How Much Does it Cost for a Duplicate Car Key?
Depending on the key type, it can cost as little as $7 to get a car key cut, or as much as and over $600! Check out our chart below for detailed cost analysis.
The total cost of a duplicate key is dependent on the technology involved in a vehicle’s ignition system. Beginning in the 1990’s, auto manufacturers started adding computer chip technology to their keys for additional key security, and technologies have progressed even further since then.
In general, newer model car keys will be more expensive than older models, because while each of these new technologies offer added security for your vehicle, the trade-off for that additional security is higher costs for duplication.
We discussed the different types of car keys available in our article on where to get keys made, you can also view our YouTube video “Types of Car Keys” for more information on the many different styles of keys that have been used in automobiles and why locksmiths/dealers must now, almost always, program car keys.
How Does Vendor Impact Key Cost?
How Much Does It Cost for a Mechanical Car Key?
Why Transponder Car Keys are More Expensive
Can I Program A Car Key Myself And Save Money?
Why Laser Cut Car Keys More Expensive
Summary Chart Showing Auto Key Cost for All Key Factors
Why Locksmiths are the Low-Cost Option to Duplicate a Car Key
Ways to Save Money on Backup Car Keys
Important Key Programming Tip
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you only have one working key for your vehicle, the time to get a copy is now. The reason is simple: it is far cheaper to make a copy of a key you already have than it is to originate one that you don’t. While you may balk at these duplication costs, it can be 2X – 100X as expensive to originate a key when you’ve lost that last one!
Getting an extra car key may seem costly now, but in the long run, it will save you a lot more, should you lose it. this article focuses on just on how much it cost to duplicate a car key. But if you do lose all of your keys, the cost to replace your last car key will be $100-200 more than the prices discussed below.
Where to Get Duplicate Car Keys Made and How Does it Impact Cost?
In very rare cases (older vehicles only), you can get duplicate keys made at places like Auto Zone and Home Depot.
For most vehicles, locksmiths and some independent auto repair shops will have the equipment and credentials make and program car keys. These will be your lowest-cost car keys, as they are usually local providers.
In addition, auto dealerships can make keys. If you auto dealer participates in the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) key copies will still be reasonable as they will be competing with local auto key makers for your business.
What is NASTF? It is a cooperative effort from the auto service industry, the equipment and tool industry, and auto manufacturers, to assist in the objective of ensuring vehicle owners have the ability to swiftly and properly repair and service vehicles. And there are rules and procedures in the US that most auto manufacturers abide by, allowing things like key and car key programming to be accomplished by locksmiths and auto mechanics.
But a few European manufacturers do not participate in NASTF. There are financial consequences to this these manufacturers if they are selling cars in the US, but the manufacturers pay them, and keep their information proprietary, meaning if you need duplicate keys or fobs you have no choice but to go to the actual dealer for copies and replacements. With very few exceptions only dealers will be able to make VW, Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, Saab and Volvo keys.
If you are lucky enough to drive one of these cars, you are unlucky in that they will be the most expensive backup car keys and FOBs you will ever get. We hear from customers telling us that some dealers are charging more than $600 for spare keys and FOBs!
On a very few models, it may be possible for a locksmith to ‘clone’ a key. But for the most part, you will need to see your car dealership if your auto’s manufacturer does not participate.
How Much Does It Cost for a Mechanical Car Key?
Mechanical keys do not require any programming, and they are the least expensive keys to have copied. You can pay as little as $7 or $8 for these keys, and most are around $10. Very rare keys (think out of production classic cars) can go as high as $25.
There is one exception, VATS keys. A VATS (Vehicle Anti-Theft System) key is a mechanical key, but it does have a little resistor in it. The resistor value is set so these keys do not require a programming charge. A car key duplicate does have to match the proper value and that needs to be determined to make a key duplicate, so they are a little more technical than a regular mechanical key. You can expect to find VATS keys for around $20-$35.
How Much Does It Cost for a Transponder Car Key?
With duplicate transponder keys, there are additional costs. These keys have chips in them (sometimes called chip keys) and the car needs to be programmed to recognize the key so that the car starts.
So, the car key is more expensive, and there will be additional car key programming cost.
Transponder keys are the reason why placed like Home Depot, Autozone and Walmart can’t make most of your car keys. If it is a chip key, they do not have the equipment of the knowledge to program the car key.
Can I Program A Car Key Myself And Save Money?
Some manufacturers, allow you to program your own car keys – you can check this by entering the year, make, and model of your vehicle along with “key programming” into our websites car key search. If your vehicle offers that capability, you’ll find a tab after you select your car key or FOB labeled programming.
Read the instructions carefully, though; some manufacturers will let you self-program additional keys, but ONLY if you already have 2 operating keys in your possession. So, if you are down to your last key, this may not be an option.
Locksmith Advice: If you have a key and a remote in one unit, the programming directions may only work for the remote and not the key. The key may still need to be programmed by a locksmith to run the vehicle even if the remote can be self-programmed.
Are Laser Cut Car Keys More Expensive?
