Do You Know What to Do If You Lose Your Car Keys?

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 7:50 pm by Kirsten Rincon

You’ve lost your car keys. What a pain! If you’ve searched high and low and still can’t find your keys, it may be time to look into getting a new set.

However, getting new car keys isn’t as simple as a trip to Home Depot to get a new key cut. The process is going to depend a lot on what kind of car you have and what type of key it uses.

We have laid out in this article the different ways to replace your keys for every vehicle make but generally these are the steps you would follow.

How to Get New Car Keys Made:

  • Determine what type of key you have.
  • Figure out the best key replacement method for your vehicle and budget.
  • Gather the relevant information such as car make, model, and VIN.
  • If needed, tow your vehicle to the key replacement location.
  • Test new keys and any old keys to make sure everything works.


Type of Key You Want to Replace

The technology around car keys has evolved significantly. With keyless entry, remote start, and key fobs, replacing your car keys has gotten much more complicated than a trip to the hardware store.

Here are four categories of key types:

Transponder Key: Also known as Chip Keys, these high-tech keys have become standard for most car manufacturers. To prevent car theft, the keys are electronically paired with your car’s ignition system, and the car won’t start unless the programmed key matching your car is used.

Smart Key: These proximity-based systems unlock your car doors without needing to physically push a button, and they can start the car without needing to insert the key into the ignition. The underlying technology varies by manufacturer, as does the name of the key system such as Audi’s Advanced Key, Ford’s Intelligent Access, or Honda’s Smart Entry System.

Key Fobs: Used for remote, keyless entry, key fobs rely on radio frequencies to lock or unlock your car doors at the push of a button. These electronic remotes are sometimes also equipped with a keyless ignition system. Key fob technology is paired to your vehicle, but because the authentication technology is not present, you can also unlock and start your car using a traditional metal key.

Traditional Car Keys: A standard for older cars or basic models, these straightforward keys are the easiest and cheapest to replace because there’s no need for any electronic programming. If you do have a spare key, you can get a duplicate made at a local locksmith, key-cutting kiosk, or hardware store.


Who Do You Call to Replace Your Keys?

The options you have when replacing your lost keys will depend on what type of technology your keys use. Keep in mind that if your keys have been stolen, you may want to replace the lock or update the technology so that the old keys won’t work.

Dealership: A car dealership will have the equipment and technology to replace all keys for your car manufacturer. Smart Keys must be replaced at the dealership, but for other key types, there are other options.

Locksmith: Many locksmiths can accommodate key replacements with varying degrees of tech sophistication. When calling a locksmith near you, expect to explain the type of car key you have to see if he or she can help you replace your keys. A mobile locksmith may be able to come to your location, or a national service such as Car Keys Express may be available in your area.

Online Retailer: Instead of turning the process over to a professional, you can save on labor costs by purchasing a key fob replacement online. You’ll then need to get the key cut and programmed following your purchase.

Whichever method you chose for replacing your keys, you’ll need your car’s year, make, model, and VIN. Typically, you’ll also need a car registration, driver’s license, or another way to confirm ownership of the car.


How Much Does It Cost to Replace Lost Keys?

Typically, the most expensive option is to replace your keys at a car dealership. However, this choice gives you the convenience of not having to do any troubleshooting yourself.

Using a locksmith will be a cheaper solution, but you’ll have to work with the provider to ensure he or she services the type of key technology your car has.

Consumer Reports found that replacing the keys for a 2005 Accord at the dealer cost $200. Comparatively, buying a key online and having a locksmith cut and program it costs $134. That’s a 33% savings by opting not to go to the dealership.

Here are some sample costs for dealership replacement of lost keys:

  • Acura Smart Key: $400
  • Audi Key: $280 to $350
  • BMW Smart Key: $500
  • Chrysler Key: $90 to $400
  • Dodge Key: $200
  • Ford Transponder Key: $160 for the key, additional $75 for the fob
  • Honda Laser Key: $150 to $250
  • Kia (no chip): $30 to $80
  • Kia Key and Fob: $250 to $300
  • Lexus Key Fob: $374
  • Mazda Smart Key: $350
  • Mazda Transponder Key: $150
  • Nissan Smart Key: $220
  • Subaru Key: $120
  • Toyota Prius Key: $600
  • VW Key and Fob: $300


Can You Reprogram Key Fob Technology Yourself?

Your ability to reprogram your key technology yourself is going to depend on your car manufacturer and when your car was built.

As a general guideline, you can typically program remote entry key fobs for cars made before 2012. Check your owner’s manual or online tutorials to see what steps you need to take in order to pair your new key fob with your automobile.

Cars built in 2013 or later will typically have a more complex encryption protocol in the key fob. While this does give you added security, it means that the remote key fob needs to be programmed by the dealer or a locksmith using a computer with special software.


Are You Frequently Losing Your Keys?

Needless to say, losing your car keys can be expensive, and a major hassle. However, there are things you can do to provide support in case you do lose your keys.

First, it’s a good idea to have a spare set of keys as a backup. This can save you from being stranded without a car, and it can save you towing costs. When you’re getting your replacement set of keys made, ask how much it would cost to have two replacements made instead of just one.

It may also be worth it to invest in a key replacement program through your dealer. Although it’s not offered everywhere, this insurance-like service can cover key replacements, lockout assistance, and towing, up to certain dollar limits.

A subscription to AAA roadside assistance can also be a smart investment. Depending on the plan you get, your subscription could give you access to towing service and vehicle locksmith services, among other benefits.

You may also consider attaching a Bluetooth tracker to your keys to avoid the process of retracing your steps after you’ve lost your keys. These small devices will help you triangulate them within 150 feet outdoors and 50 feet indoors.

 There are also cloud-based car key services such as the startup KeyMe, which stores a digital copy of your car key in the cloud so you can order an on-demand replacement from your computer or phone.

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