Car key replacement: How to replace your lost car key

Last updated: January 1

Losing a car key has always been an inconvenience. In recent years, as car keys become more technically advanced, the process to replace a car key can seem complicated. But these tips can help make the process a whole lot easier.

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Find out what type of key your car uses

The type of key your car uses may determine the cost and process to replace your car keys, according to Consumer Reports. A modern key for instance would need the fob and have it programmed. More sophisticated key fob programming can cost more, adds Consumer Reports.

Replacing a car key: dealership vs. locksmith

If you lose your car keys, you can almost certainly work with your car manufacturer's dealership to get a replacement. But in some cases, it isn't necessary, according to Carfax. The type of key your car uses is the determining factor in whether it will be possible to replace your car keys using an automotive locksmith or using an aftermarket fob.

How to replace a traditional car key

Traditional car keys, also known as mechanically cut car keys, are typically seen with older cars. They don’t have a security chip or remote. These keys can easily be recut by a dealership or an automotive locksmith, according to Consumer Reports.

Traditional car key vs. key fob

Traditional car keys are different from car keys with key fobs because they do not have a key fob to control the function of the car. Key fobs can be used to operate certain functions of the vehicle such as unlocking the doors, trunk and hood, or starting the car.

Again, key fobs require programming, so they can be a bit more complicated to replace than a traditional car key. Depending on the dealer, some key fobs can be replaced with aftermarket parts and programmed by a locksmith, says Consumer Reports.

How to replace car key fob

Key fobs, like the car keys themselves, can be replaced by a dealership or with aftermarket parts. It all comes down to the type of key fob you have. Some newer car models may have more complicated security features, which requires equipment purchase and programming to be done by the dealership.

How to replace transponder car key

Transponder car keys use microchips to send a signal from the key to a remote receiver in your car for security purposes, according to Great Valley Lockshop. Though these keys require programming to work, most automotive locksmiths can create an extra key for a basic transponder car key. Alternatively, a dealership can help you replace your transponder key.

Key fob with switchblade key

Like the transponder car key, switchblade keys may also be replaced by an automotive locksmith, according to Carfax. But some switchblade car keys may require programming or key cutting that can only be found at a dealership. If you’re unsure which replacement method to go with, contact your dealership or a locksmith.

Replacing a lost car key for a “keyless ignition” vehicle

Smart key fobs can be tricky to replace. If you don’t have an extra key, you’ll likely need to get a replacement at a dealership and provide proof of ownership, according to Carfax.

The dealership will then program a new key to work with your car. This may take a few days, during which they will need to hold onto the car.

Costs of replacing a car key

The costs of replacing a car key can vary depending on the type of key. Replacing a basic key can cost as little as $10, whereas replacing a smart key fob can run up to $500, according to Carfax. The determining factor is likely how specialized the process of replacing the key is and whether it can only be done by a dealership.

Are lost car keys covered by my car insurance?

Typically, losing your car keys is not covered by standard auto insurance. Other types of insurance may cover the cost of replacing your car keys. Comprehensive coverage includes protection for stolen vehicle parts – including replacing a key.

Car key replacement FAQs