How to get a replacement car key – all you need to know before you make a decision, including the various options for getting a replacement key, tips & more.
One of the first questions we are asked when people need a replacement key is: How can I get a replacement key for my car? What do I do if I lose my car keys and have no spare?
In this blog, we’ll outline how you can get a new key for your car – whether a key fob, transponder key or regular key, when you don’t have the original. We’ll also explain what happens when you lose your only key and who can make you a replacement – dealership, an automotive locksmith, or online.
We’ll also discuss the pros & cons of each option, give you some useful tips, discuss how to make the process easier with your car’s VIN number, and more.
How to get new keys for your car without the original?
Generally speaking, you have three options:
First, call an automotive locksmith.
Second, order a key online.
Third, replace your car key at the dealership.
What is the best option? Well, that depends on your situation (emergency/non-emergency, the year of manufacture and model of your car, and more.) Each option has pros and cons. We cover each below so you can choose your best option.
First, remember this: If you want to make a duplicate key – you have a working key and simply want to get a spare one – the process is faster, easier and cheaper.
This article is for those who have lost their car keys and don’t have a duplicate spare key.
Your first option, Call an automotive locksmith:
Most automotive locksmiths can make you a new car key without the original, including chip keys, key fobs, and more.
Also, most automotive locksmiths offer a mobile service so they can come to your location, cut, and program a new, replacement key on-site.
As you can imagine, this is the fastest, most convenient option to get a replacement car key fast. There is no need to tow your car to the dealer and regardless of your location, they most probably will be able to come to you.
This option is often the most cost-effective one.
To make the process easier and faster, here are some tips to know before you call an automotive locksmith:
A. Always ask for a quote. Explain your situation to the locksmith, tell him where the car is and the type of key you had.
Even if they can’t give you the exact price, they should be able to give you an estimate which will give you a rough idea of the cost.
B. Provide the VIN number – The VIN number enables the locksmith to get all the information he needs about your vehicle. It will also help them know if they carry a replacement key blank, and if programming is needed.
(Most often it will be). If you don’t know how to find the VIN number, provide the year, make and model of the car and any additional information you know about the type of key you had. (Non-transponder, chip, key fob).
C. It’s important to ask for an estimated time of arrival (ETA). Most automotive locksmiths travel around the city all day, driving from one customer to another. It doesn’t mean that the locksmith business address you see on your phone is where they are right now.
They may be out and working nearby. So, check where they are now and how quickly they can reach you. If they’re too busy or too far away, keep calling around!
D. Widen your search – you probably didn’t open the phone book to look for a locksmith. Today, most of our searches are online and location-based.
What this means is that when you look for an automotive locksmith (or any other search), the results you don’t have to settle for the closest locksmith – it may be more efficient to search in a 20-30 mile radius around you as the locksmith may anyway be traveling around.
Don’t limit your search and don’t give up. Check the results until you find the right automotive locksmith who is nearby and who can come in a reasonable amount of time.
E. Ask for their affiliation – many automotive locksmiths are affiliated with roadside assistance companies such as AAA and/or with insurance companies that may subcontract jobs to independent locksmiths to help their customers in times of need.
Also, you may be able to claim back at least some of the money you spent. In addition, you may pay less overall if you choose one of their recommended locksmiths. Ask about it. It can’t hurt.
F. Get an invoice for reimbursement – depending on your policy, you may be able to get a reimbursement from your insurance company.
First option – Locksmith
Convenience – this is, by far, the most convenient option. You don’t have to tow the car anywhere or order any special keys etc. All you need do is simply call and the locksmith will come to you.
Very fast – this is also the best way to get your new replacement key fast and be on your way in no time. In addition, most locksmiths offer 24-hour emergency services for lockout and key replacement so you should be able to get the service you need no matter the time of day or the day of the week. This will influence the price.
Price – overall, this is the best option. It isn’t the cheapest, but considering the alternatives of time and money, this is the best.