Newer keys are not made with the traditional cuts into the side of the blade (or shank; the metal portion of the key), instead the cuts are routed into the edges of the key – but not all the way through. Or, the cuts will be a wavy groove in the center of the key.
These latter-types are often called laser-cut car keys or high-security car keys. They require more expensive cutting machines and take longer to produce. So how much it costs to cut a car key depends on what type of key it is. Locksmiths and mechanics will charge more to cut laser car keys.
How Much are Car Keys with Remotes Attached?
In most cases, for your duplicate car key that will be used only as a backup you can save money by just buying the key-only portion without the remote. This will allow you to still drive the vehicle should you ever lose your primary key.
The Cost for Duplicate Car Keys Depends on:
- The keys themselves are typically $10-$80, depending on the vehicle and the style of key. Sometimes you can find them for less online and you can buy affordable car keys online directly from ACME Locksmith.
- The second cost is the programming, and this is usually $50-$100. The cheaper end being that of your local locksmith.
- The third cost, if you have a laser-cut or similar key, which will have an additional cost to cut. The high-security car key itself cost about the same as a standard transponder key but cutting can be from about $40 to $70 (again the most affordable being the locksmith in your area).
- Lastly, if you are buying the remote as part of the key, or just the buying the auto key itself,
All of the above keys are commonly found in vehicles on the road today, but there are also a couple other types of keys. Jaguars and some Fords use what is called a Tibbe key; these can cost anywhere from $20 – $100 to purchase and from $60-100 to cut, and may (or may not) need programming.
Also becoming more common are the proximity keys. While these don’t actually work as a traditional key (there is no blade to cut, excepting an emergency door key), they do need to be programmed, and the actual ‘key’ can cost $50-$300.
Table: Total Cost to Make a Car Keys By key Type
|Duplicate Key Cost||Additional Cost for Key Programming||Total Cost of Duplicate Key Cut & Programmed|
|Type of Car Key||Low||High||Low||High||Low||High|
|Old, Standard, Mechanical Car Key||$ 7||$ 25||$ 0||$ 0||$ 7||$ 12|
|VATS Car Key||$ 20||$ 35||$ 0||$ 0||$ 20||$ 35|
|Transponder Car Key / Chip Key||$ 10||$ 80||$ 50||$100||$ 60||$180|
|Laser Cut Car Key (High Security)||$ 50||$150||$ 50||$100||$100||$250|
|Proximity FOBs||$ 75||$300||$ 50||$100||$125||$400|
Why Locksmith Charge Less to Make a Car Key?
Locksmiths tend to charge less than auto dealerships to make a duplicate auto key. Locksmiths are competing for your business against dealers and many consumers to do not know that a locksmith is a great option, so your local locksmith will keep their prices low to attract business via word of mouth.
Furthermore, one of the main benefits of using an auto locksmith in your city, is that when you bring them a car for a duplicate, they will take the key out to your car and test that the key works before you drive away. Auto Zone, Home Depot, etc… will not do this and thus several trips may need to be made if you choose that route for a spare car key. A locksmith key may be a dollar or two more than one of these big box stores, but you will likely save time, and time is the one resource you can never get back.
For most vehicles, you can expect to pay between $7 and $125 to a locksmith for a duplicate car key that will start and run the car. Price varies depending on the key blank, if a remote is attached and whether programming is needed. It will be a bit more if you need a key that has the remote as part of the key. If it’s a Proximity key, the bulk of the cost is often the FOB itself, and that will vary dramatically from car to car.
How Can You Save Money on Car Keys?
If you’re feeling a little “sticker shock” at the costs associated with getting a duplicate key, there are some options that may be helpful that are less costly, or that may help you reduce costs if you lose your last operating key and need a key originated.
One option is to have a key cut for your transponder-equipped car and not have it programmed. This key won’t start your vehicle, but if you lose your primary key you will save money because:
- It will at unlock the door and you won’t be locked out.
- When you lose your last car key, it is VERY expensive to determine what the cuts of the car key are. Having this key you have the key cuts required to turn your ignition thus eliminating that expense.
- This backup can simply be programmed to the car and the car will now run. That is, you’re only paying for the programming should you need it at a future point.
A second option often available is to obtain a spare key shell whose blade you have had duplicated from your original key. This is for those keys that have the remote button heads. A spare key shell does not contain the electronics for your key, it is the housing for the electronics along with the key blade.
The cases in these car keys are plastic, and sometimes they can break, separating the key blade from the housing. Should your primary car key break, you can put the internal electronics into your spare car key shell and you are all set. Shells are a very economical way to reuse salvageable portions of expensive key components.
Some vehicles will ‘drop’ keys that are not present at the time of programming, rendering them at least temporarily unusable (they can, of course, be re-added later for an additional car key programming cost).
By bringing all your current and new equipment, you can make sure that everything still works with the vehicle, avoiding unnecessary inconveniences.
By that same token, if you’ve lost a key, replaced it, and then found it later and it’s not working, don’t throw the key away!! If nothing else, it’s a recording of the key cuts for your vehicle. And you can always decide to have it reprogrammed to the vehicle again should you lose one of your replacements.
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