TAMPA, Fla. -- Car insurance rates could go up for millions of drivers in the wake of thousands of spontaneous fires in Kia and Hyundai vehicles, an insurance expert told the I-Team.
“The auto insurance companies are probably watching the car fires closely,” said Lisa Miller, Florida's former deputy insurance commissioner. “You can bet the insurance companies are going to increase their rates if they see this getting worse and worse.”
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Miller said insurers raise rates after a pattern of high cost insurance claims connected to certain vehicles.
“This trend is scary and the more it occurs, it affects every one of our pocketbooks,” Miller said.
The I-Team has uncovered more than 3,000 vehicle fires in just five Hyundai and Kia models: the 2011 to 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe, the 2011 to 2014 Hyundai Sonata, the 2011 to 2014 Kia Sorento, the 2011 to 2014 Kia Optima and the 2010 to 2015 Kia Soul.
Insurance rate hikes in just those cars and SUVs alone would affect more than 2.5 million car owners.
And it’s not just Kia and Hyundai owners who could face higher rates.
The fires could also lead to insurance rate hikes across the board in the same way fraudulent accident injury claims left Florida drivers paying some of the highest auto insurance rates in the country.
Tampa driver Dorothy Gaffney – who owns two Hyundai vehicles, including a 2013 Hyundai Sonata – slammed any possible rate hikes as unfair.
“I don’t think people like us should be penalized just because there’s defects in our automobile,” said Gaffney, whose cars have not caught on fire. “It just shouldn’t happen.”
The I-Team also spoke with two other Hyundai drivers whose vehicles burst into flames while driving.
Keith Jess says his 2013 Hyundai Veloster was a total loss and cost him thousands of dollars after the car caught fire as he drove down a San Francisco freeway last fall.
“As soon as I got out of the car, I looked back at the car and could see flames in the cabin and I just ran away,” said Jess.
In North Carolina, Kevin Scott said he narrowly escaped after his Kia Soul went up in flames and in a matter of seconds “ the whole front seat was engulfed.”
Scott told the I-Team it cost him more than $10,000 to replace his car.
Now to insult to near injury, Keith Jess, Kevin Scott and millions of other Hyundai and Kia owners be forced to pay more out of pocket in the future for car insurance.
The I-Team found all the top auto insurers in Florida have raised auto insurance rates since 2017 and reached out to the companies for comment.
State Farm did not say whether its rate increase was related to the fires, but Progressive told ABC Action News its price hikes have nothing to do with the fires.
Experts recommend drivers contact their auto insurance carrier for a quote on rates before buying any car.