Why some Hyundai and Kia cars are easy prey for car thieves (2023)

Some Hyundai and Kia cars and SUVs are missing a "key" anti-theft device, making them an easy target for car thieves.

An insurance industry group says these cars are stolen at nearly twice the rate of the rest of the auto industry because their engines lack "immobilizer" systems, which is an electronic security device that prevents the car from being started without the correct key.

The thefts apparently started in the Milwaukee area two years ago and spread to multiple Midwest cities and as far away as Colorado and New Mexico after instructional videos appeared on social media.

The Highway Loss Data Institute, a unit of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, found that Hyundais and Kias without immobilizers had a vehicle theft claim rate of 2.18 per 1,000 insured vehicle years. The rest of the industry combined had a rate of 1.21. An insured vehicle year is equal to one vehicle insured for one year.

The institute, which issued its findings on Thursday, compared vehicles from the 2015 through 2019 model years. It studied vehicle theft claims from 2021.

Chip keys, or transponders, which started to show up in the mid '80s, communicate with a sensor in the vehicle's ignition switch. If the registration code on the chip matches the ID codestored in the car's computer system, the engine will start. If the codes don't match, the engine won't start, adding an important layer of protection against car thieves.

Immobilizers not included in cheaper models

Transponder-based immobilizer systems are not present in several lower-priced versions of vehicles from the two South Korean automakers such as the Kia Rio and Sportage and the Hyundai Accent, the institute said.

"Our earlier studies show that vehicle theft losses plunged after immobilizers were introduced," said Matt Moore, senior vice president of the institute. "Unfortunately, Hyundai and Kia have lagged behind other automakers in making them standard equipment."

In the 2015 model year, immobilizers were standard on 96% of other manufacturers' models, the institute said. But they were standard on only 26% of Hyundai and Kia models. The carmakers haven't explained their decision to not include immobilizers on some models.

Car theft hacks go viral

Videos show thieves prying the ignition cover off the Hyundai and Kia vehicles, then using a screwdriver or USB cable to start them and drive away.

Last year in Milwaukee, 66% of the 10,476 stolen vehicles were Hyundais or Kias, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper. The number of thefts has slowed in the city so far this year. Through September 12, there were 6,048 vehicles taken, 58% of which were Hyundais or Kias, Milwaukee police said Thursday.

One 17-year-old theft suspect in a viral video about Kia thefts was arrested after police used the video and an anonymous tip to track him down, the Journal Sentinel reported. He could face up to 22 years in prison.

Hyundai and Kia both conceded in statements that thieves are stealing some of their vehicles and said they meet federal safety standards. "It is unfortunate that criminals are using social media to target vehicles without engine immobilizers in a coordinated effort," Kia said.

All 2022 Kias got immobilizers either at the start of or during the model year. Hyundai said all models produced after November 1, 2021 have immobilizers as standard equipment.

Kia says it's working to provide steering wheel locks at no cost to owners in affected areas to deter thefts. Hyundai said it's also providing the locks to local police to distribute to Hyundai owners, and that in October, it will start selling a security kit that targets the thieves' methods.

The institute's Moore said the vulnerable Hyundais and Kias rank among the 20 most popular vehicles with thieves, a distinction normally reserved for high-powered or expensive vehicles, or pickup trucks. The Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat had the highest rate of theft claims.

Many of the vulnerable Hyundais and Kias are often bought by lower-income people. "These are relatively inexpensive vehicles when purchased new," Moore said. Owners of some of the models may have dropped comprehensive insurance to save money, and may have had to replace the cars on their own, he said.

To help prevent theft, owners should roll up windows, lock doors and take the key or fob with them, the National Insurance Crime Bureau says. They should park in well-lighted areas or a garage. If they have to park outdoors, owners should consider installing motion-sensor lights.

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Are Hyundai and Kia easy to steal? ›

Stealing the affected Kia and Hyundai models became a social media trend in 2021, with some users posting instructional videos showing how easy they are to steal. These models are roughly twice as likely to be stolen as other vehicles of similar age, CNN reports, looking at data from the Highway Loss Data Institute.

Why are Kia and Hyundai cars being stolen? ›

Kia vehicles from model year 2011 to 2021 and Hyundai vehicles from model year 2016 to 2021 are especially vulnerable due to the absence of anti-theft devices that have long been standard for other automakers.

