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The Impact of Rising Kia and Hyundai Car Thefts on Insurance

With a 10.7% market share in the US, there’s no doubt that both Kia and Hyundai are popular with car buyers.

They like the price. They like sporty models. They like buying a foreign vehicle with a good track record for not needing major repairs.

But if you’re shopping for a car, you need to consider something important: the risk of theft. Of all the vehicle makes and models, Kia and Hyundai have the highest car theft rates.

One of the challenges that owners face is finding Kia and Hyundai insurance coverage. The theft statistics have made insuring these automobiles a challenge.

What has made Kias and Hyundais such a theft risk? Read on to learn more about getting insurance for these cars.

What Started the High Interest in Kia and Hyundai?

Why are Hundais so expensive to insure? Why are Kias so costly to insure? The answer to both questions goes back to the theft rate for these car models.

The whole issue for certain models of these brands started through social media. The city of Milwaukee might not aspire to this claim to fame, yet, it’s the place where the high theft rates began.

More on what started the thefts shortly. But what happened as a result of all the thefts by Kia and Hyundai owners was a lawsuit. Many owners allege that automakers must be accountable because they sold unsafe cars.

The cars lacked a fundamental anti-theft feature, making them highly susceptible to theft. Owners feel this puts them and their cars in jeopardy.

In 2022, there were 1,001,967 cars stolen, with a high percentage of these being Kias and Hyundais. This million-plus created $8.9 billion in losses, specifically for insurance companies and car owners.

So, while Kia and Hyundai have made some inroads to correct the issue for car owners, many are frustrated that with these enormous losses, car insurance rates have gone through the roof.

In some cases, owners of these cars are now even struggling to find insurance for their cars. If they can find it, it’s often high priced due to all the thefts.

List of Kia and Hyundai car models that have high insurance prices due to their susceptibility to theft.

The Influence of a TikTok Challenge

So, how did the spike in thefts really occur? The reality is that social media has shown its ugly hand in providing information on the ease with which these cars can be stolen.

What’s touted as the Kia Challenge Video on TikTok showed viewers how easy it was to steal these cars. While it started on TikTok, it quickly gained traction on YouTube and other social media platforms.

The challenge first appeared on TikTok in 2021 and then again regained viral status in 2022. While the early thefts were in Milwaukee, cities across the US saw huge spikes in theft rates in these cars.

Milwaukee saw rates for thefts in Kias and Hyundais double in less than a year. In St. Louis, the theft rate went to 157% in just half a year. Cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York also saw similar spikes in theft rates.

The TikTok video showed viewers how the ignition could be bypassed with a simple USB cord, and a Kia or Hyundai could be stolen.

TikTok attempted to prevent the spread of this information. Every time a video with the information got posted, it was quickly taken down by the social media platform.

However, the damage was done, and the information was available for many unsavory viewers to follow up with theft. Viewers took advantage of the information in the short window it was up.

Milwaukee had 70% of all cars stolen were either Kias or Hyundais. At the same time, Chicago had 50% of all cars stolen from these automakers.

Of course, a call gets made to the insurance company for each car stolen for a claim. It didn’t take long for the insurance industry to take note of this trend and react.

Why Car Insurance Coverage Isn’t Available

Kia and Hyundai insurance issues quickly followed suit, and the brand led with statistics in many cities for the most stolen cars.

The simple reality is that insurance companies don’t want to pay out costly claims for stolen vehicles. And they were suddenly paying out a whole lot of money.

Kia and Hyundai owners started to see problems with getting insurance coverage, especially in big cities. Insurance companies declared that the Kia and Hyundai models were too easy to steal.

They realized you could steal one of these vehicles if you watched the TikTok video and had a flathead screwdriver and a USB cable.

It was reported in 2022 by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety that the theft rate for Kias and Hyundas was nearly double that of other auto brands.

Of course, Kia and Hyundai reacted and created a go-around solution to stop the ease of theft. But their theft rate remains high, and it seems the damage was done to many insurers.

However, if you own a Kia or Hyundai, don’t despair. There are still insurance options available. With the right safety precautions, you might even get a discounted rate.

Why These Models Are Easier to Steal

The social media self-proclaimed Kia-Boyz showed the ease with which you can break into the car and start the car without the key.

Technically speaking, the Kia and Hyundai models in jeopardy aren’t defective. The automaker didn’t do something wrong when assembling them.

The reality is that they are inexpensive cars, comparatively speaking to other models. Kia and Hyundai simply left off the necessary parts to prevent thefts.

The part’s called an engine immobilizer. An immobilizer is an important anti-theft device standard in most modern cars. It prevents the engine from starting if the wrong key or key fob’s used to start the engine.

Once thieves learned that many Kia and Hyundai models from 2015 to 2021 lacked the engine immobilizer, they were complete targets.

A thief simply breaks a window if it’s locked. They remove the steering column. Then without the immobilizer, they merely jam a makeshift key into the steering column to start the car.

