Investigation: Did TikTok’s Kia Challenge Cause a 55% Spike in Insurance Rates?

A viral TikTok challenge encouraged viewers to steal certain Kia and Hyundai models. Despite some insurers dropping coverage, rates are comparable to less frequently stolen vehicles.

Cassie Sheets
Written byCassie Sheets
Cassie Sheets
Cassie SheetsData Journalist
  • 9 years writing data-driven content

  • Lifestyle contributor to 30+ local news sites

Cassie Sheets has a background in home and garden and real estate content. At Insurify, she translates industry jargon into insights that empower insurance buyers.

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Tanveen Vohra
Edited byTanveen Vohra
Tanveen Vohra
Tanveen VohraManager of Content and Communications
  • Property and casualty insurance specialist

  • 4+ years creating insurance content

Tanveen manages Insurify's data insights, annual home and auto insurance reports, and media communications. She’s regularly featured in media interviews on insurance topics.

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Published November 28, 2023 at 4:00 PM PST

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The summer of 2022 was a bad time to own a Kia or Hyundai, especially if you drove one of the models the now infamous “Kia Boyz” targeted.

In July of last year, Kia and Hyundai thefts spiked nationwide, largely attributed to a viral TikTok video by @robbierayyy that exposed a security flaw in specific models. The cars were so shockingly easy to steal that the video sparked the “Kia Challenge,” with participants sharing videos showing how quickly they could swipe a vulnerable vehicle.

The rapid rise in thefts resulted in police department warnings, lawsuits against the automakers, 17 states’ attorneys general urging recalls, and major insurers dropping coverage on some targeted models.

Curious if the challenge also caused an increase in car insurance rates for targeted vehicles, the data science team at Insurify analyzed proprietary data from more than 40 million real-time quotes and found some surprising insights.

Quick Facts
  • The average cost of full-coverage insurance for targeted Kia and Hyundai models is $206 per month. The average insurance rate for six comparable models is slightly higher, at $207 monthly.

  • Insurance rates for targeted Kia and Hyundai models increased a staggering 55% between 2020 and 2023 — but that’s not much more than the 51% increase for comparable vehicles.

  • An increase in thefts can affect rates, but factors affecting the entire auto insurance industry also influence Kia and Hyundai insurance costs. For example, vehicle maintenance and repair costs are up 10% year over year. Inflated prices add up to costlier claims for insurance companies, which then increase overall rates.

  • The Kia Optima, Hyundai Elantra, and Hyundai Sonata were among the 10 most stolen vehicles in America in 2022, likely due to the viral TikTok challenge. These models didn’t crack the top 10 the previous year.

Why thieves targeted Kia and Hyundai

When the Kia Challenge peaked in 2022, TikTok was teeming with videos of baby-faced thieves, many appearing to be in their teens, stealing Kia and Hyundai cars in minutes. The Kia Boyz uncovered a major vulnerability.

Select models of the Korean manufacturers’ vehicles lacked anti-theft devices called immobilizers. In cars with mechanical keys rather than push buttons, thieves could peel back the steering column cover and dismantle the key slot.

Suddenly, every aspiring car thief with a USB charger could use the cable to quickly start certain models by following a step-by-step guide from TikTok. But the so-called “Kia Challenge” started years before the viral video.

In Milwaukee, the city often viewed as the epicenter of the challenge, vehicle thefts started rising in November 2020. By April 2021, 71% of stolen vehicles in Milwaukee were Kia or Hyundai cars — up from a mere 6% in 2019.[1]

The Kia Challenge spread, with a rash of thefts primarily throughout the Midwest and Pacific Northwest, including in Cleveland, Ohio; Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Portland, Oregon. In Chicago, car thieves stole 551 Kia or Hyundai vehicles in the first half of 2022. In the second half of the year, that number increased tenfold to 6,250, according to Chicago Police Department data.

Across the U.S., TikTok-inspired car thieves targeted the following models:

  • Hyundai Accent (2015–2021)

  • Hyundai Elantra (2015–2021)

  • Hyundai Kona (2015–2021)

  • Hyundai Santa Fe (2015–2021)

  • Hyundai Tucson (2015–2021)

  • Hyundai Veloster (2015–2018)

  • Kia Forte (2015–2021)

  • Kia Optima (2015–2021)

  • Kia Optima Hybrid (2015–2016)

  • Kia Rio (2015–2021)

  • Kia Sedona (2015–2021)

  • Kia Sorento (2015–2016)

  • Kia Soul (2015–2021)

  • Kia Sportage (2015–2021)

Progressive and State Farm pulled back on Kia and Hyundai coverage

Kia and Hyundai thefts increased so significantly due to the TikTok challenge that Progressive and State Farm halted new policy sales in some areas for certain Kia and Hyundai models in early 2023.

Losses from the challenge posed a “serious problem impacting our customers and the entire auto insurance industry,” State Farm told USA Today.

Progressive called the theft spike “explosive,” saying it made the targeted vehicles “extremely challenging to insure.” “We continue to insure existing customers who own these types of vehicles. [...] We expect the limitations of these new business limits and pricing adjustments to continue changing as this issue evolves,” said Progressive in a statement.

