What Is Valet Mode & What It Means for Vehicle Security

Dashboard and screen of a Lexus in valet mode

If your vehicle comes equipped with it, you may have noticed a “valet mode” setting on your key fob (or you activate it by pushing two buttons at once). Certain aftermarket remote starters also come with a ‘valet mode.’ Generally speaking, valet mode is a vehicle security setting that temporarily disables its alarm system when the owner hands the car keys over to a valet, mechanic or service technician.

In this post, you’ll learn about other functions that may be activated or switched off in various valet parking systems, along with ‘valet mode’s security implications and tips on protecting yourself from vehicle theft – especially electronic car thefts.

What Does Valet Mode Do?

Every car and part manufacturer that builds or offers a ‘valet mode’ for a vehicle has unique functionality different from the rest. Consult your manual for the full scope of your vehicle’s “valet mode” procedures and features. Valet mode is just one of the many options that, depending on how often your vehicle is valet parked or used by service professionals, can play a factor in choosing the right car for you.

In most cases, once valet mode is engaged, a vehicle’s alarm is bypassed; however, the remote door locks and panic buttons are usually still operational. It is absolutely crucial to remember to rearm your alarm system or disengage valet mode after getting your car back from the valet or mechanic. Otherwise, leave yourself open to vehicle theft (see the next section for more info).

Depending on the vehicle (or remote starter) manufacturer, a valet mode may also:

  • Shut down the remote starting function or only allow it through your smartphone app.
  • Only allow the key fob to lock and unlock the vehicle.
  • Allow charging in electric and hybrid vehicles.
  • Limit the vehicle’s top speed.
  • Disengage autopilot, cruise control and/or sport mode for increased safety.
  • Lock the trunk, backseat doors and glove compartment.
  • Remove your home address or your vehicle’s ‘return home’ mode from the GPS.
  • Restrict access to certain sections, history and personal info on your vehicle’s touchscreen, or lock it all together.

If your vehicle requires a PIN to drive, that will likely also be disabled when valet mode is engaged. Some vehicles also require a PIN to enter it into valet mode for added security.

A valet waits to receive cars to park

Protecting Yourself from Vehicle Theft

Remembering to disengage your vehicle’s valet mode is crucial in preventing you from being one of the growing numbers of Ontario car theft victims. Did you know that between 2021 and 2022, vehicle theft rose by over 45% in Toronto, 55% in Peel Region and 27% in Ottawa? Carjackings also rose by 209% during that same period in Toronto.

Two of the most popular methods of stealing cars are used in electronic vehicle thefts. One involves amplifying the radio signal between the key fob and the vehicle in what’s known as a “relay attack” to unlock and potentially drive away the stolen car. The other is hacking into a vehicle’s onboard diagnostic (OBD) port to program a dummy key fob that allows thieves to start and drive the vehicle and arm and disarm its alarm system.

Unfortunately, it’s not just vehicles that are targets for theft. Thieves also break into vehicles looking for insurance cards (‘pink slips’), ownerships and driver’s licenses. With this kind of personally identifiable information (PII), criminals can commit any number of identity theft frauds.

One of the most common associated with motor vehicles is VIN fraud. This is when thieves steal the vehicle identification number (VIN) and the name and address associated with the VIN and stamp out fake VIN plates to install in stolen vehicles. The stolen vehicles are often sold on third-party websites like Kijiji, and the buyer finds out too late the vehicle is unregisterable and stolen.

To protect yourself from vehicle theft, always make sure to empty your vehicle of all valuables and government-issued documents, manually lock your vehicle in public parking lots instead of using the key fob as car thieves can capture the signal, and follow these tips from Halton Regional Police:

  • Never leave your vehicle running and unattended.
  • Park your vehicle in a locked/secure garage, if possible.
  • Never leave valuables or government-issued ID or documents in your vehicle.
  • Lock the onboard diagnostic port with an “OBD lock” (they can be purchased online).
  • Place your key fob in a faraday pouch or any other radio frequency shielding bag/pouch that blocks cell signals.
  • Use a steering wheel locking device or a steering column collar to deter potential thieves.
  • Install a global positioning system (GPS) tracker if your vehicle doesn’t already come with one, as it may help police find and recover your stolen car.
  • Think about installing a video doorbell or security cameras.
  • Always close and lock your car doors and windows.
  • Don’t hide a spare key in your car or outside your home.
  • Consider installing an ignition or fuel kill switch.

HRP also recommends taking precautions in case your vehicle is stolen. These include recording the following information and storing it in a safe place:

  • Year, make, model, and colour of your car.
  • Licence plate and vehicle identification (VIN) numbers.
  • Serial numbers for any special equipment.
  • Any dents or scratches that distinguish your car from others.

You are also encouraged to drop a business card down the panel doors to assist police in identifying you as the vehicle’s registered owner in case the vehicle is recovered.

Don’t Take Risks With Your Guests’ Vehicles

If you’re hosting an event, the safety of your guests and their vehicles must be your primary concern. One way to ensure both is by partnering with a valet service that provides parking at private events

Not only do you ensure that your guests don’t have to walk to and from wherever they had to park their vehicles, which is an inconvenience, a pain in cold weather and a safety risk at night, but it also:

  • All but guarantees that your guests’ vehicles won’t be stolen, ticketed, towed or vandalized.
  • Elevates your event in your guests’ eyes and lets them know how important and appreciated they are.
  • Puts your guests in the right mood the instant they arrive at the event and leaves them with the right lasting impression as they say their goodbyes and drive home.

And if you partner with a fully committed and top-quality valet service like Gatsby Valet, you’ll have options that include shuttle and designated driver services, giving your event that next level of class and making it truly unforgettable.