Availability of keys, key fobs, remotes – there are many different makes and models out there. In addition, each may have different types of key – transponder keys, key fobs, or keyless entry – depending on the year of manufacture of your car, which of course leads to a huge number of key blanks.
This may mean that the locksmith doesn’t have the relevant key blank for your vehicle. This is especially relevant when your car is very old or very new.
Key fob programming – in most cases, your key or key fob will need to be programmed. There are many different keys and most of them need a specific coding machine. There is a chance that the locksmith you call doesn’t have the appropriate coding machine.
Click here to learn more about key fob programming
This is especially the case with high-end cars such as BMWs and Mercedes.
Bottom line – Locksmith
In most cases, automotive locksmiths are likely to be the best option when you need a replacement car key because you’ve lost your keys and don’t have an original or a spare.
It isn’t the cheapest option, but considering the circumstances, convenience, price, time, and other factors, it is the best option.
Second option, order a key online:
Another option is to order a new duplicate car key online.
Here is what you need to know before we even start talking about a quote, VIN, your cost, etc.
When you order a key online, it is what we call a “blank key”. A blank key is a key that needs to be cut, and in most cases, programmed or coded. Therefore, ordering a replacement key online is only the first step. You will still have to contact either the dealer or locksmith to have the key cut and programmed.
In addition, remember that although many car keys may look alike, they have different names and security features. This is especially true for key fobs for newer models.
Double-check against the VIN number to make sure you get the right key. Otherwise, you may have a problem programming your key. Would you like to know how to order a key online? You can do this here by choosing the year and model of your vehicle.
Let’s go over the pros and cons of this option:
Price – chances are this would be the cheapest option for you to get the actual key or key fob. There are plenty of options online, different sellers, and different deals and coupons, including aftermarket keys.
Coding & programming – this is a very important point. Most people who order a key online don’t realize that the key they buy is a key that needs to be cut and programmed.
Also, in most cases, you won’t be able to program the key yourself, so there will be extra costs involved and you’ll still be dependent on the dealer or a locksmith to cut and program it for you.
Time – it will take some time to get the key in the mail, at least 24 hours. In addition, remember that you will need to schedule time to go and program your car key at a locksmith shop or at the dealer and your car must be present.
Availability of keys – you will find most keys online for most makes and models, including key fobs. However, keep in mind that new key fobs or very old keys, including some transponder chip keys and VATS keys, won’t be available or will be available at a very high price.
Bottom line – Order a key online
We recommend using this option only for non-emergency situations when you need a duplicate spare key and have a working key.
In addition, the overall cost of getting a replacement key online and then having it cut and coded will eliminate most – if not all – of the money you save.
However, for those of you who want to have a duplicate key made, this is the best option.
Third option, dealership:
A dealership is also an option when you need to get a replacement key. We will review the price and time involved in getting a new key from the dealer and how the VIN helps them make you a key.
Let’s start by saying that the dealership usually charges more for the actual key than a locksmith, but on the plus side they will have the right key blank and should be able to program the key for you the same day.
This is most relevant for new keys for luxury cars because they need extra programming on a more advanced machine. Not all locksmiths have these new machines.
Time – chances are the dealer will be able to solve your problem very quickly.
Availability of keys – this is especially relevant for newer models. The dealer should have all key blanks, transponder chip keys, and even the newest key fobs for your car. In addition, unlike automotive locksmiths, they will have the necessary equipment to program the key/key fob.
Price – the dealer usually charges more for the key than a locksmith. In addition, you will have to tow your car there, which will make it more expensive overall.
Hours of operation – dealers usually work regular business hours so if you need a key after hours, they may not be able to help.
Bottom line – Dealership
We recommend contacting the dealer only in situations when you don’t have another alternative. If you own a high-end car or a very recent model, your local automotive locksmith may be unable to help because they probably won’t have the key blank, or the necessary programming machines and tools.
Finally, and most importantly, remember to give the dealer your VIN number and ask them to confirm they can help you before you tow your vehicle there.
We hope we have made things a bit easier for you. For more information, please call us anytime.