What to Know Before Buying an Aftermarket Catalytic Converter

A shiny, new catalytic converter.

So, you need to replace your catalytic converter and you are looking at aftermarket catalytic converters. There are a number of considerations when looking at replacing a catalytic converter. The catalytic converter is probably the most critical component of the exhaust system, and are standard issue on most vehicles made after 1975.

The catalytic converter is designed to last the lifetime of the vehicle, but frequently improper maintenance necessitates its replacement early. Catalytic converters are also popular items to be stolen from a vehicle. There are three main issues to consider when looking at aftermarket catalytic converters: cost, reliability, and compliance with laws.


After doing about five minutes of research you will find that an aftermarket catalytic converter is going to be a more affordable option. Aftermarket converters are usually about 10 to 20 percent of the cost of an OEM catalytic converter supplied from the manufacturer. The cost will fluctuate for an aftermarket converter based on the level of quality of the part, and the make and model of the vehicle for which you are looking at the replacement.

While it is tempting to pick up a $65 converter when the OEM part is $600 or more, keep in mind there is a reason that part is so much cheaper.


A common theme with aftermarket catalytic converters is that they generally do not last as long as an OEM part will. This is logical, considering the cost; you pay for what you get. You can get a reliable aftermarket catalytic converter, but there seems to be a direct correlation between the cost of the part and the length of time it will last.

If you are looking at an aftermarket part, purchase a high-end aftermarket converter. You will still save a significant amount of money on the part, but will likely get a higher quality part that will last much longer than the lowest priced one you can find. Cheap aftermarket catalytic converters have, in some instances, ruined the entire exhaust and resulted in much more costly repairs being needed than what you were originally dealing with.


Emissions laws vary based on your state and municipality. Some places have none, others have strict emissions regulations. Make sure that you know your laws and what kind of performance the part you buy will get you. It won't do a whole lot of good to save money on an aftermarket part if it can't pass the emissions test where you register your vehicle. The EPA has regulated the performance of the catalytic converter, because it is such a critical component of the exhaust system.

An aftermarket catalytic converter that meets the EPA requirements will be labeled and should be warrantied for five years or 50,000 miles. Catalytic converters from junk or salvage yards are only acceptable to the EPA if they have been tested and labeled.

Buying a cheap aftermarket catalytic converter could cost you big in the long run. With this guide, you will be better equipped to make the right purchase.