What Is a Valet Key and Why Is It Potentially Dangerous?

Does your car have a valet key? If not, don’t worry, as not every car has them, especially newer ones. However, if your car did come with a valet key, then it’s a usually different color than the other car keys – most likely gray. If you do have one, then here is why it could potentially cause some danger.

Why do cars have a valet key?

Car keys next to a valet key
A couple of car keys next to a valet key. | Wikimedia Commons

A valet key is a spare key that you can give to valet parking attendants and repair shop mechanics so that they can drive the car but can’t access a locked trunk or glove box. Family Handyman notes that brands like BMW and Audi typically supply valet keys and some sports cars on the market come with them as well.

Why is a valet key potentially dangerous?

Car thieves have targeted valet keys for a long time. If you have a valet key, then chances are that you have it stored away in your home somewhere. No, you don’t have to wrap it in tin foil, but keeping it safe in a storage box or safe is a good idea. However, many car owners keep their valet keys inside their car’s glove boxes or in the owner’s manual sleeve.

This is a bad idea because car thieves know this and can easily access the key after breaking into the car. With the valet key, it’s easy to drive off with the car without the owner even knowing what hit them.

Do cars with a push-button start have a valet key?

A Nissan key fob with the valet key next to it.
A Nissan key fob with the valet key next to it. | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

Yes, cars with push-button start ignitions still have valet keys. The remote key fob typically has a physical key inside of it. If you take it out, you can hand the fob to the valet attendant or mechanic so that they can start and drive the car but can’t access the glovebox or trunk.

How far can you drive with a valet key?

Since the valet starts the car like a regular key, the car can be driven like normal. That means if a car thief gets ahold of your car’s valet key, they can steal the car as if they had the main key or fob.

Some newer cars have a valet mode instead of a key

Car keys next to a valet key
A couple of car keys next to a valet key. | Wikimedia Commons

If you own a newer car, it may have a “valet mode” that you can put into when parking the car. In some cars, like the Tesla Model S, the mode will allow you to set a speed limit in addition to controlling the accelerator and other controls. Other cars, like the Nissan Leaf and some Hyundais, have phone apps that will alert the owner if the car has moved outside of a certain perimeter of the drop-off location.

Be careful with your car’s valet key

In conclusion, if your car has a valet key, keep it in a safe place until you know you’re going to use it. If it falls into the wrong hands, you could be filing a police report as opposed to driving home safely after dinner. Although it keeps unsavory people outside the car’s trunk and glovebox, they can still drive the car.

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