of platinum necessary by the use of other metals and materials and/or design changes
  • Well, the pandemic has certainly played havoc with platinum prices; a major crash and burn, followed by a significant (though partial) bounce back. Current price as of this update is around $786 a troy ounce or $25.27 a gram. However, that troy ounce price could change either way by $50 in a heartbeat.
  • The palladium prices followed the same pattern as platinum, though there has been an erratic decline after the bounce back. Currently (as of this update) the price is around $2,220 a troy ounce or $71.38 a gram.
  • Rhodium prices were a major crash & burn. There was a bounce back, but prices are still about half of what they were 2 months ago. As of this update, the price now stands at around $4,000 a troy ounce or $128.62 a gram.
Needless to say, prices fluctuate greatly; not only the value, but also the quantity and usage ratio of the three metals aren't exactly carved in stone either. Depending on the price and efficiency of each metal and/or its alloys, the composition and design the catalytic converter manufacturers use may change frequently. Then again, each change buries the manufacturer in the government bureaucracies of retesting, recertification, and no doubt many other laws and regulations; both federal and for each state. This could very well obstruct the manufactures from being able to quickly respond to PGM price changes. This would be especially applicable to after-market manufacturers.

Current prices for platinum and palladium can be found here, note the historical charts as well. Rhodium prices can be found here. Price information resources come and go. If the links stop working, a Google search will quickly find a new one.

Catalytic converters have really not added much salvage value to a scrapped or totaled car in the last several years, exceptions of course being the older and larger vehicles. However, the significant price increases of PGMs during the last year, due to the heavy demand by the electronics industry, is changing that. And of course, thefts are still happening from those vehicles whose catalytic converters are easily accessible.

It turns out the information to write this page was not easy to find. Fortunately, I stumbled across much of it buried in a government-archived article about catalytic converter cerium recovery written by the USGS. The article has more information scattered around about catalytic converters, what recyclers might be willing to pay for them, about platinum and the other PGM's, and other recycling information, etc. The prices stated in the government article are woefully obsolete, but the rest of the information is still valid.

Platinum Nugget. Source: USGS

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6 comments:

  1. Can you explain why Palladium is still being used as a catalyst in cars and trucks when platinum is 40% cheaper? At the time Palladium was first used it was about 1/3 the price of Platinum, so that made sense at that time to use it, but why now? Thanks for this tip.
    C E Carl

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This explains it pretty well:

      https://seekingalpha.com/article/4270121-platinum-vs-palladium-key-factor-holding-back-platinum-demand-and-price

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    2. Platinum is mainly used for diesel engines, which are being phased out in europe. Petrol engine cats require more palladium. That is why platinum is down and palladium is up.

      Delete
  2. Platinum Group Metals and Rare earth metals are not the same. The demand for rare earth metals is due to the Electric and Hybrid vehicle market. Rhodium is mainly used to reduce the formation of NOx palladium is not as efficient as platinum at converting HCs and CO to CO2 and H2o. It is costly however to convert over to another metal in manufacturing of catalyst.

    ReplyDelete
  3. How much palladium or other PGM is used in the average new hybrid? The electric car? I understand rare earth metals used in electric motors is also essential to production.

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  4. How much moneys worth of precious metals do u get out of one converter I and going to use a plasma cutter to open them up will that work

    ReplyDelete