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Tips, Tricks & Trends

Why Do Some New Cars Still Have Physical Keys Instead of Keyless Push Button Starts?

If you don't have keyless startup yet, you might be wondering if you really need it for your next vehicle and if there are any downsides to a keyless ignition. Read along to discover more.

At the turn of the century, keyless entry and push-button start were high-class luxury car features. Similar to many other features that were first introduced in posh cars, keyless push-button starts have filtered down to mainstream vehicles as the novelty expired.

According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2002, only 5000 vehicles were manufactured with keyless starts. By 2013, this figure jumped to 4.4 million, and the numbers keep on rising. According to NHTSA, while most cars have push-button start, there are still some new cars with physical keys, for several different reasons. 

A set of car keys in the grass.
Car keys | Getty Images

Advantages of keyless push button start features

According to Edmunds, the advantages of a keyless system are convenience and security. The feature makes it harder to steal vehicles because the thief would need your key fob. With this keyless entry feature, you get to experience greater convenience as well. Just with the press of a button, you can unlock all your doors. In addition, you don’t need your keys in hand to start the car. As such, you don’t need to rummage through your pockets or bag to go for a drive.

Keyless push-button starts also offer increased safety. These modern keys have an authentication ID linked to your vehicle’s computer. Only with the correct authentication will your car unlock to start. With the increase in car thefts, keyless start is an excellent vehicle safety feature.

The downsides of having keyless push button starts

While there are many advantages, a keyless push-button start comes with a few disadvantages

First, considering today’s exceptionally quiet engines, using keyless ignition increases your chances of forgetting to turn off your car. Car and Driver reports that since 2006 there have been more than a dozen reports of people who have died from carbon monoxide poisoning after they unknowingly left their cars running in an enclosed garage.

Forgetting to turn off your car can also make it easier for thieves to access your vehicle and steal valuable items. According to AAA, it is easy for drivers to leave their engine running when distracted by children or a phone call. As such, you should always double check that your engine is off before leaving your vehicle behind.

Furthermore, cars with keyless ignitions are more prone to hacking. This is because the push-button start depends on the car’s electrical system, making it more vulnerable to hacking and bug failures. While the process is more complicated than smashing through the car’s windows, determined cybercriminals, equipped with the right tools, can access the radio system from a keyless fob and use it to open and start the car.

New cars that still offer physical keys


How to Install a Push Button Start Ignition on an Older Car

Toyota’s new Corolla Cross is one of a few new cars with a physical key. What’s more, this latest model is equipped with up-to-date technology like Amazon Alexa, a seven-inch screen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. That makes the exclusion of push-button start an unusual omission. That said, infotainment is often shared across an entire lineup for cost savings, while push-button start is a more expensive feature to add to every vehicle.

Among many other reasons, having a keyed system serves as a cost-cutting measure for the Toyota Corolla Cross’ base trim. As Edmunds reported in 2014, replacing a keyed ignition with a push-button start costs somewhere between $75 and 125. This seems inexpensive until the figure is multiplied by millions of cars sold.