So, what worked as a makeshift key? You read the reference to a USB cord. Older model USB cords with prongs get used to jam into the steering column and stand in as the key. Most thieves found that flathead screwdrivers were the fastest and easiest to get the car running.

Kia and Hyundai owners who experienced theft were often aghast at how quickly they would become victims.

They might park their car and be away from it for the shortest period, only to come back to a missing vehicle.

Car thief trying to break into a car with a screwdriver. Car thief, car theft.

Kia and Hyundai Models Impacted

The key to whether a Kia or Hyundai was a target for thieves was whether they had the installed safety device, the engine immobilizer.

In most cases, the cars at risk were built between 2015 and 2021.

Although when you look closely at those on the list, you might find some years and models missing. For some reason, Kia and Hyundai included the immobilizer in some models for specific make years.

Hyundai models and years at risk are as follows:

  • 2015-2021 Hyundai Accent (all body styles)
  • 2015-2021 Hyundai Elantra (two-door and four-door)
  • 2015-2021 Hyundai Kona
  • 2015-2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
  • 2015-2021 Hyundai Tucson
  • 2015-2018 Hyundai Veloster

Kia models and years at risk are as follows:

  • 2015-2021 Kia Forte
  • 2015-2021 Kia Optima
  • 2015-2016 Kia Optima Hybrid
  • 2015-2021 Kia Rio (all body styles)
  • 2015-2021 Kia Sedona
  • 2015-2016 Kia Sorento
  • 2015-2021 Kia Soul
  • 2015-2021 Kia Sportage

The Highway Loss Data Institute reports that theft rates dropped again once the models had immobilizers or were added to existing models.

Response to Theft

Kia and Hyundai models are both manufactured by the Hyundai Motor Group, which faces lawsuits from car owners. The lawsuit claims the automaker didn’t do everything possible to keep owners safe.

Hyundai Motor Group will litigate the case and has not responded to the issue specifically.

They have made moves to address the issues in models that don’t have the engine immobilizer already.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that if a model can get a software update to address the problem, owners should take the vehicle to their dealer.

For some models of both Kias and Hyundais, the automaker provides free steering wheel locks. This is an obvious clue to thieves that they can’t open the steering column and get the vehicle started.

Another thing the automaker has done is make available for purchase the Compustar glass-break sensor security kits. These prevent the glass from breaking, so the cars have an extra layer of security.

It should be noted that these are not free, and owners can purchase this added layer of security, which Hyundai has come under fire for.

If you own a Kia or Hyundai model, you should call your local dealership to see if your model is at risk. If your car didn’t come with an engine immobilizer, the dealership should offer workaround safety options.

Consequences of Theft for Kia and Hyundai Owners

The owner will call their insurance company if a Kia or Hyundai gets stolen. Comprehensive coverage will help foot the bill for either damages or loss.

Depending on the level of coverage an owner has and how much they owe on the vehicle, their car insurance may not cover it all. More on the types of auto insurance you should have for your car a little later.

The implications go beyond just those who’ve faced an unfortunate theft, though. Car insurers are paying out multiple claims for the many Kias and Hyundais that have been stolen.

This impacts all who are insured because when insurance companies pay lots of claims, rates will ultimately rise for all car owners.

Insurance companies base their rates on anticipated risk. When the risk increases, especially for Kia and Hyundai owners, then it’s likely the rates will also follow suit.

Car insurance rates are always based on many factors, including:

  • Driver’s record
  • Make and model of the car
  • Where the driver lives and stores the vehicle

It also depends on how many claims the driver has made in the past. Insurance companies also consider the risk associated with insuring certain cars, which many Kia and Hyundai owners are realizing.

Another consequence of these high theft rates involves the resale of these cars. As the risk for theft becomes more widely known, fewer people want to purchase these cars, especially older models that may not have the engine immobilizer in place.

Owners who once thought they owned a car with positive resale value find the opposite might be true.

Two Major Insurers Not Covering Kia and Hyundai

As if there weren’t many challenges already for Kia and Hyundai owners, two major auto insurers made it more challenging for those hoping to purchase a Kia or Hyundai in the future.

As of February 2023, both Progressive and State Farm Insurance announced they are halting new policies for Kia and Hyundai vehicles.

These are two large auto insurance companies, so the implications for auto insurance became more challenging but not impossible. They will also continue to provide insurance for those who already have policies with them.

While this might seem like an extreme move by State Farm and Progressive, insurance experts say it’s pretty typical and even expected. Insurance gets based on risk, greatly increasing for specific Kia and Hyundai models.

It’s also been widely reported that some local insurance agencies through State Farm are still writing policies.

You should expect rate hikes from both State Farm and Progressive if you have a Kia or Hyundai model vehicle. Remember, part of how insurance companies base their rates involves risk.

With this new social media craze hit and theft rates skyrocketed, the risk increased. So, while State Farm and Progressive aren’t writing new policies for these autos, the existing policies will also be impacted.

