Hyundai and Kia Car Thefts Rise 1000% Since 2020

Thieves stole my Hyundai as car thefts spiked across the U.S. Here's a look at whether your car is vulnerable, and how to be compensated for over $6,000 if your car is stolen.

Criminal in hood trying to steal car, breaks keyless lock to start car engine.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Hyundai and Kia thefts skyrocketed in the past three years, driven by social media posts that showed how easy it was to hotwire certain models. I should know, as my own car was stolen this way. Read on to learn if your car is at risk, insurance issues and whether you qualify for over $6,000 in compensation. 

Hyundai and Kia thefts overview 

The theft rate of certain Kias and Hyundais increased by 1,000% between 2020 and 2023, according to a CNN report based on data from the Highway Loss Data Institute. Viral TikTok videos by the so-called “Kia Boyz” demonstrated how easy it was to steal these cars by opening the steering column and inserting a USB cable to start the car like a key. 

These thieves can steal a car very quickly — in as little as 30 seconds, according to WUSA9 News. In response, Kia and Hyundai developed a software security patch to immobilize the engine if a faux “key” is used, like a USB cable.  

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Don’t trust the software update alone 

Hyundai and Kia issued a voluntary recall of affected vehicles in 2023, enabling owners to receive a free anti-theft software upgrade. My own car was a 2013 Hyundai Elantra and therefore qualified for the recall. Once the software fix was completed and a sticker affixed to the window alerting thieves that the upgrade had been made, I thought my car would be safe.

I was wrong. Just a few months later, my car was stolen.

I’m not alone. Even with the window stickers and the software upgrades, thieves are still stealing these cars. Some owners report their cars were stolen even though they had taken extra precautions like installing alert systems. 

Nevertheless, it's worthwhile to get the security update. It may deter some thieves and also demonstrate to your insurance company that you have done your part to protect your vehicle.

Is your car at risk?

Most cars with push-button ignitions are safe from this type of theft, as are Kias made in or after 2022, and Hyundais made in 2023 or later. But if you are planning on purchasing a used Kia or Hyundai, know that you may have trouble getting the car insured if it is considered vulnerable.

For Kia Owners

Kia offers the security update to owners of any 2011 - 2021 Kia model with a twist-to-start ignition system. You may also enter your Kia's VIN to confirm that your car is eligible.

For Hyundai Owners

You can enter your Hyundai's VIN to see if you qualify. According to the company, these are the Hyundai models that qualify for a security upgrade.

2018-2022 Accent

2011-2022 Elantra

2013-2020 Elantra GT

2013-2014 Genesis Coupe

2018-2022 Kona

2020-2021 Palisade

2013-2022 Santa Fe

2013-2018 Santa Fe Sport

2019 Santa Fe XL

2011-2019 Sonata

2011-2022 Tucson

2012-2017 & 2019-2021 Veloster

2020-2021 Venue

Insurance woes

If you are considering buying one of these cars used, line up your car insurance first. According to reporting from NPR, you might buy a car that is nearly uninsurable if you're not careful. That's because State Farm and Progressive refuse auto insurance coverage to people trying to buy affected used models.

If you already own one of these models, check your auto-insurance premium. You are likely paying more, even if you've had the security update. 

Just before my car was stolen, I contacted my insurer, confused as to why my 10-year-old clunker was costing our family more to insure than our newer, more valuable car. I still had not heard back from my insurance company when the car was stolen, but I'm confident that the high premium was a result of high car theft rates on my model.

Will auto insurance cover car theft? If you have comprehensive insurance, you should be covered if your car is stolen or damaged by thieves. You will be responsible for your deductible, however.

Class-action lawsuit

Last year the law firms Barron & Budd and Hagens Berman secured a $200 million settlement for a class-action lawsuit they filed on behalf of affected Kia and Hyundai owners. The suit seeks compensation for theft, insurance deductibles, higher insurance premium rates and other expenses. 

The suit could mean real money in your pocket. According to a CNN report, if you owned a qualifying car that was a complete loss, you may be eligible for payments up to $6,125.  For other types of damage, you may receive payments up to $3,375. Save your receipts for all related costs not covered by insurance, such as rental cars and ride shares.

There is no need to contact these law firms if you would like to join the suit, as you will be automatically contacted by Mar 4, 2024 if your VIN qualifies. To learn more about the suit, read more on Hagens Berman's Hyundai/Kia Car Theft Defect Lawsuit & Settlement FAQ page.

How to prevent car theft

Whatever car you drive, here are some cost-effective ways to thwart thieves.

Get the security update.

If your Hyundai or Kia is eligible, get the anti-theft security update. It may not be a failsafe measure but should help deter less-accomplished thieves.

Keep your key fob in a coffee can or Faraday cage.

If you leave your car key fob by the front door or even in an interior room, thieves might be able to steal your car. By amplifying the radio frequency of your fob, they may trick your car into unlocking and starting the engine, according to a letter sent to Kia Motors by Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.) in 2022. By storing your fob in a coffee can or metal container known as a Faraday cage, box or bag, you can effectively block those signals, according to The Seattle Times.

Park in front of a security camera.

If you have a front door camera, park where the camera can "see" your car. 

Hide a tracking device in your car. 

Tom's Guide has a side-by-side comparison of the Apple AirTag, the Tile and the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag trackers. These small, Bluetooth trackers can help you find lost keys or a wallet in your home. Your Bluetooth connection with the tracker won't help you find a stolen car, but by connecting and triangulating location data with other trackers of the same brand, these products may help you track a stolen car. If you want more protection, you could spring for a more costly GPS tracker.

Etch the VIN into your car's windows.

Some police departments will etch a car's Vehicle Identification Number into its windows to prevent theft and resale of parts. So search your local police department's website.

Get a wheel lock.

Like a bike lock, a wheel lock is secured every time you park your car and prevents thieves from turning the wheel and driving away.

The basics. 

Always lock your car and take your keys with you. And never leave an unattended car with the engine running. Don't store USB cables in your car. Park in a secure garage if you can.

The ten cars most stolen in 2022

Thieves aren't just targeting Hyundais and Kias. The latest theft data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) shows that Chevy and Ford pickups are most preferred by thieves in terms of total number of vehicles stolen. But by searching on NICB's U.S. state-level data, you may find that other models are more likely to be stolen in your area. For example, pickups top the list in rural states like Texas and Idaho, but more populated states prefer smaller cars; thieves target the Honda-CR-V and Honda Accord in New York State, and the Hyundai Elantra in Minnesota.

NICB Vehicle Theft Trend Data for 2022. showing top ten cars and trucks most commonly stolen

(Image credit: National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) Vehicle Theft Trend Data)

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Ellen Kennedy
Personal Finance Editor,

Ellen writes and edits personal finance stories, especially on credit cards and related products. She also covers the nexus between sustainability and personal finance. She was a manager and sustainability analyst at Calvert Investments for 15 years, focusing on climate change and consumer staples. She served on the sustainability councils of several Fortune 500 companies and led corporate engagements. Before joining Calvert, Ellen was a program officer for Winrock International, managing loans to alternative energy projects in Latin America. She earned a master’s from the U.C. Berkeley in international relations and Latin America.