Questions That Are Rarely Asked…

Reader David D. asks why do rental car companies have to cable ALL of a vehicles keys together?


  • If you lose one key this way you lose them all.

  • Whose pocket exactly are these supposed to fit in?

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  1. The reason they cable them.together is so they don’t get lost. The keys always stay with the car as the cars move around the country. Newer electronic keys cost $100’s to replace so they want to keep them.tied together for.when they sell the car later.

  2. They don’t need to give me all of the keys. Tied together it isn’t like multiple keys provides greater use than 1. Bundled is just a pain.

  3. I have been known to cut the key ring so I can carry just one key, and I leave the rest in the glove box. The rental company usually isn’t happy when I bring them back

  4. @ DJ So how do you lock those cars with the electronic key fobs that wont allow you to lock the car if the other key is in the glove compartment?

  5. I also HATE this. Imagine you, as a customer lose this bundle of $$$. They’re going to charge you several hundred dollars to replace ALL the fobs and keys, because they want them to stay together as a convenience *for them*. Bleh.

    I like the idea of cutting the cable to just carry the necessary ones… A new cable from Hope Depot or Ace or something is like a dollar..

  6. I almost died because of bundled keys.

    I rented a Dodge Grand Caravan from National and the big bulky cabled bundle hung down right above my right knee. I’m only 6 feet tall but my knee bumped the huge key ring three times and shut off the engine. Once I was doing 70 MPH over an interstate bridge with no shoulder. Very scary, and a single key wouldn’t have caused this problem.

  7. I HAVE asked this – the first commenter got the same explanation as me. Keeping them together keeps them with the car no matter where it gets dropped off.

  8. Yeah, “oversized keys” is definitely one of the little annoyances travelers encounter these days. I guess it’s too much trouble/expense to maintain a Central Key Repository at each car rental company to store the extra keys/fobs. I just hope I never lose one of these key bundles.

    Speaking of car rental annoyances, has anyone else noticed that, in the last couple of years, there’s been “grade inflation” among car classes? Like a car that would have been a compact a couple years ago is now a midsize?

    Finally, there’s also the growing problem of “instrumentation complexity” on fancier rental cars. The higher end the car, the more complex the instrumentation: it seems like something the car makers do to justify the higher sticker prices. This might be OK for most buyers who have time to become familiar with the car, but if you’re just renting it for a day, it’s often a PITA to figure out simple tasks like operating the radio, adjusting the inside temperature, etc.

  9. Avis used to keep the extra keys/fobs with the manual in the trunk or spare tire compartment. More and more, they’re starting to bundle them all on one loop.

    And for further confirmation, it’s so all the keys are with the car for when it gets taken out of service in preparation for lease return or sale.

  10. Back in 1992 I rented a car (Chevy Lumina) from Avis in DC, and accidentally locked the keys in. Fortunately I was parked on Connecticut Ave close to an Avis agency (there’s one on M street now, and I believe it was pretty much in the same place 23 years ago). I just walked over with my ID, they punched the license plate number into the computer, and cut me a key on the spot!

    I wonder if such facilities exist with today’s electronic key fobs. It should be technically possible, though I’m not sure at what cost.

  11. I try to pick cars now that have the cable attached to the actual key that is removable from the fob. Then I leave the spare in my room, and just carry the fob. They are not always available, but sometimes I get lucky.

  12. Pull hard on the cable, I usually can pull the cable apart and remove a key, then I put it back on when returning the car. Plus, do they really check that all keys are returned with the car? How do they know that you left with 2 keys but only return one?

    And another question is when a car is returned how much inspection is done on the INTERIOR of the car? Sure, they’ll look for damage on the exterior but do they check inside? Example – awhile back my son left some crayons on the floor of a car we rented, they melted a nice colorful mess. I expected to hear from the car company but never did. I suppose they could have cleaned it but you’d think they’d try to pass a cost on to me for it.

  13. @Ron- with electronic key fobs, the doors wouldn’t lock if the key is in the vehicle.

  14. Those keys are just crimped together and a hard pull with often separate the ends. If not, a pliers can usually loosen the crimp enough to pull them the ends apart. I almost always separate those keys but never have a suitable cutter at hand. At worst, I use some type of improvised tool to twist the cable until it breaks.
    I have never had a complaint when I returned them. I usually rent from Enterprise.

  15. We break them up. One to me one to my spouse. that way we each have a key so that when we go to the car we can each open it up if needed (works best in rain). then Zip tie or twist tie them back when returning.

  16. This was a fun read. Those bundled keys have always driven me nuts. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who cuts them. I always return them with a regular keychain and no one has ever mentioned it.

  17. omg –all this tech stuff is such a pain–would love to rent a comfortable deluxe car but cant be bothered with all the reading requirements and am not tech oriented–so ask for the simplest car possible in medium size range –the bunched up key bulk is a pain , fills my pockets and half my small purse

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