Losing your only car key can be a panic-inducing experience. Because you know you’ll have to replace it sooner or later–and probably sooner rather than later–it may be tempting to choose the easiest method of replacement or the one you come across first in an internet search. But as with any purchase, it’s best to start with a solid understanding of typical car key replacement costs. Knowing what price to expect ensures you’re not taken advantage of by an unscrupulous locksmith or dealer.
Replacement Costs Based on Key Type
The main factor that will determine the cost of a replacement car key is the type of key, as well as whether the locksmith will need to come to you (for instance, if you’ve lost all of your keys). While all car keys used to be basically the same (think a simple metal key similar to the one you use to get into your house), today most car keys are programmed and laser cut. Replacing these types of car keys costs more than replacing a basic, old-fashioned car key.
Basic Key: $25-$45
This is the simplest kind of car key. Most cars older than 1990 or so use basic mechanical keys that do not include any kind of anti-theft device. These are easy for a locksmith to create if the key codes for your car make and model are available. If key codes are not available, a good locksmith will still be able to generate a new key by decoding your locks; however, it may cost more due to additional labor. Special tools, including a device called the Lishi, make it easier than ever for locksmiths to decode a lock and make a new key even for rare and older cars, as long as they have or can obtain a key blank.
If your car requires a more complex key to start the car, but you only want to replace a basic mechanical door and trunk key, expect to pay between $65 and $85, depending on whether your car is foreign or domestic.
Keyless Entry Fobs: Varies, $200-$400
While many cars come with key fobs that can unlock the car door or pop the trunk at a distance, keyless entry fobs unlock car doors when they come into proximity of the car. They also make it possible to start the car simply by pressing a button, as long as the fob is inside the car. Replacing keyless entry fobs is pricey since the fob itself, unlike a regular key, is complex, and not all automotive locksmiths will be able to program the fob to work with your car, especially if it’s a German make.
Additional Factors Affecting Car Key Replacement Cost
Aside from the type of car key you need replaced, other factors also determine the cost of replacing a car key. Below are additional considerations that may affect the cost of a car key:
- Whether you have an original key: It is much easier and cheaper to get an existing car key copied than it is to have a replacement made if you’ve lost all keys to the car.
- Ignition key or car compartment key: As mentioned above, you cannot start most newer cars with a basic mechanical key. If you specifically need an ignition key made, this will cost more.
- The type of car brand: Keys from domestic carmakers, like Ford and Chevrolet, and common foreign car brands, like Toyota, Toyota, and Lexus, cost less to replace. German car brands like BMW, Mercedes Benz, and VW, as well as certain brands like Volvo require the locksmith to have specialized training as well as specialty computer software. Not every locksmith will be able to replace keys to these cars, and the replacement cost will be higher.
- Location of the vehicle: If you need the locksmith to come to you, the cost of the service call will depend on whether your car is within the locksmith’s service area or outside it.
- Whether the car battery is dead: If the car’s battery needs to be charged or replaced, the locksmith will not be able to program a new car key without first charging the battery or having a new one put in. This will also increase the cost of a key replacement.
- Time of day: If you need a replacement car key from a locksmith after hours or during holidays, you’ll pay a higher rate than during normal working hours.
Should a Dealer or Locksmith Replace My Car Key?
A car dealer can replace your car key or fob, but there are a few reasons why you may want to choose a trustworthy auto locksmith instead. First of all, a dealer will most likely be more expensive than a locksmith. This will not be a surprise if you have heard the old advice never to take your car to a dealer for servicing. In this case, the higher cost is because dealers use OEM parts, which cost more than aftermarket parts. While a locksmith may offer you a choice between OEM and aftermarket parts, you won’t have this choice at a dealership.
Unlike a locksmith, a dealer will not come to you. To get your car to the dealer (usually required to have a replacement key made), you’ll need to have your car towed there, which is typically more expensive than calling on the services of a mobile locksmith. In addition, many locksmiths offer services 24/7, making them more convenient than a dealership.
Finding the Right Locksmith
If you do choose a locksmith to replace your car key, make sure to use one you trust. A professional locksmith will never gouge you on price, cause damage to your vehicle, or demand payment for services that were not provided. 1-800-Unlocks is a directory of professional locksmiths and is designed to help you find a certified locksmith near you.
Call A Verified Locksmith Today
1-800-Unlocks is a peer-reviewed directory of professional locksmiths. When you call, you’ll be connected with a vetted locksmith in your area.