Looking for Your Car?

4 min read

| By Chilton Staff |

Imagine coming out of the grocery store and your Kia isn’t where you parked it. When police find the vehicle later, it’s dented. You learn a 14-year-old had stolen it. When you call the insurance company, they say they’re raising your premiums because your Kia model is too easy to steal.

Even buying a used Kia or Hyundai can result in premium hikes. Alex researched several vehicles in her price range before settling on a 2020 Kia. When she called her insurance company to add it to her policy, she was shocked that the new premium would be a lot more expensive. The representative explained that her Kia model is too easy to steal.

TikTok Trend

Over the past few years, theft of Kia and Hyundai vehicles became so rampant that some auto insurers began refusing to cover certain models or charging exorbitant premiums. A “challenge” fueled by TikTok began trending, showing how easy it was to steal some models.

The videos showed people breaking in and driving off in seconds. Many weren’t even old enough to have a license and were taking the cars for joyrides and to share the feat in social media posts.

Key Differences

The models targeted are those that use a metal key in the ignition as opposed to a start-stop button. Kia and Hyundai models using a metal key in the ignition weren’t built with immobilizers. An immobilizer is designed to prevent the car from starting. Kia and Hyundai cars with start-stop ignitions were manufactured with electronic immobilizers. The key fob communicates with the vehicle’s computer and confirms that it’s the correct key for the car. Without the correct key fob, the car’s computer prevents it from starting.

It’s About Risk

Most businesses don’t want to turn away customers, but some auto insurers decided the risk of theft was too high to continue insuring certain Kias and Hyundais in some areas at the current premiums—or even altogether. In response, the car manufacturers released statements that they are taking steps to address the issue.


Any Kia or Hyundai car with a start-stop button has an immobilizer designed to prevent starting the vehicle without the key fob present in it. Kia and Hyundai began placing immobilizers in every car as of a November 2021 build date. Even if someone is able to force entry into a vehicle, the immobilizer is designed to prevent the vehicle from being driven.

For specific models without a start-stop button, Kia and Hyundai are offering free software updates.[1],[2]   By February 2023, automakers began notifying owners and lessees that security software is available. Contact the automaker if you haven’t heard from them.[3],[4]

Dealers will install the free software updates over the next few months. Updates for Kia models are slated to begin in June. The updates usually take less than an hour, according to the manufacturers. After upgrading the software, the dealer will place a sticker on the driver’s-side window showing the car has an immobilizer.

Some cars aren’t capable of being upgraded with the software update. For those cars, manufacturers will reimburse the purchase of a steering wheel lock and may provide some reimbursement toward other anti-theft devices, such as an alarm.

ChiltonLibrary Covers Kia Models to 2023

ChiltonLibrary just updated its service, repair, and maintenance information with all 75 2017–2023 Kia models. You’ll find Chilton is key to unlocking the deeper mysteries of your Kia or Hyundai, including its security features, from fobs to digital keys, and more.

Kia’s digital key system allows a driver to lock or unlock the vehicle doors with a smartphone app or a key card without a smart key. Screenshot from ChiltonLibrary 2023 Kia Niro coverage.

Start something: request a free trial or connect with your library consultant to subscribe to America’s trusted automotive database, ChiltonLibrary.

1. “Anti-theft Software Upgrade,” Hyundai website, accessed May 23, 2023.

2. “Anti-theft Support Actions,” Kia Customer Care Center website, accessed May 23, 2023.

3. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Hyundai and Kia Launch Service Campaign to Prevent Theft of Millions of Vehicles Targeted by Social Media Challenge,” United States Department of Transportation, February 14, 2023.

4. Krisher, Tom, “Hyundai and Kia Thefts Keep Rising Despite Security Fix,” ABC News, May 9, 2023.

Leave a Comment