Can you drive a Tesla without a key?

The vast majority of cars require a key to unlock and start the vehicle, but – as we all know – Teslas aren’t like most cars! 

Teslas don’t come with the kind of metal key you would normally expect to find with a car. Instead, you can unlock and start your Tesla using a key card, a key fob, your phone as a key, the Tesla app, or even your smartwatch.

Using a key card or key fob

To unlock a Tesla using the key card, you place the card against the driver’s side pillar post (behind the driver’s window and below the side camera) then hold the card against the central console to start the car.

The key fob makes it even easier, as it works as a passive entry device. As long as the fob is in your pocket, you can simply walk up to the car, the door will unlock automatically, and you’re ready to drive.

But what if you don’t have your key card or key fob? Can you still unlock and drive your Tesla? Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is yes.

Even if you don’t have your Tesla key fob or your key card, as long as you have a phone that is set up as a key, or that you can use to log in to the Tesla app, you can unlock and start your Tesla. 

Here’s how…

Using your phone as a key

Whether you are an iPhone or Android user, it’s possible to set your phone up as a passive entry key to your Tesla. 

All you need to do is download the Tesla app and follow these instructions to turn your phone into a key.

Once set up is complete – and as long as your phone has Bluetooth turned on – your Tesla will automatically unlock whenever your phone is close to the vehicle. You can then just press the brake, shift into gear, and drive away.

Using your phone as a key is a great alternative to a key card or key fob. But you’ll need your key card to complete the setup in the first place, so this option is no help in an emergency when you may have forgotten or lost your key card or fob.

But don’t despair! Even if you haven’t got your key card or your fob, and your phone is not set up as a key, you can still unlock and drive your Tesla! All you need is the Tesla app.

Using the Tesla app instead of a key

The Tesla app allows you to unlock your Tesla and start your car.

To unlock your car: open the app, tap Controls, and then Unlock.

To start the car: tap Controls, then Start, then enter your Tesla password. This will enable ‘Keyless Driving’, which gives you two minutes to touch the brake pedal and shift into gear. Do this within the two-minute timeframe and your Tesla will be ready to pull away.

Driving a Tesla without a key

If you do decide to use the Tesla app to start and drive your Tesla without any other key then you should think ahead and be aware of the risks involved.

The app will only be able to communicate with your Tesla if your phone has wifi or a cellphone signal. If you travel to an area with no signal and then exit your car, you may be left unable to unlock and restart the vehicle when you return.

You also need to ensure that your phone has plenty of battery remaining. Otherwise, your phone may die and you could lose access to the Tesla app, leaving you unable to open and start the car.

If your battery does run out while using the Tesla app as a key, the good news is that it doesn’t have to be your phone that you use to unlock the car. As long as you know your Tesla username and password, you can download the Tesla app to a friend’s phone, log in, then unlock and start your car from there.