When you lose your car key, your only option is to have it replaced. How much does it cost to replace a car key? It depends on several factors, such as where you go to have it replaced and what type of key it is.
In this guide, I evaluate the average costs for key replacement. I also look at the factors determining the price, and give you a few benefits of using a locksmith over the dealership. At the end of the guide, I discuss what you need to get your key replaced so you are never caught off guard.
Average Cost to Replace a Car Key
The basic key fob or transponder key might cost $25 to $425 to replace, depending on how complex it is. On the other hand, laser cut keys, switchblade keys, and proximity keys or keyless entry remotes can cost much more – even up to $800 – due to the programming.
1. Basic Keys/Fobs
If you still have a basic key, you are going to have the cheapest replacement cost. However, most modern cars today come with an electronic key fob, otherwise called a transmitter or remote. The cost to replace this could be up to $150. These key fobs need to be reprogrammed.
However, there are ways to program some on your own if you want to purchase an aftermarket fob. You should be able to use a particular combination of button pushes while turning on and off the ignition to get it programmed. Your owner’s manual might give you the procedure, or you could find it online.
2. Transponder Keys
If you have a key that contains a transponder chip in the car key head, this must also be included. Otherwise, the ignition will sense that the wrong key is being used, and it won’t start the engine.
When you have this key replaced, the transponder must also be programmed. You may spend $100 to $425 for this key, especially if it needs a fob as well.
3. Laser Cut Keys
Laser cut keys look different than traditional keys, because the shank is thicker, and there aren’t conventional grooves cut into it. These are also referred to as sidewinder keys. To have a machine that can cut these replacement keys, locksmiths are looking at a lot more money and investment.
These keys can also have built-in transponder chips, so they will also require programming. Because of all of the technology, you might spend $150 to $375.
4. Switchblade Keys
Switchblade keys have a shank that folds into the fob when it’s not being used. When a particular button is pushed, the key pops out. These can be cut in the traditional way, or they can be laser cut.
With switchblade keys, the components can be purchased separately, which might lower the cost. If the top is still in good working order, but the key is damaged, you can replace just the part that doesn’t work. For this, you might only spend $50 to $100. However, if you need to replace the entire assembly, plan to spend $200 to $350 instead.
5. Proximity/Keyless Entry Remotes
Smart keys can be among the most expensive to replace. Whether this is the type that you insert into a hole next to the steering wheel or it can remain on you, there are security codes working within that need to be programmed.
Most high-end cars carry these types of keys as standard technology these days. However, when you lose one, you are looking at a major expense. Very quickly, your bill could be $800 before all is said and done, especially if you drive a luxury vehicle.
Factors Affecting Car Key Replacement Cost
When it comes to making keys, everyone gravitates toward the dealership. There’s an advantage to calling the dealership ,because they can cut the keys without you being there. They have the information on your vehicle.
However, the dealership is going to charge much more than a locksmith. You could also wait longer for service. If you have a newer car, I strongly recommend going to the dealership, though.
2. Key Type
I listed the major types of keys above. You can easily see the difference in price based on what type you need.
A basic key is going to cost far less than a smart key. However, this is one factor that you have no control over.
3. Car Make/Model
Every manufacturer uses its own type of key and technology. Some manufacturers make keys more difficult to replicate.
If there are a lot of security measures in place, the dealership may be the best option, thereby increasing the price. Otherwise, you can go to a locksmith for a cheaper cost, but they may need extra time if it’s a key they aren’t used to working with.
Both the locksmith and the dealership are going to price services based on the going rate in the area. If you live in a large metropolitan area, you are going to pay a higher price than some other parts of the country.
Consider getting some quotes from neighboring towns that are smaller and taking a little drive. The short distance could have a profound impact on what you pay.
Benefits of Using a Locksmith for Car Key Replacement
1. Lower Cost
On average, you can expect to spend more at a dealership. Dealerships charge a higher labor rate than the average locksmith does.
Don’t just take my word for it, though. Go ahead and call your local dealerships to get the price of a new key. Very quickly, you will see how different the costs actually are.
2. All Makes/Models
When you go to a dealership, you must make sure they have the expertise to work with your make and model. Most dealerships only provide keys to the makes and models that are sold on site.
However, a locksmith is going to be willing to work with all cars. It doesn’t matter if you have a brand-new American vehicle or an older import, locksmiths have the equipment to replace and duplicate any of the manufacturer’s keys. However, locksmiths can’t do the programming for some modern vehicles, and in this case, you may need to go to the dealer instead.
3. Turnaround Time
When you schedule with a dealership, you could be waiting for a longer time. In some cases, the key has to be ordered from the factory, especially if computer chips are involved.
However, a locksmith has the advanced equipment to take care of the technology on site. You shouldn’t be waiting nearly as long to get an appointment with a locksmith. With this fast turnaround time, you spend more time enjoying your vehicle.
What is Needed to Get a New Car Key?
Before you can have a car key created, there is some information you’ll need to have on hand. Whether you go to the dealership or locksmith, you’ll need the VIN and proof of ownership. Neither location is going to cut you a new key until you can prove it’s your vehicle.
In some situations, the active key needs to be presented as well. The duplicate key is created by using this key, making it difficult to order a replacement online.
Car Key FAQs
Why are car keys so expensive?
There are a few reasons why car keys can be expensive. They often have sophisticated built-in security features that can make them difficult and costly to replicate. For example, keys now have transponders that send a coded signal to the car’s ignition system and must be programmed to match the vehicle’s specifications; without the right code, the car will not start.
Can a key be made from a VIN number?
Yes. A key can be made from a VIN number. Each VIN is unique to a particular vehicle, so it can be used to create a key that will work only for that car. But, you need to be able to prove ownership of the car of the given VIN number.
Are lost car keys covered by insurance?
It depends on your car insurance policy. Many policies will cover lost keys, but there may be a deductible amount that you have to pay out of pocket. Be sure to read through your policy carefully or call your insurance company if you have any questions about coverage.
Can you program a key without going to the dealership?
In most cases, you can go to a locksmith instead of a dealer to get your car keys made and you can save some money. However, there are some newer car models that only dealers can program the car keys for.