Car Key Replacement – The How To

Introduction – 
You Lost Em

So you just lost your car keys huh? You’re probably feeling a little troubled by the fact that you’re not able to just hop in your car and drive off to your heart’s content. Instead you’re surfing the internet looking for the quickest and cheapest way to get yourself back on the road in your own automobile. Its not always easy to filter through all the search results, trying to get reliable information once you’ve lost your car keys. That is why I have written this “how to” article, to take you from the scene of the problem (losing your keys), to the solution of having a replacement set right in your hands. (I’ve had to do the search myself).

The Problem

Automobile keys have gotten a lot more sophisticated over the years. It isn’t nearly as quick or as painless to get a replacement set anymore. You’ve got transponder chips to take into account, and more than likely you previously had a key-less entry system that you’d also like to replace. And once you’ve got the right style key equipped with a transponder chip, and you’ve found a suitable key-less entry you’d be happy with, you’ve still got to get both programmed right to your vehicle in order for them to function. It used to be that you were able to go down to the local hardware store or locksmith and were able to find the correct key blank for your vehicle and get it cut for $10. Now you’re lucky if you don’t have to special order it from the manufacturer for over $100, and that’s before programming the key.

To make matters just slightly more difficult you still have several options to research if you want to find the best deal. The most assured way to spend a lot of money, is to go exclusively through the dealership that sold you the car. We’ll talk about the alternatives later on, but for now you’re already well on your way to a replacement set of keys just for continuing to reading through this guide.

Doing Your Homework

There are some steps that you need to take in order to ensure that you are able to get a new set of keys quickly and effectively. We’ll go through each step in more detail, but here is the summarized list in the proper order, for your convenience.

  1. Gather your vehicles information
  2. Have proof of ownership handy
  3. Check online retailers
  4. Check local car locksmiths
  5. Check local dealership

Steps 3-5 are ordered by the cost that you may incur by choosing that outlet for getting your keys replaced. Now lets go over each step in detail.

Step 1 – Gathering your vehicles information

This is the most basic step involved. All you really need to get from your vehicle is it’s VIN number.  Your vehicle’s VIN is usually located on the drivers side dash, and is visible by peering through at the base of the windshield from the outside. If you are not able to locate the VIN there, then it may be stamped on the side of your vehicles engine. Now by looking up your VIN you can find a lot of useful information about your vehicle including the year, make, and model. Check out our VIN Decoder Page to look up your vehicle by its VIN, provided by DecodeThis.

Step 2 – Have proof of ownership handy

This may be necessary in order for a locksmith or dealership to agree to cut or program a replacement key for your automobile. Your vehicles registration should suffice for this, as well as a valid drivers license. If the vehicle is not registered in your name but rather a parent or guardian, you may have to get them to get the car key replaced for you. It may be a hassle but it keeps people from making unauthorized keys for your vehicle.

Step 3 – Check online retailers

Online retailers can be very useful for car key replacements if you are able to find a reputable company. Amazon and EBay in particular make finding a trusted seller easy with the use of customer reviews. Online retailers outside those avenues might not be quite as easy. Some ways you can check their reputation and authenticity are to ask for any references they might have or see if they have testimonials. You might also check with the Better Business Bureau and see if they have decent reviews and ample history of doing business.

Online retailers will usually provide the best prices for you to buy your vehicle’s key blank, and some even offer the key cutting service. But since the company will not be in close proximity to your vehicle you will still have to program the key once you have it in your possession. Some online purchases may come with instructions on how to do this programming yourself.This is another consideration when deciding whether or not to go with a retailer online.

Lastly, if you only have one set of keys it may be a good idea to get a key cut from an online retailer. This is because a key that is not programmed to your vehicle can still unlock the car if it is cut to the right specifications, and an online retailer will likely beat a local locksmith in terms of price.

Step 4 – Check with local car locksmiths

A local car locksmith will usually have a lot of the same cutting machinery that a dealership would have keys. The exception to this may be if you have a laser cut key, as the machinery required for these keys are much more expensive. To be sure call the business up and ask them if they are able to replace a key for your automobiles year, make and model. A skilled locksmith may also have the know-how to program the key transponder as well as your key-less entry remote.

Another consideration when looking for a local locksmith is if they offer mobile services. If they do you won’t need to have your vehicle towed to the locksmiths place of business, which will only add the cost of replacing your car keys. In terms of price a local locksmith will almost always be a safer bet than the dealership.

Step 5 – Check with your local dealership

If you weren’t able to get a replacement car key before you reached this step then you’re going to have to pay full price for losing your keys. The dealership is your last hope for getting your key replaced. If they aren’t able to do it then it gets a lot more expensive as you will have to change out your automobile’s locks. Most likely this won’t be the case because if the dealership doesn’t have your needed key blank on hand they can usually order it & have it cut by the manufacturer. You could also still be able to find the key blank online and just have the dealership program it for you.

An additional downside to the dealership replacing your key is the vehicle will need to be towed to the dealership. Dealerships don’t provide a mobile service and they will need the vehicle in order to program the key. However this won’t hurt your wallet too bad if you have AAA services or if your insurance covers vehicle towing.

While dealerships are a more expensive route to go, they are likely going to be the most successful at getting you the car key replacement you need. As a quick guideline, the more sophisticated the key the more difficult and expensive it will be to replace. With older automobiles you may still be able to hit your local hardware store and get a proper replacement cut for $10 if you know what key blank you need. For cutting and programming at a dealership you’re looking at a figure closer to $200+.


So there you have it, your guide to finding yourself a replacement car key. If you do your homework and check out all your different options, you’ll be back on the road in no time without too much hassle and without excessive emptying of your pockets. If you have any feedback you can be sure to reach My Car Key Replacement at our contact page.