What to do when you’re locked out of your car

Locking yourself out of your car is not a fun ordeal. However, by staying calm and having a plan, you can get through this problem and back on the road quickly and safely. This page goes over what you can do, outlining the first step you should take and then going over several options.

The First Priority: Make Sure You’re Safe

Before you even start to think about getting back into your car, make sure that you’re safe. If you or someone with you is in danger, try to find safety and call 911 immediately. 

(Note that for a price, police officers may be able to unlock your car, as pointed out by Consumer Reports. If not, they can call a towing service.)

The Roadside Assistance Option

If you have a roadside assistance plan through AAA, your insurance company, or another outlet, they can likely help in the case of a lockout. Call them or use the app on your smartphone. (Because a lockout might make it difficult to access your phone, it is wise to keep the number written down on a piece of paper in your purse or wallet. Car decals that display the number are also helpful.) Once they’ve been notified, your roadside assistance provider will send aid. The price for this service will vary, but many plans offer lockout services for free or a minimal charge.

The Tow Truck Option

If you do not have a roadside assistance plan, you can still summon a towing company, most of which offer lockout services for a fee. It is also a good idea to call a tow truck if your car is in a dangerous area—i.e., on the side of a busy highway or another location where it will be difficult for a service provider to work on unlocking your car safely.

If you don’t have the number for a towing service handy, call 411 or flag down aid. Some areas have motorist assistance cars driving around for this purpose, or you might wave down a passing police officer.

The Locksmith Option

Another option is calling for a locksmith who provides car lockout services. The price will vary depending on the area and the individual locksmith’s rate’s, but Home Advisor pegs the average price at around $30 to $50, which isn’t too bad for regaining access to your car.

The Spare Key Option

Keeping a spare key around provides perhaps the easiest fix to a lockout, provided you have a friend or family member willing to help you retrieve the key and bring it to the car. This fix becomes even easier if you let someone you trust keep a spare key with them: Then, all they have to do is show up with the key.

The Dealer Option

If time and transportation to your car’s dealership are not obstacles, your dealer may be able to make a temporary key that will unlock your car door. It will likely be necessary to have your vehicle identification number and a way to prove you own the car on hand.

Conclusion

This article hasn’t covered the DIY option—that is, using an impromptu tool to try to unlock the car yourself. That’s because while these fixes work for some people, they can damage your vehicle. The other options in this article are preferable and much more likely to work, especially if you’ve already taken steps like signing up for roadside assistance and/or giving a spare key to a loved one.