Used catalytic converters continue to be a hot commodity in California, fetching high prices due to precious metal content. But there are important legal considerations around buying and selling used ‘cats’ in the Golden State. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the used catalytic converter market in California.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: It is legal to buy and sell used catalytic converters in California if you follow relevant regulations, including record-keeping of transactions and not tampering with or removing converters still installed on vehicles.

California Laws on Used Catalytic Converter Sales

When it comes to buying and selling used catalytic converters in California, there are specific laws and regulations that sellers and buyers must adhere to. These laws are in place to protect the environment and ensure that the converters being sold are in compliance with state regulations.

Here are some important aspects of the California laws on used catalytic converter sales.

Business Licensing and Record-Keeping Requirements

Businesses involved in the buying and selling of used catalytic converters in California are required to obtain the necessary licenses and maintain detailed records. This includes keeping track of each transaction, including the seller’s information, the converter’s serial number, and the date of purchase.

This information is crucial for law enforcement agencies to track down stolen converters and hold individuals accountable for illegal activities.

Restrictions on Buying from Unverified Sellers

In an effort to combat the theft and illegal trade of catalytic converters, California has implemented restrictions on buying from unverified sellers. This means that individuals or businesses looking to purchase used converters must ensure that the sellers are reputable and can provide the necessary documentation.

This helps to prevent the sale of stolen converters and encourages a transparent and legitimate marketplace.

Fines and Penalties for Violations

California takes the enforcement of laws regarding used catalytic converter sales seriously. Violations can result in significant fines and penalties. For example, individuals found in possession of stolen converters can face criminal charges and hefty fines.

Businesses found to be in violation of the licensing and record-keeping requirements may also face penalties, including the suspension or revocation of their licenses.

It is important for both buyers and sellers to familiarize themselves with the laws and regulations surrounding used catalytic converter sales in California. By doing so, they can ensure compliance, contribute to a cleaner environment, and avoid legal troubles.

How to Safely Buy Used Catalytic Converters

Buying used catalytic converters can be a cost-effective solution for replacing a faulty or damaged converter in your vehicle. However, it is crucial to ensure that you are purchasing a legitimate and legal product. Here are some tips to help you safely buy used catalytic converters:

Tips for Spotting Stolen Converters

Unfortunately, stolen catalytic converters are a common problem in many areas. Here are some tips to help you spot stolen converters:

  • Buy from reputable sellers: Purchase from trusted sources such as reputable auto parts stores or licensed scrap yards.
  • Check the VIN: Make sure the converter you are buying matches the vehicle’s identification number (VIN) to avoid purchasing a stolen one.
  • Look for signs of tampering: Inspect the converter for any signs of tampering, such as freshly cut or welded areas.
  • Ask for proof of ownership: Request documentation or receipts from the seller to verify the legitimacy of the converter.

By following these tips, you can reduce the risk of inadvertently purchasing a stolen catalytic converter.

Questions to Ask Sellers

When buying a used catalytic converter, it is essential to ask the sellers certain questions to ensure that you are making a wise purchase:

  • Reason for selling: Ask the seller why they are selling the converter. This can help you gauge the legitimacy of the sale.
  • Vehicle compatibility: Inquire about the specific make, model, and year of the vehicle the converter was removed from. This will ensure it is compatible with your vehicle.
  • Condition of the converter: Ask about the overall condition of the converter, including any known issues or damage.
  • Warranty information: If available, ask about any warranty or return policies offered by the seller.

Asking these questions will provide you with valuable information and help you make an informed decision when purchasing a used catalytic converter.

Checking Certification Stickers

When buying a used catalytic converter, it is essential to check for certification stickers. These stickers indicate that the converter meets the required emissions standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Here’s what to look for:

Certification Sticker Description
Executive Order (EO) Number An EO number indicates that the converter has been approved by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and is legal for use in California.
Federal Certification Label A federal certification label indicates that the converter complies with federal emissions standards and is legal for use in all states.

Inspect the converter for these certification stickers and make sure they are valid and legible. This will ensure that you are purchasing a catalytic converter that meets the necessary regulations.

Remember, buying a used catalytic converter requires caution and attention to detail. By following these tips and asking the right questions, you can safely purchase a used converter for your vehicle.

Selling Used Converters You Own

So, you’ve decided to sell your used catalytic converter in California. Here’s what you need to know about selling converters you own:

Documenting Ownership

Before selling your used catalytic converter, it’s crucial to have proper documentation proving your ownership. This is important to prevent any legal issues or potential disputes with buyers. Make sure to keep any receipts, invoices, or other documents that show you are the rightful owner of the converter.

