What You Should Do When You’ve Locked Your Keys in the Car

If you've locked your keys in your car, there are a few different solutions. If it's an emergency, you can call the police, which will unlock your car for free but may break a window in the process. You may also want to wait for your roadside assistance to come with the proper tools. In addition, some DIY methods can help those who have locked their keys in their car.

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A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: Dec 10, 2021

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Here's what you need to know...

  • If you’ve locked your keys in the car, you can either try some DIY methods, or you can call roadside assistance, a locksmith, or the police (in an emergency)
  • The police will likely unlock your car free of charge; however, it may involve breaking a window in an urgency to access the interior
  • Some methods for unlocking your car without a key include using a shoelace, a coat hanger, or lock picking tools

It happens to the best of us. While loading groceries into the car or trying to secure kids in their car seats, we accidentally close the car door with the keys still inside. If you’ve accidentally locked your keys in your car, you may be looking for the most hassle-free ways to retrieve them.

Whether you’re getting ready to call roadside assistance to unlock your car for you, or if you’re trying to learn how to unlock an automatic car door without a key, below are some methods for you to try.

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What should I do if I locked my keys in my car?

While technology is making it harder to get locked out of your car, it may still happen. If you lock your keys in your car, and you’re wondering how to unlock a car without keys, you have a few options.

You may begin by calling a locksmith, roadside assistance, or the police department, depending on the urgency of your situation. For example, if it is a hot day, and you accidentally lock the keys in your car with your baby in the back seat, you may want to contact the police to ensure that the baby is safe.

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Will the police help me unlock my car?

In an emergency situation, when your keys are locked in your car, you may call 911 for assistance with retrieving them. Telling the 911 dispatcher the make and model of your vehicle may help the responders determine how to unlock it without a key.

However, police officers are likely to unlock your car by either using a thin metal device or by breaking a window. The insurance company will not charge you for this, but you may end up paying for the broken window.

What is the best car lockout service? 

Whom should I call to unlock my vehicle? If you are able to wait for a professional car lockout service, this is likely your best option.

There are roadside assistance programs that you can sign up for; otherwise, you may have roadside assistance through your car insurance company. Unlike the police department, the roadside assistance company is more likely to know how retrieve keys from a locked vehicle.

AAA is a widely known roadside assistance company. Some car insurance companies with reputable roadside assistance programs include Nationwide, Allstate, Progressive, and Travelers. AT&T also provides affordable roadside assistance for members.

If you don’t have roadside assistance coverage on your auto insurance policy, you may want to consider adding it. Here are some services that are likely covered by your car insurance company’s roadside assistance:

What Is and Is Not Included in Roadside Assistance Coverage
Roadside Breakdown Needs/ServicesIs it Covered
Battery jump-start serviceYes
Flat tire assistanceYes
Lockout service and locksmith serviceYes
Fuel delivery serviceYes
Extraction or winching serviceYes
Tow servicesSometimes (under the right circumstances)
Cost of repairs or partsNo
Cost of a replacement tireNo
Cost of a tire patchNo
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Depending on where you purchase roadside assistance, you could end up spending anywhere from $5 to more than $100 per year.

How can I unlock my car door without a key?

If you’re wondering how to unlock a car door without a key, and in the absence of roadside assistance, there are a few different methods you can try before calling someone else for help.

Although it may seem obvious, you may want to begin by checking all of the doors on your car, including your trunk, to determine if you’re able to retrieve your keys. You may discover that one of the doors is actually unlocked.

If that isn’t the case, you may want to try some of these old school tricks:

  • The Shoelace Method: Tie a knot in your shoelace to make a loop, insert it through the seam on your door, wrap the loop around your lock, and pull up to unlock it.
  • The Coat Hanger Method: Untwist a coat hanger, bend it into a hook, work the coat hanger through the seam on your door, put the hook around your lock, and pull to unlock it.
  • The Inflatable Wedge Method: Put the device into your car seam and inflate the wedge to open the door.
  • The Lock Pick Method: If you have lockpicking tools or a bobby pin, you can try to pick the lock on your car door.

Are you wondering how to unlock a car door with power locks? While some of the above methods may still work for you, a newer vehicle may also give you access to an app that can act as a key fob. Most of the apps allow the car owner to lock and unlock their car (and sometimes even start the car). 

While these methods can be effective, they often take an excessive amount of time. Some may also cause minor damage to your vehicle’s paint or interior if not performed properly. Others, such as wedges, may distort the shape of the door.

If you don’t have roadside assistance, and your situation is not deemed an emergency, you can also contact a locksmith. They may know how to open a locked car door by picking the lock.

If you’re looking for affordable car insurance with roadside assistance, enter your ZIP code into our free quote comparison tool below to find a company near you.

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