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Help, I Lost My Car Keys!

By Kimberlea Buczeke - April 21st 2017
1 comment

lost car keys

You reach into your pocket and grasp at unexpected emptiness. In a whirlwind of panic you retrace your steps, scavenge through the pockets of every piece of clothing your wore in the last 48 hours. Losing your car keys can be a distressing experience and, all too often, the keys can turn up when least expected.

When is a replacement car key needed? Is replacing a car key difficult?

For the reasons above, it can be daunting to begin the process of replacing your key. Alternatively, your car key may have broken, either physically or electronically, leading to a more concrete need for replacement. However, car keys now come in multiple varieties, so replacement cost and methods will differ from car to car. If your key is lost and you don’t have a spare, then it is advisable to replace the key as soon as possible and hope the original reemerges to serve as a spare in the future.

Can replacing a car key be easy?

If you own an older vehicle that utilizes traditional, metal keys, consider yourself lucky as these are the cheapest to replace. For replacement, you should visit your local locksmith who should be able to craft a new key using machine cut metal. This service will be the cheapest replacement option, often costing less than $20.

Another more outdated possibility is that your car has a master key, a key intended not for use but for creating spare copies and replacements. This key, for obvious reasons, is a pain to lose. Not only is it expensive to replace, but in some cases, the entire engine management system must be replaced which can cost thousands of dollars. Check your owner’s manual to see if your car has a master key.

Technology and "Smart Keys"

Transponder keys were next in ignition technology advancement. These keys use a microchip which communicates with a sensor in the ignition making it more secure than traditional keys. Because of the electronics, these keys are more expensive to copy ($50-$100) while a complete replacement from a dealership could cost $250 while a locksmith should be able to do it for less. If your key is malfunctioning, it is always advisable to check the battery first, as this could be the cause of your trouble.

The newest smart keys have eliminated the need for an ignition. Most current models require only a push of the button to start the engine. These keys most often cannot be replicated by locksmiths and can only be replaced by the dealership for several hundred dollars. However, if the key is broken and not lost, the locksmith may be able to reprogram the key and fix the issue.

Is car key replacement expensive?

Key replacement can be an expensive ordeal with the exception of older cars with simpler security systems. Before you go to get a key fixed or replaced, it is important to gather relevant information about your car: the VIN number, make, model, and year. With these details, your next step should be to contact your local locksmith, as their prices will most likely undercut those of the dealership. It is important to get your key replaced quickly because jeopardized security can render your vehicle useless.


RepairPal is working to fix an industry not known for trust and assurance and arm consumers with individual knowledge when it comes to getting their cars repaired.

We want to make the auto repair process less stressful and much more trustworthy. Our website features our Fair Price Estimator, eliminating that impending “am I being ripped-off?” feeling, while also providing matches to Certified shops, guaranteed to do the work at that fair price with quality parts and a trained, awesome staff.

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