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Prices for Catalytic Converters-Huge Differences

We have a 2002 Camry w/120K on it, with CEL on. Car is running fine, no loss of power or gas odor. Took it to dealership and they ran diagnostic, got code PO420. I asked if it could just be Oxygen sensor, and rep said they checked temp in and out of system and that somehow indicated problem was converter not just sensor. They gave estimate as $700+ for part and installation, we contacted Amicus and they gave est of less than half that – $300. Wondering if difference in price is to be expected, or if Amicus is using rebuilt part. With 120K on the car, maybe rebuilt is OK? I know dealers mark up is greater than other shops, but a little leary of such a great diff in price. Thanks for help.

There’s no such thing as a rebuilt catalytic converter. Catalytic converters are new no matter where purchased from. Dealers mark up their parts prices a much as three times for what an aftermarket part costs. Also, are you sure the aftermarket cat is a direct fit part? Or is it a universal fit cat? In which case the old cat is cut off the pipe and the new cat is welded in place. If the aftermarket cat is a direct fit, I wouldn’t hesitate in installing it.


I agree with Tester. Cat converters are not rebuilt. (Their precious metals can be recycled, however.)

There are many makers of new catalytic converters. I recently replaced one on one of my cars. I ordered online a universal fit converter for about $69 and had my local shop install it for a charge of about one hour’s labor. You can consider taking the same approach.

The AMicus price was for a universal fit – is that OK or should I only go with direct fit? SteveF used universal (post below yours) without a problem, so maybe it’s OK to use?

Oops, shop for converter isn’t Amicus it is Meinke. (acc to dealer we also need transmission fluid “flushed”, but learned in this board that flushing is almost never needed, so checking w/Amicus on just changing fluid).

An aftermarket converter will be fine and much cheaper than the factory OEM. You need to make sure the converter meets the OBDII standard. There are some aftermarket converters that do not.

You’re incorrect in the assumption that because the dealer is higher the markup is larger; at least between the dealer and customer. The dealer is using a factory OEM part and the price that dealer pays for the converter is probably far more than the retail price one may pay for an aftermarket from the local parts house. The biggest markup is between the factory and the dealer.

You need to be careful when buying a universal cat. They can run at a different temp than the OEM, which throws off the vehicle’s oxygen sensors-- this’ll leave your CEL on permanently. And if you live in a state that’s anal about emissions inspections (like TX), then you’re officially screwed.

Shouldn’t your emissions system be under warranty for 10 years?

If you get the Meinke catalytic converter, don’t expect your CEL to shut off. I got a rebuilt catalytic converter for my Civic. According to emission testing, the emissions are in line, but if my state still conducted testing, it would not pass because of the CEL. Check to see if Meinke will guarantee that its rebuilt catalytic converter will cancel your CEL in writing.

The EPA emission warranty on the catalytic converter(s) and computer(s) is eight years/80,000 miles. All other emission components are warranted for two years/24,000 miles.


if this was MY car the first thing i would do would be to replace both O2 sensors. yes, i know that it MAY be the CAT, but its a whole lot cheaper for the sensors, than a cat.

BUT. i am curious how the cat died in only 120K miles? how many times do CATs die? any thoughts on that?

why not find a local mechanic, and get a second opinion. the dealership are always higher, and if the transmission flush is any example, less than honest.

The CEL (Check Engine Light) never says that a part is bad. It says that a circuit’s voltage (which includes a component) doesn’t have the voltages expected by the engine computer.
The catalytic converter has an oxygen sensor in front, and an oxygen sensor in back. They send signals to the engine computer. These signals (voltages) are compared to each other, and to a stored value, by the engine computer. The signals can be wrong because: an oxygen sensor(s), or wiring, or connector may be faulty.
A scan tool is used to look at the signals from the oxygen sensors. A digital multimeter (voltmeter) is used to check wiring. connectors, and the oxygen sensors.
Are the oxygen sensors, wiring, and connectors, faultless?
When a catalytic converter goes bad, it’s often made that way by the engine (burning oil, antifreeze, overly rich or lean fuel mixture, silicone poisoning, etc). If engine problems made the cat. go bad, those same things will make a new one go bad.
Someone else could give an evaluation of the catalytic converter temperature in and out test. How valid a test is it? Can it be performed wrong?

Please check this page on aftermarket cats for your car, so you can have an idea on prices:
also take a look on this page about the error message:

I think you should read a little bit more so you can make a good decision for your car. If you decide to test the Ox sensor, use an adequate voltmeter capable of reading mV and with an input impedance of 10M ohms or take to a independent garage for a second opnion. Good luck.

I agree with cappy. Replace the oxygen sensor after the catalytic converter and see if P0420 trips again. You don’t need to replace the sensor between the engine and the converter. Here’s and explanation of the code and wha to do:


A code P0420 may mean that one or more of the following has happened:

* Leaded fuel was used where unleaded was called for
* An oxygen sensor is not reading (functioning) properly
* The engine coolant temperature sensor is not working properly
* Damaged exhaust manifold / catalytic converter / exhaust pipe
* Retarded spark timing

Possible Solutions

The simplest thing to do is to reset the code and see if it comes back.

Next step is to measure the voltage at the oxygen sensor on Bank 1 (the rear sensor, or the sensor after the converter). The voltage should be low and steady (~200mV, depends on the vehicle). If the voltage varies (e.g. 100mV to 600mV) then it’s time to replace the catalytic converter. In fact, it would be a good idea to test each oxygen O2 sensor while you’re at it.

One thing to note is that many vehicle manufacturers offer a longer warranty on emissions-related parts. So if you have a newer car but it’s out of it’s bumper-to-bumper warranty, there still may be warranty on this type of problem. Many manufacturers give a five year, unlimited mileage warranty on these items. It’s worth checking into.

a code P0420 99% of the time is a direct indicator of a cat failure. they should be able to look at the signals from the sensors and see if they are working. there are other error P codes for convertors which typically come up if it is really a sensor problem. 120k miles is not uncommon for a cat these days.

if you plan on keeping this car for a while, you need to buy a factory cat from the dealer. the reason the cats cost 3 times as much is they have 3 times as much catalyst inside. aftermarket cats are junk and rarely last much more than a year. they get really hot and burn out. you get what you pay for. blame the price on the chinese.

Thanks everyone! After reading the posts here, we took camry to meinke for 2nd opinion. The guy said his diagnostics did not show anything wrong with the converter (!) but indicated something with the gas line. He also said he examined cat for signs of damage and it looked fine. He put in a $10 additive, drove the car a bit and the CEL went off (that was about a wk ago) He said if CEL comes on again that he would put in cat and credit $40 cost of diagnostic to cost of repair. May need a new cat yet, but so far so good!