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My check engine light came on and the diagnostic code says it is a problem with the catalytic converters so I'm getting ready to schedule an appointment with a mechanic to take care of that.

The dealer (who did the diagnostic) claims that both of them are probably bad and they run about $1K each. Maybe he was including labor, but it sure didn't sound like it from the way he said it. In any event, I'm gonna shop around if it is going to be that expensive. Before I do, however, I did some of my own research on parts retailer web site to make sure I don't get ripped off.

When I searched on my make/model it came up with a variety of options, but they seemed to fall into two price ranges ~$40 and ~$400. I'm not enough of a car guy to know the difference, but that seems like a massive price swing for the same kind of part.

Now I am really confused. Can someone who understands exhaust systems explain what the difference in a $40 and $400 catalytic converter is in terms that a non-mechanic would understand?

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Based on the link provided, I assume the ~400$ piece looks like 2 converter based on original equipment(OE) design, or as when the car came out of factory. Those at ~40$ looks more like an aftermarket replacement, with 1 converter and some installation required (welding and exhaust modification) while the OE is bolt-on.

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    I wasn't really asking about why the price changes for the same converter over time, that makes sense to me. More about why the different converters vary in price so much. But I think you answered that too, upvote for you. – JohnFx Jan 24 '12 at 15:29
  • Yeah, that what happen when you do 2 thing at the same time. I fix that. Thanks. – Gabriel Mongeon Jan 24 '12 at 16:30
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One of the reasons is all the materials used in the convertor itself. Platinum, Palladium,Rhodium,Cerium, Iron, Manganese, Nickel, Copper, Aluminum Oxide, Titanium Oxide, Silicon Dioxide, Ceria-Zirconia,and Ceramics.

Platinum sells for $ 934.25 an ounce

Palladium sells for $ 907.80 am ounce

Rhodium sells for $1475.00 an ounce.

There is also the cost of manufacturing the unit itself. The processes involved etc.

  • For my car, you can find identical manifold converters ("maniverter") that range from anywhere between 300 and 650 in the same store. It would make sense if they were different type, but they are all the same OE part. The only thing I can think of for a 100 % price difference is that the cheaper one has less precious metals, but I don't know how much practical difference that will make for passing the emissions inspections. Logic would say the less "absorber" metals, the higher the emissions. Of course, it is not required to run a car, but it might also affect performance a little bit? – Juha Untinen Apr 23 at 11:01

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