Kia and Hyundai Respond to Thefts

How have Kia and Hyundai responded to this problem facing their autos?

They have not addressed why the engine immobilizers got left off to begin with. Experts suggest the answer to that is easy. Kia and Hyundai want to compete with other automakers at low prices.

Leaving off the immobilizer saved some money at the time of manufacturing.

Since the problem has gone viral, the automakers have provided two options to address the issue. Owners can request the steering wheel lock from local dealerships.

If they have a newer model, Kia or Hyundai, it might also be fixed with a software update also available at local dealerships.

What Kia and Hyundai Owners Should Do

If you own a Kia or Hyundai, you might not know if this security problem impacts your model.

First, Kia owners should call customer assistance at 1-800-333-4542, or Hyundai owners should call 800-633-5151 to find out more about available fixes for their model vehicle.

Let’s take a closer look at what steps Kia and Hyundai owners should take once they know if the security breach impacts their model.

Free Lock

Kia and Hyundai quickly made thousands of steering wheel locks available, which they distributed to law enforcement agencies in states where theft rates were soaring.

If you have a model that doesn’t have an engine immobilizer, call your local police department to see if they have locks. If they don’t, contact the local dealership.

Smart Parking

One smart theft prevention strategy for all drivers is to practice smart parking.

Park in well-lit areas. Don’t leave your car running unattended. Always lock your car and take your keys with you.

If you have a susceptible Kia or Hyundai, ensure the anti-theft device is evident when the car is parked, so thieves know they can make a quick getaway.

Alarm System

If you can’t locate a steering wheel lock from the manufacturer, you can purchase your own relatively cheaply. You want a visible steering wheel lock that tells thieves your car’s secured.

You can also purchase an aftermarket alarm system that can get added to your vehicle. These often come with a visible red blinking light to let anyone looking into the car that it’s protected with an alarm system.

You can also have a professional alarm system installed in your vehicle.

It’s worth noting that many car insurance companies offer special discounts for vehicles with additional anti-theft devices.

Install Lighting at Home

Consider where you regularly park your car. Adding some exterior lighting to your home might be worthwhile if you park in your driveway. Motion sensor spotlights can get added for a few hundred dollars and can act as a deterrent for thieves under a spotlight.

You can add doorbell cameras to your home for a few hundred dollars. Popular brands include Google Nest and Ring. These doorbells come with surveillance video features that can help deter thieves.

Track Your Car

Another option you might decide to add to your vehicle is a GPS tracker. Kia and Hyundai are not providing this option; it would be an out-of-pocket expense.

GPS trackers also are intended for theft prevention. Instead, if your vehicle is stolen, it can help to locate it.

It can act as a deterrent if you make it visible that you have a GPS tracking device on the vehicle.

Check Your Insurance Coverage

You should check your car insurance policy if you own a Kia or a Hyundai model missing the engine immobilizer.

You want to know you have the complete coverage you would need to either repair or replace your vehicle if it does get stolen.

Not Out of Insurance Luck Kia and Hyundai Owners

State Farm and Progressive have indeed stopped temporarily issuing new policies for Kias and Hyundais. They are still willing to continue covering existing customers.

But it will likely cost you. Because of the high risk associated with these vehicles, your rates with these insurers will likely increase dramatically.

Since costs are always a consideration for car insurance, you should consider shopping around. Insurance providers are still willing to write policies for Kia and Hyundai models.

Start by shopping around for other options. As you consider who will cover you, make sure you mention that you mention if you have the steering wheel lock, vehicle software update, or an installed alarm system for your vehicle.

How to Get Your Car Covered

Many companies are still willing to write policies for these automobiles. Some will even provide insurance discounts if you show you have safety features to help prevent theft.

It’s also important to remember that the price of your policy is based on more than just what car you drive. Your age, driving record, and credit history are all factors for the cost of your insurance.

What Car Insurance Coverage You Need

As you consider your coverage, you might wonder what types of car insurance you need to ensure you’re fully covered and protected.

Most states require collision coverage. This means you’re covered if your car is wrecked in an accident.

Comprehensive coverage protects your vehicle from damages from outside sources, like when driving down the street and a rock hits your car.

If you’re driving and cause an accident on someone else’s property, the property damage coverage protects you from the damages caused.

Liability coverage protects you from any injuries from a car accident.

Many motorists also add uninsured or underinsured coverage. You’d be protected if you’re in an accident with another car and the driver doesn’t have insurance coverage.

Challenges of Kia and Hyundai Insurance

Kia and Hyundai insurance coverage got more challenging due to TikTok’s Kia Challenge. If you drive a Kia or Hyundai automobile, you want to see if your car is missing the engine immobilizer. You also want to check on your insurance coverage.

If your insurance rates go up or you’re looking for new coverage, we can help. Check out our insurance options for Kia and Hyundai models and get a quote today.

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