I Lost My Car Keys: What Next?

We’ve all been there before. You’re in a rush to get to your destination, trying to get out the door while you still have a shot to make it. And then it hits you… “where are my keys?”

Now in many cases, they’ll turn up within minutes to hours in the most obvious spot possible like always. But what if they don’t? Not having your keys isn’t just an annoyance, it directly interrupts many of your important daily tasks and sidelines you from conveniently getting to most places. What’s the next step?

Type of Keys

The path to getting a replacement depends on the type of key it is. Modern vehicles often use key fobs, which allow you to control certain functions, like locks, windows, trunk/hatch, or even starting the car. Compare this to traditional mechanically cut car keys used in older vehicles, and you can see how the difference in keys and technology may affect the difficulty of replacing them. 

Traditional/Mechanically Cut Keys

Mechanically cut keys are the simplest to replace, as they lack the technology and security measures used in fobs. Since these don’t require any programming or proprietary transponders or sensors, they can be easily replicated by a locksmith or dealer. 

Transponder Keys

Transponder keys look nearly the same as mechanically cut keys and operate similarly too. The only difference, albeit a major one, between the two, is the transponder security chip in the key. This is called the immobilizer chip and prevents the vehicle from being started without it being present. 

Basic transponder key

Now in most cases, this is a great feature as it requires the key to have been programmed to start the vehicle. This is huge for the security of your vehicle, as it’s much harder for someone to get their hands on a programmed transponder key rather than replicating a mechanically cut key. 

For our purposes though, this transponder only makes replacing your key that much more difficult. Fortunately, most automotive-specific locksmiths can both replicate the key and program a new transponder for the majority of vehicles with a basic transponder system. Other transponder keys may need proprietary programming at a dealership, particularly on higher-end vehicles. 

Key + Fob

If your car key includes a fob with an attached key (such as a switchblade key), having it replaced may be more difficult and expensive than replacing a transponder or mechanically cut key. 

An automotive locksmith may have the ability to recut and program your new key and fob in more basic systems. Depending on the transponder and functionality of the fob, a dealership replacement may be your only option. The added complexity of both the transponder and fob functionality makes some keys impossible to replicate outside of a dealership.

Switchblade key fob


Keyless Fob

It’s not uncommon to see cars nowadays ditch a physical key completely and rely on wireless fobs. Since there’s no mechanical key to replicate, locksmiths won’t be of any help in this situation.

For most smart keys, you’ll need to have a replacement made at the dealership. They also might require proof of ownership to provide you with one. 

This process could take 1-2 days, in which you might need to leave the vehicle at the dealership for programming. 

Cost of Replacement Key

The cost of having your key replaced depends considerably on the type of key and the make and model of the vehicle. Simple mechanically cut keys for older vehicles without transponders can cost as little as $15-$50 for a copy. Compare this to a transponder key that requires chip programming, as these services can range anywhere between $100 to $250.

Fobs are where it can become complicated, as different fobs require different procedures for programming. For a switchblade key replacement, the extra programming required from a locksmith or dealership could cost around $150-$200. 

In general, keyless ignition fobs or smart fobs will be the most expensive of these to replace. Certain vehicles might require dealership programming, whereas others may be able to be replaced by an automotive locksmith. The cost of a new smart fob can run you anywhere from $200-$600.

Electrical Diagnostics in Riverton, Utah

If you’re experiencing issues with your car’s ignition system or wireless key, trust the experts at Matson Point S to diagnose the source of your issue and bring your car back to life! Give us a call or schedule online today.

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