The challenge also resulted in at least 14 crashes and eight fatalities, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported — and collisions are expensive for insurance companies. The average cost of a bodily injury liability claim after a car accident was $22,734 in 2021, according to the Insurance Information Institute.[2]

Auto insurers calculate rates and issue policies based on risk models. With certain models so susceptible to theft, both insurers determined targeted Kia and Hyundai cars might be too risky to insure.

In response to the uptick in thefts and insurers halting coverage, Kia and Hyundai started rolling out free anti-theft software upgrades in February 2023. The updates extended the alarm sound from 30 seconds to one minute and required a key to be in the ignition to start a vehicle.

Kia and Hyundai drivers saw a major premium spike, but so did everyone else

Owners who drive the car models targeted by the Kia Challenge have seen massive insurance rate hikes since the TikTok trend took off — but they’re not alone. The average cost of full-coverage insurance has more than doubled for targeted Kia and Hyundai models since 2020, but so have rates for comparable vehicles, like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

Overall, car insurance rates increased by 17% in the first half of 2023 and have continued rising. Inflation is largely to blame. Motor vehicle maintenance and repair costs are up more than 10% year over year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index.

Car thefts are also on the rise nationwide. While Kias and Hyundais saw a surge in thefts around the peak of the TikTok challenge, the current theft rate for all vehicles is close to a record high, with nearly 500,000 vehicles reported stolen in the first half of 2023, according to National Insurance Crime Bureau data.[3]

Insurers have struggled to stay profitable in light of costlier claims, a higher overall theft rate, and a surge in traffic fatalities during the COVID-19 pandemic, announcing record-breaking losses in 2022.

Insurify’s data science team compared insurance rates for Hyundai and Kia models affected by the viral challenge to similar Honda and Toyota cars. The comparable models cost a dollar more monthly to insure, with an average full-coverage rate of $207. Targeted models saw a bigger rate increase between 2020 and 2023, but the difference was slight, at 55% compared to 51%.

Vehicle2020 Average Monthly Full Coverage2021 Average Monthly Full Coverage2022 Average Monthly Full Coverage2023 Average Monthly Full CoverageIncrease in Full Coverage Cost, 2020–2023
Hyundai Accent$148$138$158$21948%
Hyundai Elantra$149$149$171$21343%
Hyundai Kona$125$120$139$21673%
Hyundai Santa Fe$126$118$142$20260%
Hyundai Tucson$125$121$141$18750%
Kia Forte$157$149$175$21436%
Kia Optima$152$152$177$22850%
Kia Rio$135$139$159$22970%
Kia Sedona$108$124$133$18571%
Kia Soul$132$122$143$18943%
Kia Sportage$117$131$133$18558%
TikTok Challenge Models Average$134$133$152$20655%
Honda Accord$147$155$174$23056%
Honda Civic$147$155$165$23258%
Honda CR-V$109$112$122$16249%
Toyota Camry$145$146$170$22253%
Toyota Corolla$155$149$167$22445%
Toyota RAV4$119$121$137$17446%
Comparable Models Average$137$140$156$20751%
Disclaimer: Table data sourced from real-time quotes from Insurify's 50-plus partner insurance providers. Actual quotes may vary based on the policy buyer's unique driver profile.

Methodology

Insurance prices for all vehicles in this report represent averages for model years 2015–2021. These prices reflect the cost of a full-coverage car insurance policy ($50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident in bodily injury liability coverage; $50,000 per accident in property damage liability coverage; and $1,000 deductibles for both comprehensive and collision coverage) for drivers between the ages of 20 and 70 with average or better credit and a clean driving record.

Comparable vehicles to the affected Kia and Hyundai models were chosen for their similar MSRPs, sizes, and overall popularity among American drivers.

Kia and Hyundai owners should take extra precautions

Insurance costs for vulnerable Kia and Hyundai models are still similar to comparable vehicles manufactured by Toyota and Honda. However, any driver with comprehensive coverage who files a car theft claim will likely see a premium spike upon renewal.

TikTok cracked down on Kia Challenge videos — the hashtag is now mostly filled with frustrated victim accounts — but car thieves are still aware of the vehicles’ vulnerabilities. In addition to installing anti-theft software updates, Kia and Hyundai drivers may want to take a few extra precautions.

Commonsense measures, including parking in well-lit areas, locking all doors and windows, and keeping valuables out of sight while parked, can reduce the risk of car theft. Installing anti-theft devices could also deter thieves and give drivers access to insurance discounts.

Cassie Sheets
Cassie SheetsData Journalist

Cassie Sheets has more than nine years of experience creating compelling content for clients, brands, and local news sites. She started her career at Movoto Real Estate, where she transformed dry data into interesting insights for potential homebuyers. She’s since covered a wide range of topics, from pop culture news to home and garden trends.

Before joining Insurify, Cassie wrote engaging landing pages and blog posts for medical practices at MyAdvice. Now, she uses her knack for diving into the latest data and pulling out key details to empower insurance buyers.

Cassie holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago. In her free time, you can find her exploring the city with her dog, trying not to fall over in yoga classes, and petting cats at the shelter.

Tanveen Vohra
Edited byTanveen VohraManager of Content and Communications
Tanveen Vohra
Tanveen VohraManager of Content and Communications
  • Property and casualty insurance specialist

  • 4+ years creating insurance content

Tanveen manages Insurify's data insights, annual home and auto insurance reports, and media communications. She’s regularly featured in media interviews on insurance topics.

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