Whenever I buy a used car, I keep in mind that it’s possible the owner doesn’t know everything about the car they’re selling. Not that all sellers intend to be malicious; a lot of people just don’t care enough to learn everything about their cars, especially by the time they’re sold on Craigslist for a few grand. By the same token, key fobs tend to get lost. So if you have an older secondhand car and wish it had keyless entry, it actually might already.

When I picked up my 2008 Hyundai Tiburon, the seller handed me a key with no fob. “Sorry man, this is the only key I got,” he said. I had a hunch, though. For the life of me, I couldn’t picture a car sold in 2008 that didn’t come with a key fob or some form of remote central locking. Granted, this Tiburon is the base model, so it likely had a lean options list. There’s no rear wiper, or cruise control, for instance. But no keyless entry? Impossible.

Unfortunately, there’s no universal way to find out if a vehicle came with keyless entry or remote central locking. Some particular model-specific forums may give you clues based upon equipment packages or year, but they can’t always give you a definite answer. 

So, how do you find out if your car has keyless entry or any other option or package that you’re not sure if you’re supposed to have?

Start with at dealership’s parts desk. You’ll want to go to a new-car dealer that specifically sells the same make of car you’re driving, naturally.

I know, dealership, or “stealership” is a dirty word to many car enthusiasts, myself included. Prices on parts and service are generally higher than they are at an independent mechanic, and basic services can easily be priced too high for enthusiasts or regular drivers on a budget.

But dealerships have databases of their products VINs. A vehicle identification number check at a dealership can often easily tell you what original equipment packages, or options your vehicle was sold with. 

This may not be as useful for owners who have vehicles from dead brands like Saab or Saturn. Though even then, because Saturn and Saab in particular, were primarily GM brands, so certain Chevrolet or Buick dealerships may have access to VINs associated with Saab or Saturn vehicles, and they may be able to assist you. 

I was out and about, running a few errands, so I decided to stop into my local Hyundai dealer’s parts department. I handed over my title and license to the clerk, and he did a VIN search of my Tiburon. Within five minutes, I was informed, that my car did, in fact, come with keyless entry, or remote central locking. Unfortunately for me, however, the replacement fob was $192, plus an additional $65 in labor to program the fob. Also, the fee for reprogramming was non-refundable, so if the whole process did not work, I would be out more than $250.

Luckily, I was able to find a used or off-brand key fob from the website “Best Key Supply.”  Instead of paying $192, that website found me a reasonably-priced used fob for about $18. I may still have to go to the dealer to authenticate my new-to-me keyless entry remote, but it’s still a huge upgrade in functionality on this car for very little money.

How to See if Your Old Car Has Keyless Entry You Didn’t Know About
The Hyundai Dealer said this was $160? What? – Image: Kevin Williams

And I wouldn’t have known it had keyless entry if I hadn’t stopped by the dealership!