Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Lost car keys

Lost car keys — best way to get replacements

What to do when you’ve lost car keys

All late model vehicle require some kind of programming to enter replacement keys into the system. So you’re limited to the dealer or an automotive locksmith that has scan tool capabilities to do that kind of programming.

Some older vehicles allow you to program new keys yourself as long as you have two already programmed keys. That’s great to help you add more, but doesn’t help if you’re down to one key.

Dealer versus automotive locksmith for new car keys

The dealer will provide you with a genuine OEM key or key fob. But you’ll have to tow the vehicle to the dealer and pay dealer labor rates for programming and cutting the key.

Using a qualified automotive locksmith will save you about 20% over the price of a dealer. Considering that the dealer cost for replacing a lost key usually runs about $500, that’s a $100 savings from using an automotive locksmith.

How to avoid the automotive locksmith scam

If you belong to a roadside assistance plan, call them first to locate an automotive locksmith. They’ll refer you to a reliable locksmith.

If you don’t belong to a roadside assistance plan, and you search for an automotive locksmith, you’ll get lots of top-of-the-page hits and those hits will be from LOCKSMITH BROKERS, not local locksmiths. The brokers are middlemen that collect a hefty fee for generating leads to local locksmiths that don’t have high enough Google ratings to appear at the top of the page.

Don’t call these brokers! First, they’ll give you a fake quote. Yup, they’ll quote a really low price. Then when the locksmith arrives, they’ll find some excuse to raise the price, in some cases, higher than the dealer would have charged!

Second, many of the “locksmiths” that use a broker aren’t really licensed locksmiths; they’re freelancers. Trust me, you only want a licensed locksmith working on your car. I’ve heard of horror stories of these hacks bricking the computer in cars or convincing customer they need new lock cylinders; anything to jack up the price.

You want a local automotive locksmith

If you do a search, scan past the top-of-the-page hits. Avoid the “Top 10 best locksmiths in your area” hits.

Scroll down to actual websites of local locksmiths. Make sure they have a local address and local phone number.

Lost car keys pricing

Since you’ve lost your car keys, you’re either going to have to have the car towed to a dealer or pay a trip charge for a locksmith to come to you. Many locksmiths charge trip charge of around $100.

replacement car key cost

Replacement fob price

A replacement fob can run anywhere from $200 to as much as $600 each, depending on the make and whether the replacement fob is genuine OEM or aftermarket.

Replacement transponder key price

Transponder keys cost less than fobs, running from $150 to $225 plus the cost to cut and program.

Always get two keys

I know the replacement key is expensive, but so is the towing charge or the trip charge. So it makes sense to buy two keys and keep one as a spare.

©, 2022 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat


Custom Wordpress Website created by Wizzy Wig Web Design, Minneapolis MN