Customers’ Most Burning Questions About Replacing Car Keys

What are the common types of car keys?

There are a few types of car keys commonly in use today that include: 

  • Steel blade keys (for older cars produced before 1995) 

  • Transponder keys (for all cars produced after 1995) 

  • Laser and tibbe keys

  • Remote key/combo units

  • FOBs

  • Proximity FOBs

car key replacement faq - ASAP Locksmith blog

Who makes car keys besides the dealership? 

Older steel cut keys can be made at basically any hardware store or superstore chain (such as Walmart) with a key making department. Additionally, a local locksmith should be able to handle the making of most types of keys. Other third parties are now available, but may not have to knowledge or technology needed to make a high-tech key such as remote or proximity key. 

How much does a car key replacement cost? 

This is a very general question with a broad answer, but generally speaking, it will cost you anywhere between $10 to $200 for a duplicate key depending on the year, make, and model of your car. If you are replacing the key from scratch (meaning you’ve lost the original) expect to pay up to $100 to $200 more. 

Why are car keys so expensive?

Older car keys are not expensive, because they utilize very basic mechanics of key cutting. However, new keys can cost hundreds of dollars. That’s because they require the use of very special technology and tools to make. Newer keys have electronic circuits that must be programmed specifically to your car so that it will unlock and start the car. The parts, and the programming service, add costs.

How do car keys get programmed?

High tech car keys, meaning any key with technology beyond a basic transponder, will need to be programmed in addition to being produced. A computer or programming device will be connected to the car’s OBD unit to communicate with the car.

Inside a car key is something called an inductor (a magical little electronic device.) When a current from another inductor (in the steering column or near the ignition) is close to another inductor, a portion of the current is transferred to the key’s inductor. The key’s inductor then gives off its own current, which is read by the car. When someone programs the key to a car, they are essentially telling the car what to expect from the inductor in the key that is being added. Once it’s programmed, each time the ignition is turned the car reads what the key is sending back and recognizes it as a legitimate key. 

It’s of course a little more complex than this, but that’s a basic explanation. 

So, where should I get a car key copy made? 

Standard Key 

These keys are simple and can be cut almost anywhere, from Walmart to a dedicated hardware store. Of course, dealers and locksmiths can cut them too, but they’ll charge more. We recommend just going to your local Walmart.

Laser Cut Key

Most of your big-box stores and hardware stores WILL NOT be able to cut a laser cut key, but your local locksmith and car dealer should have no problem doing it.

Transponder Key, Remote/Key Combo, or FOB

All of these keys have to be programmed to your car. Only an auto locksmith or car dealer can do this. The car must be present since they’ll have to hook up a device to your car’s OBD port. In many cases, all keys and remotes for the car must be present, as programming will remove any that aren’t present at the time the key is programmed. 

When To Visit a Dealer


Many people are unaware that there is an international agreement among many countries to make car information available to third parties. This is why locksmiths will be able to cut keys by code for Japanese, American, and Korean produced cars. An exception to this is German produced cars. They choose not to participate and pay fines so that only their manufacturers can charge crazy prices (up to $600 in some cases) for a replacement. So, if you have a German vehicle made after 2000 (Volkswagen, Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, etc…) you’ll want to protect your key with your life…otherwise you’ll have to be towed to a dealer and charged a lot of money for a replacement key. 


Car Key Replacement in Detroit


Looking for someone to make you a car key replacement or duplicate in the Detroit area? Then give ASAP locksmith a call. We offer 24 hour, on-location key replacement services. Call now! 

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