Why are thieves targeting Kia cars? ›

The "Kia Boyz" challenge, as its called, has thieves targeting certain models of 2010-2021 vehicles by makers Kia and Hyundai that use a mechanical key for access instead of a key fob or push-to-start access. The thieves are reportedly taking advantage of a design flaw in those vehicles.

How are thieves stealing Kias and Hyundais? ›

And the automakers say they're not to blame for any of it. Thieves have learned how to steal the cars using USB cords in ignitions built without immobilizers, which prevent engines from starting without computer chips in keys. In St. Louis County alone, almost 1,000 Kias and Hyundais have been stolen so far this year.

How can I protect my Hyundai from being stolen? ›

A new anti-theft security kit Hyundai developed in partnership with Compustar is now available. The kit includes both a kill switch and an alarm. Hyundai told Automotive News that the kit will be available at all of its 820 dealers in the U.S. and will take around two and a half hours to install.

How do I protect my Kia from being stolen? ›

Meanwhile, steering wheel locks can prevent the Tik Tok-fueled thefts. Hyundai and Kia have distributed locks to police departments to offer a free deterrent to Hyundai and Kia owners.

What is the number 1 most stolen car? ›

Topping the list of the most stolen cars in America in 2020 is the 2006 Ford F-150. This is the second year the pickup has topped the listing, with over 44,014 units stolen in 2020, 13% higher than in 2019. Pickup trucks are clearly a favorite amongst thieves, especially given their power, reliability and versatility.

What Hyundai models are stolen the most? ›

Due in part to the ease with which these vehicles can be stolen, the 2019-21 Hyundai Accent is one of the most frequently stolen vehicles, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Highway Loss Data Institute.

Can I sue Kia if my car was stolen? ›

The truth is that you can file a lawsuit for just about any theft.

Why are people stealing Hyundai cars? ›

Thieves are targeting Kia and Hyundai cars across the country, and law enforcement says it's because social media challenges are pointing out a glitch in the cars. Some Kia models built between 2011 and 2021, and some Hyundai models built between 2016 and 2021 have a key issue making them easy for theft.

Why are so many Hyundai being stolen? ›

In fact, 2015-2019 Hyundai and Kia models are roughly twice as likely to be stolen as other vehicles of similar age. The reason is many of these vehicles lack some basic auto theft prevention technology included in most other vehicles, even in those years, according to the HLDI.

Which Kia models are being stolen? ›

The method works on 2011-2021 Kias and 2016-2021 Hyundais that use a steel key, not a fob and push-button start. They are targeting cars that lack engine immobilizers — devices that don't allow the car to start without the correct smart key present, per the automakers.

What year Kias are easy to steal? ›

Statistics further suggest that models of Hyundai and Kia manufactured from 2011 to 2021 are most at risk because these cars lack an engine immobilizer and can be operated with a traditional mechanical key.

What year Hyundais and Kias are being stolen? ›

The suit alleges that Kia vehicles manufactured from 2011 and 2021 and Hyundai vehicles manufactured from 2015 to 2021 were equipped with traditional key ignitions that were deliberately created without engine immobilizers.

Are 2022 Hyundais being stolen? ›

In 2022, the New Orleans Police Department says 465 Hyundais manufactured between 2015-2021 and 389 Kias made between 2010-2021 have been stolen. Police say the models all have mechanical-keyed ignitions and lack an engine immobilizer. But it's not just New Orleans that is feeling the effects of the immobilizer issue.

What Hyundai models are affected by theft? ›

Hyundai and Kia wouldn't provide the model years that don't have the immobilizers but Forbes reports models affected include 2016-2021 Hyundai Accent, Elantra, Elantra GT, Sonata, Veloster, Venue, Kona, Tucson, Santa Fe, Santa Fe Sport, Santa Fe XL and Palisade as well as 2011-2021 Kias that use a key to start the ...

How can I make it harder for someone to steal my car? ›

Keeping your car safe: Tips for preventing auto theft
  1. Lock your doors. ...
  2. Remove your keys from the vehicle. ...
  3. Do not leave a spare key near your vehicle. ...
  4. Close the windows. ...
  5. Park in well-lit areas. ...
  6. Install an audible alarm system and anti-theft device. ...
  7. Install a vehicle immobilizer system. ...
  8. Install a tracking system.

Which car Cannot be stolen? ›

Modern cars, like the BMW 3 Series and Tesla Model S, have impeccable security features that make them nearly impossible to steal. Modern anti-theft technologies have played a massive role in deterring thieves and lowering crime rates.

