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

Platinum, rhodium and palladium are some of the elements known as platinum-group metals, otherwise known as PGM's.

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.

How Much Is a Catalytic Converter Worth?

The Short Answer...

Depending on the age and type of vehicle, the PGM's in a catalytic converter can be worth anywhere from $150 to a very rare $800. The new and/or smaller cars being closer to $150. The larger, older vehicles being closer to $400 and up. As for that $800, maybe if you own a tank. Do keep in mind that what the PGM's 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. And for goodness sake, do ask around and shop around.

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

Platinum has been currently bouncing around the $800 an ounce or $25 a gram range as of January, 2019. Palladium has been increasing in value over at least the last 6 months and is at around $1400 an ounce or $48 a gram range. Rhodium has been steadily rising over the last two years and is around $1800 an ounce or $58 a gram. Needless to say, prices fluctuate greatly; the value and quantity ratio of the three metals aren't exactly carved in stone either. Current prices and price-ratios can be found here for platinum and palladium, note the historical charts further down their page. Rhodium prices can be found here. Price information resources come and go. If the links stop working, a Google search will quickly find you a new one.

Catalytic converters really don't add much salvage value to a scrapped or totaled car anymore, exceptions of course being the older and larger vehicles. 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 written by the USGS about cerium recovery from catalytic converters. The article has more information scattered around about catalytic converters, what recyclers might be willing to pay for them, platinum and the other PGM's, other recycling information, etc. [Update. As of January 2019, prices stated in the referenced government article are woefully obsolete, but the rest of the information is still valid.]

Platinum Nugget. Source: USGS

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