Used Car Thefts on the Rise: What Dealers Need to Know

October 31, 2022

Team ACV




Used Car Thefts on the Rise: What Dealers Need to Know

ACV facts & figures

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A man with a maroon hoodie trying to use a screwdriver to open a car door

In the United States, car thefts have risen dramatically in the last couple of years, and the trend seems to be continuing in 2022. Between 2019 and 2021, the number of thefts per capita increased by over 20%1. While there are no comprehensive studies yet for 2022 car thefts, the National Insurance Crime Bureau reported almost 500,000 vehicles stolen in just the first half of the year2.

The reason for this increase in stolen cars seems to be twofold. The first is that, in the wake of the pandemic, certain metals have seen major price increases, leading to a 1,000% increase in catalytic converter thefts2 and associated car thefts. The other is a new viral TikTok stealing challenge that’s encouraging teens to target certain easy-to-steal models for joyriding.

A Concerning New Trend

Worldwide, one of the most common and effective anti-theft technologies for cars is known as an engine immobilizer. The modern implementation of this feature stops a vehicle from running until the engine receives an encrypted signal from the corresponding key fob, but versions of anti-theft tech have existed for over a century³. However, the United States has never mandated that immobilizers be included in cars, and many manufacturers have left them out of vehicle designs to save on costs. 

This has resulted in a glut of cars throughout the country that effectively have no protections against hotwiring, and certain groups took notice. Kia and Hyundai vehicles are especially vulnerable since the manufacturers failed to include immobilizers in numerous models as late as the 2021 model year. A group of young people calling themselves the Kia Boyz have boomed in popularity on TikTok after posting tutorials on how to exploit the weaknesses of these models, and this led to the Kia Boyz challenge, encouraging teens to replicate the tutorials and hotwire cars using simple tools, such as a USB cord. 

Kia and Hyundai have both started offering security kits to discourage theft, and Kia has updated all current models to have increased security. 

The New Metals Market

While catalytic converter thefts have been present for years, the pandemic saw precious metals prices skyrocket. Catalytic converters use rare metals, such as rhodium and palladium, which sell for thousands of dollars per ounce. This makes a single catalytic converter worth around $200 at a recycling facility. 

For the consumer, replacing a stolen catalytic converter can cost upwards of $1,000. Dealers who buy used cars may end up losing even more money per vehicle purchased without this component. To help dealers make informed purchases, ACV Auctions developed an AI imaging system to identify missing catalytic converters with ease. 

The Most Vulnerable Car Models

If you own a vulnerable model, you may want to take special precautions to protect it from theft, including parking it indoors, avoiding street parking, and installing a security kit or steering wheel lock. According to Kelley Blue Book, the most commonly stolen car models in 2021 were:

  • Chevy and Ford full-size pickups, particularly the 2004 and 2006 models, respectively
  • 2000 Honda Civics
  • 1997 Honda Accords
  • 2007 Toyota Camrys

Any owners of Kia and Hyundai vehicles manufactured before the model year 2022 should also keep an eye out. 

Your Dealership’s Partner in Transparency

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1.  Duffin, E. (October 10, 2022) Reported motor vehicle theft rate in the United States from 1990 to 2021. Statista. Retrieved October 21, 2022 from

2. National Insurance Crime Bureau. (September 28, 2022) Nearly Half a Million Vehicles Stolen in First Half of 2022. National Insurance Crime Bureau. Retrieved October 21, 2022 from 

3. Ford’s New Anti-Theft Technology Is a Brilliant Team Up With ADT. Motor Biscuit. Retrieved October 28, 2022 from 

4. ACV. (October 10, 2022) When a Picture is Worth Thousands: ACV Virtual Lift™ Now Offers Dealers a Solution to Combat Increasing Catalytic Converter Thefts. GlobeNewsWire. Retrieved October 21, 2022 from 

5. Tucker, S. (September 28, 2022) Car Theft: Tips for Keeping Your Vehicle Safe. Kelley Blue Book. Retrieved October 21, 2022 from