There are a few different types of car keys on the market these days. Some are the traditional, physical keys that have been used for decades. Others are the newer, “push-to-start” keys that are becoming more popular every year. So, which type of car key is better?

A smart key fob placed on a table.

Traditional Car Keys


  • Cost. The primary benefit of using traditional car keys is their affordability. Car keys are relatively inexpensive and can be found in most hardware or auto parts stores. Traditional car keys are also reliable and easy to use, having been the standard for decades until recently. Older cars may also be more likely to have problems with their electronic key fobs, making traditional car keys a more reliable option. 
  • Durability. Metal keys last a long, long time. Although they can still get worn down after years of use, they will likely outlast the vehicle itself. Smart keys often require upkeep and maintenance, such as replacing the battery regularly or opening and cleaning the interior chip boards. 
  • Ease of use. Some push-to-start systems involve entering a code into the door or following a series of steps to enter or start the vehicle in the name of security, which you have to do every single time you get into your car. With traditional keys, just insert the key into the door or ignition and be on your way. There’s a reason they’re the longstanding standard.


  • Easily lost. Traditional keys almost never have tracking devices built into them, while many smart keys, especially more recent ones, do. This makes them prone to theft or misplacement, and if that happens and you can’t find the key you may need to pay to have the entire ignition system replaced before your car is usable again. Aftermarket trackers exist to help solve this problem, but it’s hard to beat having this feature built in from the start. 
  • Inconvenient. If you’ve ever been carrying groceries, luggage, kids, or anything else that requires two hands and then have to somehow free up one of them to open your car, you know where we’re coming from with this one. Many new cars equipped with push-to-start systems also have sensors to open your car doors hands-free, and even if they don’t it can be much easier to just have to open the door rather than also get the key out of your pocket to unlock your car. In extreme cases, traditional keys can even get stuck in the ignition and require professional services to remove them.

A set of metal keys on a keyring.

Push-to-Start Car Keys


  • Convenient. No more fumbling around for your keys. Most push-to-start keys can stay in your pocket or bag from before you get in your car till after you finish your trip, and some can even be connected with your smartphone for ultimate convenience.
  • Increased security. While traditional keys can be easily duplicated, push-to-start car keys offer an extra layer of security by requiring a unique code and authentication protocol with your car to start. This makes your car much more secure and less vulnerable to theft. Although you can still duplicate your smart key to get a spare if you want one, it’s much more difficult for a thief to do so than simply making a copy of a metal key.
  • The “cool” factor. This is certainly more of a soft benefit, but it’s hard to argue that it doesn’t look and feel cool to push a button to start your car. 


  • Required maintenance. If the battery in your smart key dies, you’re going to find it difficult to get into or start your vehicle. The circuit boards inside smart keys are also often more delicate than in traditional key fobs, meaning that drops or dings are more likely to damage them.
  • Cost. Push-to-start keys themselves and the ignition systems in their cars are more expensive than their traditional counterparts, both in terms of purchasing the vehicle in the first place and when making repairs. The ignition systems in push-to-start cars are more complicated and have more intricate electronics than in traditional ignition systems, so if there’s ever a problem you might be on the hook for a hefty repair bill.

An interior shot of two people driving in a car at sunset.

Weigh the Benefits

Traditional car keys and push-to-start car keys each have their advantages and disadvantages. Traditional car keys are more durable and reliable, but they are more easily lost or stolen. Push-to-start car keys are more convenient and have added features, but they are more expensive and have a greater chance of malfunctioning. Ultimately, the choice between traditional and push-to-start car keys comes down to personal preference and budget. Luckily, Pop-A-Lock can service and maintain both types of keys, so definitely reach out if you’re having any problems with yours!