How to Save Money on Car Key Replacement

If you lost your Car Key Replacement, you can usually find a solution with a professional key maker. The type of key you have will determine how much it costs to replace it.

Most modern cars require a transponder key that has to be programmed. This process can cost several hundred dollars at the dealership.

Mechanical Keys

Mechanical keys are made from a plastic housing, a stem that holds the keycaps, and a spring. When you press down on the key, it activates a physical switch inside the housing and sends a signal to the keyboard that the key was pressed. The switch also allows the key to return upward with a spring. This motion is called the actuation point or operating point. Some switches are linear and have a very straight actuation curve, while others are tactile or bottom-out.

Transponder Keys

Most newer cars come equipped with transponder keys that have a microchip within them. This chip relays a signal to your car’s immobilizer system that tells it that your key is inserted. This gives you an extra layer of security that prevents your car from starting unless the correct signal is received.

This is very different from a regular mechanical key, where it is solely dependent on the cut of the key matching the tumblers in the lock. If you lose your transponder key, you can easily have a replacement cut by a locksmith who has the appropriate tools. The locksmith will also be able to delete any old key codes from the car’s computer so that the new key can work with the vehicle without having to do any additional programming.

There are two kinds of transponder keys, a regular one and a remote key. The regular one has a plastic head with the microchip inside of it. It is very similar to the flat metal key that you may already have, except it has a small hole in the end so that it can be attached to your existing car key. This type of key can be copied by most locksmiths, but they will not be able to program it into your vehicle – a professional must do this using an On-Board Programming procedure.

The remote key is more of a fob that you can use to unlock your doors and start your car. It has a button that you push to unlock your door, and another button that you press to start the engine. This is a very convenient way to access your vehicle, but it is not foolproof, and thieves have found ways to steal cars with this technology.

You should always turn to a reliable locksmith when you need to replace your remote or fob keys, so that you don’t waste money at the dealership. The locksmith will be able to use the same equipment as the dealership and can even replace your remote keys if they are lost or stolen.

Key Fobs

The most common key fobs lock and unlock the car, but many offer other security and convenience features as well. They may also contain a physical key that can be used to start the vehicle in an emergency, which is a handy feature for drivers who live in areas where car break-ins are common. Some even allow the owner to remotely park the car by hopping out of the vehicle and pressing a button on the fob. For these reasons and others, key fobs have become a staple in modern vehicles. However, when a key fob fails, it can be expensive to get a replacement. Luckily, Consumer Reports offers some simple tips for saving money on a new key fob.

If your key fob isn’t working, first check to see if it simply needs a new battery. Many hardware stores, big-box retailers, and battery specialists will sell a replacement for $10 or less. You can also find instructions online or in your owner’s manual for opening the remote and swapping the old one with a fresh battery. Then test it out to make sure the problem is solved.

You can save even more if you purchase a replacement for your specific vehicle online. NAPA Auto Parts, for example, carries replacement fobs for hundreds of different vehicles that look and work just like the original. They’re also easily programmable with no tools at all, unlike the more advanced fobs that require special programming using software only accessible by dealership technicians.

Another way to save on a new key fob is by keeping an extra one. While it’s always unfortunate to lose a key, it can be far more costly to be stranded somewhere without a spare. Try to negotiate a third key as part of the purchase price at the dealer, or build it into your budget when you buy your next car.

It’s also worth checking your warranty, car-insurance policy, and roadside assistance coverage to see if they cover the cost of a new key fob or at least some of it. This is particularly important if you drive a brand-new car that requires a key fob to operate.


When you reach into your pocket and can’t feel your car keys, it’s a terrible feeling. It was once the case that losing your keys meant a call to AAA for roadside assistance or a trip to the auto locksmith, but as cars have become more and more technologically advanced, the process of replacing a lost key has become a much more involved (and expensive) affair.

The cost to replace your vehicle’s key depends on the type of key you have and the dealership you choose to go to for replacement. Most traditional keys can be replaced for about $10 if you have the original to make a copy from, while more technologically advanced keys may require an automotive locksmith or a trip to the dealer.

If you lose your car fob, key fob with switchblade or smart key, the only option to get a replacement is to go to the dealership. They’ll need to order a new key for your vehicle and will also need to pair the new key with your vehicle, so you’ll have to wait for them to complete the process. Plus, you’ll be paying their towing fees on top of the replacement key costs.

Roadside assistance services are another option for getting your replacement key, but it can be more expensive than a locksmith and they may have to charge you for the use of their diagnostic equipment. Plus, they may not have the specialist key coding equipment that an auto locksmith has on hand.

AutoZone is an affordable alternative to the dealership for a new traditional key. They have the necessary key blanks for most car models and will simply need to trace over the contours of your existing key so that the new key is cut identically.

Most of the time, if you’re losing a more technologically advanced key, it’s best to avoid the dealership. They’re notorious for racking up hidden fees that can end up being a lot more than you originally anticipated, especially if you have to pay for a tow to their location. It’s always a good idea to check your vehicle warranty before you decide to go to the dealership for any service, including key replacement.