Finding Buyers and Negotiating Price

Once you have the necessary documentation, the next step is to find potential buyers for your used catalytic converter. There are several avenues you can explore, such as online marketplaces, local scrap yards, or even specialized converter buyers.

When negotiating the price, it’s essential to do your research and have an idea of the current market value for used converters. Factors such as the make, model, and condition of your converter can impact its price. Consider getting quotes from different buyers to ensure you’re getting a fair deal.

Shipping/Dropping Off Your Converter

Once you have found a buyer and agreed on a price, you’ll need to arrange the logistics of shipping or dropping off your used catalytic converter.

If you’re selling your converter online, you may need to package it securely and ship it to the buyer. Be sure to follow any specific instructions provided by the buyer to ensure a smooth transaction.

If you’re selling locally, you may need to schedule a time to drop off your converter at the buyer’s location. Make sure to communicate and coordinate with the buyer to avoid any unnecessary delays or confusion.

Remember, it’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the current laws and regulations regarding the sale of used catalytic converters in California. This will help you ensure that you are following all necessary legal requirements and protecting yourself as a seller.

Installing Used Catalytic Converters on Vehicles

CARB Emissions Compliance

When it comes to installing used catalytic converters on vehicles in California, it is essential to ensure compliance with the regulations set by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). CARB has strict emissions standards in place to reduce air pollution and protect public health.

Before purchasing a used catalytic converter, it is crucial to check if it is CARB-approved for use in California.

Did you know? California has the most comprehensive and stringent emissions regulations in the United States. The state’s efforts have significantly contributed to the reduction of harmful pollutants in the air.

Professional vs. DIY Installation

When it comes to installing a used catalytic converter, vehicle owners have the option to either hire a professional mechanic or attempt a do-it-yourself (DIY) installation. While a professional installation ensures expertise and may offer warranties, it can be more expensive.

On the other hand, a DIY installation can save money but requires a good understanding of the vehicle’s exhaust system and the necessary tools.

Pro tip: If you choose to go the DIY route, make sure to research and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Additionally, it is recommended to consult with a certified mechanic or exhaust system specialist to ensure proper installation and compliance with emissions regulations.

Inspecting Engine Readiness Codes

After installing a used catalytic converter, it is important to ensure that the vehicle’s engine is functioning optimally and that the emissions control system is working effectively. One way to do this is by checking the engine readiness codes using an OBD-II scanner.

These codes indicate whether all the emissions sensors and components are functioning properly.

Insider tip: If the engine readiness codes show any issues related to the catalytic converter or emissions system, it is recommended to address them promptly. Ignoring these issues can lead to decreased fuel efficiency, increased emissions, and potential damage to other engine components.

For more information on installing used catalytic converters and ensuring compliance with California’s emissions regulations, visit the official CARB website at

Scrap Metal Alternatives for Old Converters

When it comes to disposing of old catalytic converters, there are several alternatives to consider that can help you get rid of them responsibly. These options not only ensure proper disposal but also provide potential financial benefits. Here are some popular alternatives:

Junkyard Sales

One option is to sell your old catalytic converter to a junkyard. While the payout may vary depending on the condition and type of converter, it can be a convenient way to get some cash for your unwanted part.

Many junkyards are willing to buy used converters because they can extract valuable metals like platinum, palladium, and rhodium from them. However, it’s important to note that not all junkyards accept catalytic converters, so it’s best to call ahead and inquire about their policies.

Recycling Programs

Another alternative is to participate in recycling programs specifically designed for catalytic converters. These programs aim to recover valuable metals from used converters while also minimizing environmental impact.

Some states, including California, have established legislation requiring automotive repair shops and dismantlers to only sell catalytic converters to licensed recyclers. These programs often offer competitive prices for used converters, making it a lucrative option for those looking to dispose of their old parts ethically.

Sell to an Authorized Dismantler

If you want to ensure that your old catalytic converter is responsibly recycled, selling it to an authorized dismantler is a great option. Authorized dismantlers have the experience and know-how to properly handle and dispose of these parts while adhering to legal requirements.

They have the necessary permits and licenses to carry out this process, ensuring that the valuable metals are extracted and reused efficiently. Additionally, selling to an authorized dismantler may also protect you from potential legal issues that could arise from selling converters to unauthorized buyers.


The used catalytic converter market remains strong in California, but there are right and wrong ways to buy, sell, and install previously owned converters. By following state laws and purchase best practices, you can capitalize on the value of old catalytic converters while staying on the right side of regulations.

We’ve covered the key legal and practical steps for capitalizing on used catalytic converters in California. Remember to document transactions, vet sellers/buyers, and get professional installation if you don’t want to run afoul of emissions laws in the Golden State.

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