Car Key Replacement: How To Replace Any Lost Key Or Key Fob

The price of lost car keys is more than just a few dollars and a trip to the hardware store. Today’s high-tech key fobs are convenient, capable, and more secure than ever, but all that technology comes at a cost.

Cost to Replace Different Types of Lost Car Keys
Basic Key: The classic double-edged car key has been around for ages and is still used in many vehicles. If you have a spare key at home, getting a replacement made at your local hardware store is cheap and easy – less than $10. If you have lost all copies of your original key, you may still be able to have a new key made by an automotive locksmith, after you provide the model and year and prove ownership of the vehicle. The locksmith may even come out and make it for you onsite.
Transponder Key: This key integrates a security chip, or transponder, on top of the metal shank. The chip emits a signal to the car’s ignition and door lock. The match allows the car door to unlock and lets the driver drive the car. The typical cost for a basic replacement chip key is around $160. If the key is laser cut – with a slightly thicker shank and fewer serrated edges – you’ll pay significantly more.
Key Fob (Remote Keyless Entry): Fobs let drivers lock and unlock a car door with the push of a button. The metal shank is still used to turn the ignition. Programming a replacement key fob can run anywhere from $50 to $100. Some dealerships may do this for free or charge a small fee. If you’ve lost your key fob, but you have the metal key, you can even get into your car and start it.
Switchblade Key: This style folds the key’s metal shank into a plastic holder. The metal key pops out when the plastic holder’s button is pushed. Switchblade keys typically include a fob for locking and unlocking the doors with the push of a button. Replacement switchblade keys can run you $200 to $300.
Smart Key Fob (Proximity Key): These keys can remain in our pocket while you unlock and start the vehicle. They contain an electronic code, and once the code is verified, drivers can open doors or start the car. Smart keys don’t have the traditional metal key shank. Instead, their proximity to the vehicle allows you to push a button inside to start the ignition. If you lose a smart key, be prepared to pay a hefty amount to replace it. The cost of a smart replacement key can run you anywhere from $220 to $500, depending on the car. Getting a replacement may be tough without a backup set. Chances are, you’ll need to tow the car to the dealership and show proof of ownership. If they have the key in stock, the dealer should be able to pair the new key with your car. If they order the key, you may be waiting a few days before you can get your car back.

How Can You Get Cheap Car Key Replacements?

DIY Key Fob Programming

Depending on the age and model of your car, you may be able to program a replacement yourself.

The procedure for do-it-yourself key fob programming can vary: Some automakers provide instructions in their owner’s manuals. Information can be found in many cases on the internet. The catch is you may need two working key fobs to expedite the procedure – or perform it at all.

That means it’s prudent to buy and program an extra remote before you need it. It’s also a smart thing to do: Most used-car buyers (especially car dealers) will give you more money for a car with at least two working sets of keys or fobs. So not only will the extra key help you in a pinch, it can pay off for you over the long haul.

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