With car thefts spiking in Colorado the past few years, three auto insurance carriers are now declining to cover certain vehicles, leaving at-risk owners with fewer options.
Allstate, State Farm and Progressive are passing over new owners of some Kia and Hyundai vehicles, as thieves steal those cars at higher rates. In 2021, Colorado held the No. 1 spot in the nation for motor vehicle thefts – and those rates continued to skyrocket in the first half of last year, according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Association.
In 2022, the top 10 U.S. cities for car thefts included Denver, Aurora, Westminster and Pueblo, according to the nonprofit.
From July through September of last year, the majority of the state’s most-stolen vehicles were either Kia models – Sportage, Optima, Sorento and Soul – or Hyundai – Tuscan, Sonata and Elantra. Truck owners were also targeted, with Chevy Silverados, Ford F-250s and GMC Sierras making the list.
Some of these thefts are blamed on a social media trend teaching users how to easily steal Kia and Hyundai models, which robbers then take for joyrides. The Kia Boyz hashtag, popularized on TikTok and YouTube, yields video after video of victims showing the aftermath of their ravaged cars and even catching young thieves in the act.
It’s a nationwide trend, with recordings uploaded from Milwaukee, Atlanta, Memphis and other cities. Last year, four teens were killed near Buffalo, N.Y., when the stolen Kia they were riding in rolled over. Authorities presume the teens were participating in the social media challenge.
A manufacturer defect in these cars lets thieves steal them “with just a USB cable,” said Carole Walker, Rocky Mountain Insurance Association executive director. Outside of the Kia Boyz trend, these cars are hijacked to commit other serious crimes in many cases, she added.
Walker called the three corporations’ limitations on new policies “an unusual decision for insurance companies.” But they’re ultimately responding to the market, even if the makes and models of the impacted vehicles are fairly new, she said.
This crime trend impacts the wallets of all drivers, too.
“Unfortunately, that also affects what we pay for car insurance,” Walker said. “We all foot the bill for auto theft.”
One Coloradan, three car thefts
For 70-year-old Debbie McClung, the financial blow of car theft is outweighed by the psychological toll. The Green Valley Ranch resident suffered three car thefts over the past year and a half.
“The emotional impact on regular, ol’ Americans is tremendous,” she said. Thieves with access to garage door openers and home addresses on insurance paperwork leave victims “not knowing if you’re safe in your house.”
The thefts of her gray 2017 Kia Sportage occurred after everyday errands. In December 2021, she parked at an RTD light rail station before eating lunch at Union Station. McClung returned to find her car missing, only for it to be recovered days later.
In July 2022, she finished a shopping trip at the Town Center at Aurora, and realized her car was stolen again. After it reappeared, McClung was forced to wait weeks to use her vehicle, which was impounded as criminal evidence.
And this past February, McClung’s husband walked out of a restaurant to find a thief in the process of hijacking the car for a third time. The suspect fled the scene, but the car door lock and steering column were left in disrepair.
The incidents “absolutely” make McClung reconsider buying another Kia or Hyundai. “It, of course, gives you a creepy feeling.”
She’s not alone. McClung belongs to “Colorado Stolen Cars,” a Facebook group with more than 40,000 members.
McClung acknowledges that she’s in a better position than most theft victims, with good insurance, rental coverage and the means to buy another vehicle, if necessary. But she’s read countless anecdotes about uninsured and undocumented Coloradans left without their cars, hindering their ability to drive to work, school and the doctor’s office.
“It’s people without means that are being impacted,” she said. “Insurance companies must be just tearing their hair out.”
“A serious problem”
The thefts have caused repercussions: Now, some new Kia and Hyundai owners can only choose from limited insurance options, as Allstate, State Farm and Progressive take protective measures and decline new policies.
Allstate decided to pause new coverage of select Kia and Hyundai model years in certain states, including Colorado, “due to unusually high theft risk,” said spokesperson Tanya Robinson.
But current policyholders are in luck, as “we continue to support existing policies for these vehicles,” she added.
State Farm took a similar approach, as it’s “temporarily stopped accepting new customer applications in some states for certain model years and trim levels of Hyundai and Kia vehicles because theft losses for these vehicles have increased dramatically,” said spokesperson Sevag Sarkissian. He didn’t confirm if Colorado is one of the impacted states.
“This is a serious problem impacting our customers and the entire auto insurance industry.”
The insurance company is open to adjusting its approach as the situation evolves, but, “in this case, it became necessary to take action to protect our policyholders and our business,” Sarkissian added.
Progressive will also continue to insure its existing customers owning these models, but, in certain locations, have limited sales of new policies or boosted rates, spokesperson Jeff Sibel said.
Hyundai and Kia publicly acknowledged the rise in thefts, offering solutions in the meantime.
Both companies introduced free security software upgrades, and gave free steering wheel locks to law enforcement agencies to distribute to residents who own or rent the impacted models.
“Hyundai Motor America regrets this decision by insurers and its impact on select Hyundai vehicle owners and lessees, which we anticipate will be temporary,” said spokesperson Ira Gabriel.
All in all, the victims of car theft are left in tough situations at the moment.
“People can’t afford to go buy eggs,” Walker of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Association said. “Let alone, if they don’t have comprehensive coverage for insurance on their car, can’t afford to replace their vehicle.”