A LEADING car marketplace has offered top tips for residents in Basingstoke and Deane following recent spikes in catalytic converter thefts.

Last month, Basingstoke Rural Police issued a warning to motorists in the area after a number of catalytic converter were stolen.

And this wasn't the first spate, with incidents in nearby Hart and Test Valley also causing concern.

Now, experts at car marketplace Heycar have offered some helpful information and handy tips to avoid being a target of these crimes ...

What is catalytic converter theft and how can you prevent it?

Catalytic converters are packed with precious metals to neutralise harmful exhaust gasses. The scrap value of catalytic converters is so high, that some of the metals are worth more than gold and a catalytic converter can sell for more than £500 on the black market.

With the rise of hybrids in recent years, the problem has got worse. These contain a higher percentage of precious metals and as they're newer, they're much less corroded. Be sure to check out our Guides section to get more information on hybrids, including best small hybrids.

Here are heycar’s top 10 tips to keep your catalytic converter safely where it should be.

1) Park to prevent access underneath - Strategic parking can put thieves off.

In order to steal the parts, thieves need to slide under the vehicle and use cutting tools to detach the box from the pipes around it. This means parking your car close to fences, walls or kerbs will make theft much more difficult.

2) Mark it to protect it

Some garages will etch a unique serial number onto your catalytic converter so it can be easily identified if it is stolen. You'll also be provided with a sticker to be displayed in your window that indicates your catalytic converter is marked - which prevents offenders from targeting your vehicle.

3) Ask a garage to weld the bolts shut - make it difficult for it to be removed

If your catalytic converter is bolted on, you can ask for your local garage to weld the bolts to make it more difficult to remove.

4) Catloc - This solution is one for Toyota owners

You can purchase devices that lock in around the converter to make it more difficult to remove. Toyota has its own device, called a Catloc. The Catloc has over 45 bespoke fitments, so the device should fit quite a few models in the range. The Catloc costs between £200 and £250 (depending on model), which includes VAT and fitting by a Toyota retailer. While this isn't a cheap solution, replacing a catalytic converter can cost well over £1000, including fitting. Hybrid models (like the Toyota Prius), which contain a higher percentage of precious metals, are also particularly at risk. The Catloc can't guarantee theft prevention but it does make cutting the cat converter out more difficult.

5) Install security camera(s)

Installing security cameras (CCTV, Ring Doorbell etc) seems like an obvious answer, and it is. Unfortunately, if you don't park on your driveway then this can be significantly more difficult to implement. There are alternative options to keep an eye on your car when you park it up, like wildlife trail cameras - but realistically it's best to park in areas where there's possible CCTV filming anyway - like well-lit, well-traversed streets if you can't park off-street. With the cost of CCTV systems falling and becoming an easy job to install (not requiring specialist services), it's never been simpler to keep an eye on your car. It's worth considering for peace of mind generally, not just for catalytic converter theft.

6) Park in well lit areas

This is another one that's more to do with common sense and lowering the chances of a crime being committed generally - it's not specific to catalytic converter theft. Thieves are often opportunistic and the equipment required to cut out a cat converter is pretty heavy-duty, but once a vehicle is targeted - thieves tend to wait for an opportunity to strike as the theft itself takes a matter of minutes. If you park in an area that's well lit, which people regularly walk past, you're less likely to come back to find your catalytic converter has been pinched.

7) Install alarm(s)

If your vehicle doesn't have an alarm and you live in an area where cat converter thefts are on the rise (big cities like London), it's definitely time to invest in one. The noise of the alarm should be enough to scare off any thieves.

8) CatClamp - Ingenious device will deter thieves

The CatClamp 'clamps' to the exhaust pipes, not the converter, allowing different sized and shaped converters to be protected. This eliminates the risk of damaging the converter, heat shield or oxygen sensors. Locked to the vehicle’s chassis up to seven times, it makes stealing your catalytic converter very difficult for a thief in a hurry. Three options are available, starting at £99 (CatClampEconomy) and topping out at £350 for the CatClamp MAXX³.

9) Keep your car stored your vehicle off road

This option simply won't be suitable for everybody, but if you have a garage you can use - it makes sense to keep your vehicle in there, especially if you live/work in an area where catalytic converter thefts are common. If you don't have a garage you can access, try to park alongside other vehicles or in designated parking areas - i.e. car parks, multi-storeys etc.

10) Block access to the underside of fleets

If you operate a small fleet, consider obstructing access to vehicles with high ground clearance by parking lower vehicles close by. Also, keep an eye out for anyone who seems to be working underneath cars nearby, they could very well be scouting out their next target vehicle.