Social media has wrought many ills in its time, from shortening our attention spans to negatively affecting our mental health. But for owners of certain Hyundai and Kia vehicles, the latest TikTok trend may in fact be the worst.
A viral challenge cooked up by the so-called Kia Boyz began circulating the short-form video platform about a year ago. And with its popularity, the ease of stealing certain Kia and Hyundai models became common knowledge — and something of a dare.
In the videos, masked figures demonstrate how to steal these cars by simply opening the steering column and using a regular USB cable to start the engine. (This trick is actually an evolution of a long-known theft method performed with a screwdriver — it’s made possible because the cars lack an immobilizer, which utilizes transponder technology to authenticate a properly paired vehicle key.)
The result? A climbing rise in car thefts. More than a million vehicles were stolen across the United States in 2022, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), whose analysis notes it as the highest number since 2008. (As a notable example, in California’s Bay Area, motor vehicle thefts were up by as much as 69% in some communities last year— particularly in Oakland, which had a rate of one car stolen for about every 30 residents.) And given how easy they are to lift, many of the cars in question were Kias and Hyundais.
Which cars can be stolen with a USB cable?
Although many vehicles can be stolen by a competent and motivated enough thief, the models affected by the viral challenge include 2011-2021 Kias with twist-to-start ignition systems, as well as the following Hyundai models:
- 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
However, if your vehicle is push-to-start, it’s likely immune to the challenge’s form of theft, as are Kias from 2022 or later and Hyundais 2023 or later.
Fortunately, both Kia and Hyundai have offered free anti-theft security software upgrades to the owners of vulnerable vehicles. To check and see whether your car is implicated (and eligible for an upgrade), you can enter your VIN at the Hyundai or Kia website, or call your local dealership.
However, even with software upgrades and other precautions, it’s possible for these cars (and others) to be stolen.
Car theft and auto insurance: What you need to know
Given the ease with which they can be stolen, State Farm and Progressive stopped writing new insurance policies for the affected Kia and Hyundai models in some areas early in 2023 — though the companies may choose to reverse that decision in the future.
And even for drivers of other vehicles, increasing car theft rates can drive up auto insurance premiums, regardless of your driving safety record and other factors.
For many Americans, a vehicle is the single most valuable asset aside from a home, so it’s important to ensure your car is properly insured — such that even in the event of a total loss, like a theft, you’ll still be covered. (Homeowners insurance, for the record, doesn’t cover stolen cars — though both homeowners and renters insurance policies may cover items stolen out of your car.)
Furthermore, bare-bones auto insurance policies (which many states only require to carry bodily injury and property damage liability coverage) won’t cover a stolen vehicle — you’ll need comprehensive car insurance for that. Buying this coverage will likely mean paying a higher premium — but in the event you wake up one day and your car is simply missing, at least you’ll have the funds to purchase a new one.
Of course, filing an insurance claim isn’t the only thing you’ll need to do if a thief absconds with your vehicle. If your car has been stolen, your first course of action should be to file a police report. (In fact, most insurers won’t honor your claim theft without one.)
Finally, if you live in a high-risk area or drive one of these high-risk cars, consider installing one or more theft protection devices in your vehicle. These range from basic steering wheel locks to security alarms and GPS trackers that can tell you where thieves have taken your missing car. Along with keeping your ride safer from would-be thieves, such devices can also grant you access to an auto insurance discount — a win-win scenario.