The days of walking into a hardware store and getting duplicate car keys made for pennies are long gone. In fact, many drivers today have never seen the older metal car key that looks like a house key. Today’s cars use everything from the simple black-headed transponder chip key to the much more complex keyless remote proximity fob. Newer keys have electronic components that do everything from operating the door locks to disabling the car’s immobilizer. Of course, all these electronics are prone to wear over time. So, at some point, you may need to repair your key or get replacement car keys made.
There are several factors that impact the cost of replacing a car key. They include the type and complexity of the key, the year, make, and model of the vehicle, and who you choose to make the key for you.
As we said, the physical car keys and remote fobs are miniature electronic devices. As such, there is circuitry inside the key, as well as a battery to power the key’s functions. Therefore, the actual replacement key can be quite expensive on its own. And, that is before any work is done to cut or program it to work with your particular vehicle.
For example, a genuine BMW key fob can cost anywhere from $170 for a regular ignition key to $1,000 for a radio remote control display key. These keys are coded to your vehicle’s VIN, but the chip inside still requires programming. So, before you even start, the part is quite expensive. Similarly, a replacement key fob for a 2015 Lexus ES350 can run about $160.00. You can get cheaper versions of these keys that are not made by BMW or Lexus. However, the quality varies widely and many are very cheap imitations of the original. In fact, many automotive locksmiths near you won’t even cut or program these keys as the failure rate is so high.
Sometimes, in addition to the cost of the physical key, a special key code must be purchased in order to program the key. The cost of this code can be anywhere from $10 to $60.
Cutting the blades of your replacement car keys requires sophisticated and expensive machinery. Remember, to remain profitable, all businesses build their overhead into their prices. Therefore, that machinery’s cost is going to be factored into the cost of replacing your key. And, in cases of vehicles like Mercedes and BMW, special machinery is required that is exclusive to these brands. So, the cost to cut those keys will be even higher, as only owners of these cars will be charged for the special equipment required to cut those keys.
With most car keys (even proximity key fobs where a key blade is not visible), there are two components to the labor process. Physically cutting the key to operate the locks and ignition (where necessary) and programming the electronics so that the key communicates with the computer in your car.
In a normal situation, it takes approximately one hour to cut a key to your vehicle and program and test the key, so you will pay for one hour of labor, assuming no problems occur along the way. Depending on where you go to get this work done, the amount you pay for that labor will vary. Generally speaking, a car locksmith near me will charge less for the labor than a dealership.