Car Key Cutting

Getting your car key cut is really the second step in getting your replacement keys in your hand, and you back on the road. This is typically not a do-it-yourself job, as it requires proper machinery that is specifically meant for key cutting. So rather than show you how to cut your own key, we are going to look at the various places you can go to get these services done for you.

Key Blank

Hardware Stores
This was probably not a surprise to any of you. Hardware stores have provided key cutting services for a long time, and many of you have probably needed to take a trip to the hardware store already. One of the problems with getting your car key cut at a hardware store is that they will likely not be able to program your key for you if it contains a transponder chip, or if it is a laser cut key. But if you are someone who’s vehicle does not require this special attention, getting your car key cut at the hardware store is a no-brainer as it is a quick and cheap win. For those of you who have never had to get a key cut before, here are a few chain hardware stores that will perform the services:

Home Depot
Ace Hardware
True Value

Many local hardware stores should be able to provide similar services as the chain stores above. Also, since you are only getting the key cut here and not likely programmed, hardware stores should provide the least expensive route.

One thing of importance to note, it has been the experience of some that hardware stores won’t always cut vehicle keys, but rather will only perform these services for house keys. I just want to say that has not been the experience of this author. So to stay on the safe side, call ahead and find out before making the trip.

A local locksmith is another easy place to get cutting services. Some of these locksmith companies will even perform mobile cutting services, so that you don’t have to hitch a ride after losing the only key to your vehicle. This makes it fairly convenient. Most locksmiths should also have the expertise necessary to program the key for you, or may even just let you know how you can program it yourself. Remember that you will likely be paying for this expertise, which is why a hardware store remains a less expensive venue.

Again, no surprise here. But if you do any searching online, you’ll quickly find that the dealership is the place most people try to avoid, as they tend to charge exorbitant prices. That’s higher costs on the key blank, the key cutting and the programming. You will also have to go to them, unlike a mobile locksmith service. However despite these downfalls, you are likely to get your car key cutting and replacement needs all taken care of at the dealership.

Coming Soon…Online Key Cutting?
Now this might be a new one for a lot of you out there. The online world continues to evolve the way we do anything in the real world. Car key cutting is no exception. There are two specific online services I would want to make mention of, both coming from LifeHacker.

KeyMe is a service that makes it so you do not necessarily have to have an original key to get your car keys cut. By taking a front and back picture of your key with your smartphone, KeyMe stores your “spare key” cut, which they call your digital keychain. So when you need a replacement key, you can simply find one of their kiosks, or order the key online to get it made and mailed to you. Currently KeyMe seems to only work for house keys, but if right now you are only trying to get your key cut, auto keys should be just around the corner.

Keys Duplicated
Keys Duplicated is another service that provides online key cutting. Much like KeyMe, the Keys Duplicated app lets you take two pictures of your key (front and back) with your smartphone and they will send you a physical copy of the key in a few days. For a little extra you can even get printed instructions for a locksmith. Keys Duplicated currently does not provide auto key cutting services, however they explicitly say on their website that this functionality is coming soon.

With so many places available to you with varying prices and convenience in getting your car keys cut, there really are solutions for everyone. Hopefully you come across this website while you are looking to get a key copied for a spare and not yet out of necessity from replacing a lost car key. But as technology makes our car keys more complex, technology also allows us new avenues for simplicity and ease. While the online key cutting does lead to several questions relating to security, there is no doubt that as they refine their business they will provide an added convenience that previous key cutting vendors cannot.

Laser Cut Keys

It is becoming more apparent that advancement in technology for car keys comes with both benefits and burdens. Hopefully for you, you don’t actually lose your vehicle keys frequently enough to where the burdens outweigh the numerous benefits. Most of these benefits are based upon consumers needs for security and safety features. This is exactly what car designer/manufacturers had in mind when they implement laser cut keys into their vehicles.

What is a laser cut key?

Laser cut keys are very distinct from regular keys, so if you know what a laser cut key is you’ll quickly be able to recognize it for what it is. First, the key’s shank is generally thicker than that of a regular key. However most distinctively, rather than the key having the many peaks, valleys and ridges along the outside edge like a regular key would, a laser cut key has its cuts along the interior face of the key shank. Think of it like a river canyon weaving its way along the bottom of a ridge (wow that doesn’t help). Better yet lets just get you a couple picture. Maybe the analogy makes a little more sense after seeing it.

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The key has these interior cuts on both faces of the shank, and allows the key to be inserted into the vehicle’s ignition cylinder either way. While the outside of the key does still have some cutting and shaping done to it, its not nearly to the extent of regular keys.

What is the purpose?

The purpose behind these keys is to keep your vehicle even more safe from car theft than it already is. The key cutting machinery required for these types of keys is much more expensive, and makes it that much harder to duplicate the key. Apart from these keys being harder to duplicate, they are also embedded with transponder chips, which are programmed along with your car so that only your set of keys will start the vehicle.

Is there a downside?

Sadly there is in fact a burden that comes with these keys. They are more expensive to replace and it will be a little harder to find a professional that is capable of replacing the key for you. But it has gotten a lot better in recent years. It used to be laser cut keys were only used in higher end luxury vehicles such as Mercedes or BMW. Because of this exclusivity there were simply not many locksmiths or dealers that had the capability to replace these keys, and thus you paid an arm and a leg if you ever lost one. Nowadays you will find laser cut keys in a variety of different vehicles. Because they are a lot more common, it isn’t as hard to find a professional that can help you for a decent price. Dealerships are your surest bet to find someone able to replace your key, however a locksmith that specializes in car keys is more than likely to have the proper machinery to help you out without costing you as much.


  • Laser cut keys also go by other names as well. They are often referred to as “Sidewinder” keys as well as “Internal Cut” keys.
  • These keys are often used in conjunction with switchblades. This is where the key shank actually folds into A switch blade with a laser cut key shankthe key fob, and pops out with the press of a button.


Laser cut keys are a good example of the direction that car key technology is going. In terms of security, laser cut keys are right near the top as they are great for keeping your car safe, and exactly where you left it. While they are more expensive to replace, nowadays it shouldn’t be too hard to find yourself a professional that you can work with. Be sure to shop around, and take advantage of our tips given in our How To Guide regarding car key replacement to help you get the best price.