Is the Tesla Model 3/Model Y Key Fob worth it?
Updated: Apr 4, 2021
Absolute must-have or unnecessary additional key option?
When the Model 3 launched, it introduced a new option for drivers to access and operate their vehicles with the Model 3 Key Card.
With every Model 3 or Model Y purchase, Tesla includes two physical Key Cards as well as the Phone Key, which gives you the ability to use your smartphone as a key with use of the Tesla iOS or Android Tesla smartphone app.
Tesla now also offers a third option with the Tesla Model 3/Model Y Key Fob, which is not included with the vehicle purchase. With the two options that already come with your vehicle, is it worth it to shell out an extra $150 USD to get the Key Fob?
The Tesla Model 3/Y Key Fob gives owners another option to access and operate their Model 3 or Y.
The Key Fob is shaped like a mini Model 3 and has 3 buttons along the top side.
Lock Door - Press Button 1
Unlock Door - Press Button 1 twice
Open Trunk - Press Button 2
Open Frunk - Press Button 3
If you start the car within 2 minutes of unlocking the door, you will have no troubles turning on the car and driving away. If not, you will have to press the top of the key fob or place it on the centre console (the same location where you would authenticate with the Key Card) to allow you to put the car into drive mode.
The new Key Fob offers passive entry, which means that you can lock and unlock your car without manually pressing the Key Fob.
Original Model 3 Key Fob (no Passive Entry) vs. New Model 3/Y Key Fob (Passive Entry)
Interestingly, there are 2 versions of the Key Fob that exist. The first one that was made available only allowed users to lock/unlock the car doors, as well as open the trunk and frunk. The driver could also place the car in drive, if they initiated drive within 2 minutes of unlocking the door. Unfortunately, the original fob did not provide passive entry capabilities for the Model 3, which meant you had to manually press the lock/unlock buttons when in close proximity of the car for those functions to work.
In late 2019, Tesla sold a new version of the Model 3 Key Fob with passive entry, allowing clients to automatically lock and unlock the car as long as they were within 3 ft. Users no longer were required to manually press the key fob to lock/unlock doors or to open the trunk and frunk.
The quickest way to determine if you have the new Model 3 Key Fob with passive entry, is if “TESLA” is printed on the flat side of the fob. The original model without passive entry, has “Model 3” printed on the flat side instead.
The Model 3 Key Fob comes in a substantial box showcasing the design of Tesla Key Fobs. As we noted in other reviews such as the Tesla Model 3 Wireless Phone charger , Tesla usually does a great job with the packaging of their first party accessories and it shows with the Key Fob as well.
Inside the box, you will find the following contents:
2 coin cell batteries (type CR2032)
Self installation can be completed within 5 mins
Instructions are shown on the inside lid of the box
You will need to have access to the car, the Tesla Key Card and the Key Fob before starting installation
We had no issues connecting the Key Fob with our car using the instructions inside the lid of box as well as those provided on screen once you start the process.
EXPERIENCE WITH PRODUCT
Passive Entry worked flawlessly from our time with the product. Users will know that the Key Fob enables entry once the lights flash and car gives audible notification. When the vehicle is parked and you want to lock the car passively, you can tell the car locks when the lights flashes once and gives audible notification.
The buttons on the Key Fob were also reliable when called upon.
Tip: We also recommend the Model 3 Key Band to pair with your Key Fob. In addition to providing some base protection and key ring functionality, it also give you a physical cue to which button opens the trunk and the frunk. For example, we can confidently open our frunk without taking the key fob out of our pockets by pressing the button on the far side of the key ring.
There were no obvious connection or battery issues in the months that we have used the Key Fob.
Most Model 3 owners will be familiar with the Phone Key. Based on feedback from other drivers and our own experiences, the Phone Key is a very competent solution for everyday use.
Some owners never experience connection issues with Phone Key, but if you spend any time researching the issue on the Internet or speaking with other drivers, you can quickly find stories of those who have experienced challenges.
The Phone Key connection issues that one might experience are likely due to the fact that it relies on different technologies vs. Key fob and Key card.
Bluetooth connection vs. RFID - Phone Key relies on Bluetooth connection vs. RFID connection on Key Card and Fob.
Smartphone specific issues - There are potentially more compatibility and performance issues that can arise due to supporting various OS updates, smartphone specific hardware challenges and smartphone app variability which you won’t experience with a dedicated product solution like the Key Fob
While using Phone Key as our primary solution, we had a few instances of connection issues, however, it was not prevalent. You can check out our guide on how to properly set up the Phone Key and some tips that may improve your experience.
One of the key benefits of the Key Fob vs. Phone Key is the ability to restrict access to private information and location services. We believe this can be useful in situations where others may be accessing your vehicle such as valet parking or when you are lending out your car.
Tesla recently offered the ability for drivers to share access to their car through the Tesla app. The downside with the current implementation is that once any user has access to your car through the app, they have access to all of the information within your account, including your location. In our opinion it would be great if Tesla provided different tiers of access when you provide access to others.
When you give someone the Key Fob, they will still be able to the use the car without being able to access any sensitive information.
What happens if Key Fob battery dies?
Tesla estimates that the battery should last about 5 years, but if you ever run out of battery while on the road, the key fob can continue to function similarly to the key card. You can still unlock the car by placing the key fob on the B-pillar in the same spot you would place the key card. Additionally if you need to, you can place the key fob on the centre console (at the same spot as the key card) to place the car into drive.
What we liked:
Provides third option for vehicle access and operation
Most reliable connection and performance
Dedicated device for operating vehicle with more car functions accessible than the Key card, such as Passive entry and opening trunk and frunk
Preferred solution in situations where you allow others to drive vehicle based on functionality provided and privacy
What we didn’t like and other considerations:
Additional costs - The Model 3 Key Fob costs $150 USD. In addition, Tesla sells the Model 3 Key Band for $18 USD
More things to carry in your pocket versus using the included Key card or Phone Key access.
While it won’t be a necessary product for all owners, the good news is that Tesla gives Model 3 owners yet another reliable option for accessing and using their vehicle. Overall, we believe most drivers would be satisfied with using the Phone Key as their primary key.
There are some owners, however, that would happily choose the Key Fob as their main option based on their specific needs.
Drivers who will get the most value from the Key Fob include those who want a well rounded solution of functionality, reliability and privacy.
Based on our needs, the Key Fob is usually the better tool in our own experiences. It is helpful for us when we lend our car out to other drivers or use valet parking. We can confidently place it in our pockets at the start of our day and usually don’t need to fuss with it directly too much after that. Of course, we always have the Tesla App handy in our smartphones for the more advanced features in case we need, but we now wouldn’t leave home without our Key Fob.