A catalytic converter is a catalytic converter, right? The dealer is just marking them up to make a profit. Well, not exactly. If that were the case, then it should be legal in California to use an aftermarket converter, but it is not.
I want to explain why an aftermarket catalytic converter is different, and if you have to replace yours, why you should use an original one that came with your Prius.
Will An Aftermarket Catalytic Converter Work On My Prius?
The short answer to this question is yes, and most aftermarket catalytic converters will work on your Toyota Prius, depending on the generation. The main issue though, is not if it will work but for how long.
What Are The Differences In Aftermarket Vs. OE Catalytic Converters?
An OEM cat converter on your Prius was designed and built very differently than the cheaper alternatives. One of the significant differences that separate the converters is the density or amount of precious metal material inside the converter.
If you do not believe me, ask all the thieves stealing OE converters off Prius and see how much they are getting for them. Anywhere from $500 to $1000 for a used OE Toyota Prius catalytic converter, working or not.
So, there are more precious metals inside the converter, what does that have to do with anything? Everything. A converter works when it "fires" or lights off and begins working, the precious metals make a reaction and change the harmful gasses from the gas engine into less harmful gasses.
The difference comes down to how your Prius is running. Is your Prius consuming engine oil, engine coolant, or have a misfire? Did you know those issues wreak havoc on your catalytic converter? When your Prius has a converter that "wears out," it has taken a severe beating to get there. It also means that replacing it with an aftermarket one that is not as robust will surely not last as long.
Ultimately the decision is yours; unless you live in California, then you have no choice. However, if you do not have the same regulations as California, you have a decision to make should your cat converter if it is faulty or is stolen. OE or Aftermarket?
An OE cat converter will cost you more and by quite a fair margin, but it will also live longer and pollute less with how robust it is. It will keep your check engine light off, and it is 50 state legal. It will also make your Prius easier to sell if you find a Californian buyer.
An aftermarket converter will keep your check engine light off should you need to pass a smog test. However, it may not last as long if your Prius has higher miles and is consuming oil and/or coolant.
An OE cat converter is better if you are planning to keep your Prius long term. Should you wreck, your Prius or something terrible happen; you can always scrap the converter to get a few dollars more.
An aftermarket cat with a high mileage car may last you quite a few years, but it could also fail (which many do) within 2 to 5 years. If that time frame for you is respectable, then an aftermarket cat is for you.
Keep in mind though it will not convert the exhaust gasses and the OE cat, so if helping keep the air clean is a big deal, maybe consider opting out.
Whatever you do, remember it is your choice. I hope that no one has to go through replacing a stolen or bad cat converter, but if you do remember your Prius will take care of you if you take care of it, OE is the best way to go.
Thank you all for reading. Stay safe out there and keep your Prius where you can see it. Have a great day, and I will see you in the next story.
Watch this Toyota Prius truck with a cute little bed and click to subscribe to Torque News Youtube for daily automotive news analysis.[embedded content]
Peter Neilson is an automotive consultant specializing in electric cars and hybrid battery technologies. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Service Technology from Weber State University. Peter is also an Instructor of Automotive Technology at Columbia Basin College. Peter can be reached on Linkedin and you can tweet him at The_hybrid_guy on Twitter. Find his page on Facebook at Certified Auto Consulting. Read more of Peter's stories at Toyota news coverage on Torque News. Search Toyota Prius Torque News for more in depth Prius coverage from our reporters.