What is Kia doing about stolen vehicles? ›

The Stolen Vehicle Recovery feature gives eligible Kia Connect subscribers an extra sense of safety and security by using Kia Connect technology and trained Kia agents to work with law enforcement to help recover stolen vehicles.

What is the hardest vehicle to steal? ›

Tesla Model S and Model X

The Model S remains not only one of the best electric vehicles on the market but also one of the safest in 2022. A Tesla Model S's owner can track the car's location using a smartphone, perhaps the biggest deterrent to theft.

What are the two easiest cars to steal? ›

Typically, luxury vehicles and sports cars rank highest on the “most-stolen” list, but Hyundai and Kia thefts have been on the rise, rivaling pricier models in recent years.

What do car thieves look for? ›

Thieves will steal anything valuable, but the most common items stolen from cars tend to be electronics, personal information, and accessories.

Has Kia fixed their theft problem? ›

The majority of Kia vehicles in the United States are equipped with a key fob and “push-button-to-start” system, making them more difficult to steal. All 2022 Kia models and trims have an immobilizer applied either at the beginning of the model year or as a running change.

What cars have no immobilizer? ›

Transponder-based immobilizer systems are not present in several lower-priced versions of vehicles from the two South Korean automakers such as the Kia Rio and Sportage and the Hyundai Accent, the institute said.

What cars are affected by the Kia challenge? ›

You Own a Kia or a Hyundai

Thefts of Kia's and Hyundai's have skyrocketed because of the Kia challenge. If you own a Kia manufactured between 2011 and 2021 or Hyundai's manufactured between 2015 and 2021, you may see an increase in your rates.

Why is it so easy to steal a Kia? ›

Many 2015-19 Hyundai and Kia vehicles lack electronic immobilizers that prevent thieves from simply breaking in and bypassing the ignition. The feature is standard equipment on nearly all vehicles of that vintage made by other manufacturers.

Is my Hyundai at risk of being stolen? ›

-- The lack of a common anti-theft features puts vehicles manufactured by sister companies Hyundai and Kia at an increased risk of being stolen amid a nationwide boom in auto thefts, according to data.

What cars do Kia boys steal? ›

You may have heard about a recent spike in Hyundai and Kia thefts due to some viral social media posts on the so-called “Kia Boys.” If you haven't, let me put you on notice: If you own a Kia or Hyundai SUV with a keyed-in ignition, your vehicle is at increased risk of being stolen.

What is the problem with Kia and Hyundai? ›

Many of them are either related to problems with specific engines, which the automakers call Theta II, Nu GDI, and Gamma GDI. Hyundai and Kia say that many of the engine problems have to do with a faulty connecting rod bearing.

Which Kias get stolen the most? ›

The Kia Sportage is one of the most-stolen vehicles right now. The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) compiles a list of the most-stolen vehicles. The Kia Sportage makes the top 20.

What year Hyundais are getting stolen? ›

Affected Hyundai models include certain 2016-21 examples of the Accent, Elantra, Elantra GT, Kona, Palisade, Santa Fe, Sante Fe Sport, Santa Fe XL, Sonata, Tucson, Veloster and Venue. All affected vehicles both use a steel key and lack an engine immobilizer.

Which Hyundai models are being stolen? ›

Buffalo Police say with the Hyundai cars, it's becoming an issue in the Tucson and Elantra models.

Which Kia models are easily stolen? ›

Model year 2019-2021 Kias and Hyundais have a lower rate of theft compared to 2015-2019 models but the Kia Rio, Kia Sportage, Kia Sportage 4WD, and Hyundai Accent are still on IIHS' list of most frequently stolen vehicles for those model years.

Why are people stealing Hyundais? ›

Police say the thefts could be linked to the nationwide social media trend that has teenagers swiping cars using a USB cord. The cars are also hot targets because they are, apparently, easy to steal.

What years of Kia are easy to steal? ›

The vehicles being targeted are mainly certain 2010-2021 Kia and Hyundai models equipped with a traditional mechanical key that lack an immobilizer system, not a key-fob and push-start button. The two Korean companies say that all vehicles built after 2022 are fitted with the system.

How do people steal Kia cars? ›

Because the susceptible Hyundai and Kia vehicles allegedly do not have an immobilizer, the thieves are able to simply force the ignition cylinder as if they were using a screwdriver to perform the same trick on a car from the 1980s. Spokespeople for Hyundai and Kia say that 2022 models are immune to the method.


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