One of the essential parts of our cars which can often be forgotten about until there’s something wrong with them is the keys. In this article we’ll help you understand what to do if you lose or break your car keys, what it could cost you and how to avoid it.

The Four Types of Car Keys

The first thing you should understand is that there are different types of car keys and what this means for the cost, time needed and difficulty of getting replacements or repairs of them.

There are four main types which are:

  • Mechanical keys
  • Remote fob with integrated keys
  • Remote keyless fobs
  • Transponder keys

Mechanical keys are the most basic of car keys and you’ll usually only find these come with older models or as the spare key for your newer car. They’re cut from metal and a key shape that is inserted into the lock and ignition to unlock and start the vehicle. They will usually have a plastic casing at the bottom that they may fold into for convenience.

The next level of key is the remote fob with an integrated key. This looks similar to a mechanical key but has the additional function of having fob buttons to unlock and lock the vehicle. You will still need to use the mechanical key part to start the ignition with this type of key.

A remote keyless fob is similar to this, but you will typically only use the remote buttons to open and close the vehicle. Some will also have a button for unlocking the boot on its own.

The most advanced keys are transponder keys which have an electronic microchip that sends a series of instructions to your car via specific codes. These keys offer keyless entry and start options allowing you to get into and drive your vehicle without needing to do anything more than having the key near you.


Why You Might Need a New Car Key

There are a few reasons that you might need to get a new key for your car including:

  • If they are lost
  • If they are stolen
  • If they are damaged or faulty

Though there may be some occasions when you still have the key but it is not working when you can get the key repaired rather than needing a replacement.

How to Get a New Car Key

There are a few ways that you can get a replacement car key if you need one.

Buy a replacement from one of the manufacturer dealers – you’ll be able to get a new car from one of the brand’s dealerships. This will usually be the most expensive and time-consuming option as they typically have to order the key in for you.  

Visit your local garage – if you do not want to visit a dealership then you can try your local garage however they may not have the right equipment in order to cut the key. You’ll also need to find a way to get to them in order to get the key, unless they have a mobile service available.

Use your breakdown service – if you have vehicle breakdown cover then you can also use this to arrange for them to look at your lock / key and repair or replace them. However, as it is not an emergency situation you may have a long wait, especially if they don’t have the correct key cutting equipment. Additionally, it’s worth noting if your vehicle is at home and your cover does not include home start then they may not be able to assist you.

Call an auto locksmith – just like the traditional locksmith the auto locksmith will be able to create a new key for you, the only difference is that they work with car locks rather than ones in buildings. If they have a blank key which matches your vehicle they can create one there and then for you.

Most auto locksmiths are also able to reprogram key fobs for you and deprogram the original key so it will no longer work if you’ve lost it or it’s been stolen. Additionally, locksmiths will be able to advise if your damaged lock or key is able to be repaired rather than replaced.

How Long Does It Take to Get a New Car Key?

The time it takes for you to get a replacement key depends on a number of factors including:

  • Who you decide to get your new key from, so which of the above choices you opt for
  • The type of key you need, whether it is a remote fob, has keyless entry or is a transponder
  • The make and model of your vehicle
  • Whether the key cutter has a suitable blank key in stock

If you go to an auto locksmith most will be able to get you a new key on the same day, provided they have a suitable blank available which is why we recommend this route as the best option.

What You Need to Get a New Key

In order to get a new key cut you’ll need to provide a few documents in order to prove your identity and ownership / permission to use the vehicle.

Most key cutters will ask for a form of ID such as a driving licence or passport as proof of ID. They’ll also ask for the vehicle’s make and model, so they know what type of key is needed and the vehicle identification number (VIN) and the V5C logbook to prove vehicle ownership.

Replacement Keys for Lease Vehicles

If you are leasing your car then you will not have the V5C as this is kept by the funder who are the legal owner of the vehicle. So, you will need to request a copy of this document, which they will usually provide with some of the details redacted, and a letter of authority from them that confirms you are able to have a new key made.

This may mean that getting a new key takes a little longer but your funder will do everything they can to prevent the admin from slowing you down from getting back on the road.

It’s important to note that you will need to return the lease car with the same number of keys that you have, and so if you lose them you’ll need to replace both keys. If the vehicle has a broken key then it’s recommended you return this as well as the replacement when you hand back the car.

 Replacement Car Keys FAQS:

We know that even if you’ve read the above article you might have questions about replacement car keys so we’ve rounded up the most commonly asked and answered these for you.

Can I Get a Car Key Made Without the Original?

Yes, you can get a key made if you don’t have the original. So, if you have lost or had the key stolen then you’ll still be able to get a replacement.

How Much Does a New Car Key Cost?

The exact cost of a replacement key depends on:

  • The make and model of vehicle
  • The type of key needed
  • Extra features it might have, like unlocking the boot without the rest of the car or keyless start
  • Your location and the location of the vehicle
  • Where you get the replacement from, so whether it’s from a dealer, auto locksmith, local garage or via your breakdown provider
  • The time of day you contact the provider
  • How long you can wait for a new key, if you have a spare and are able to use this and wait then you might pay a little less than if you were

Typically, a replacement key will cost you around £100 - £500 depending on these factors. We recommend talking to your local providers and getting quotes from them before making your choice to get the best price.

Can I Repair a Car Key Rather than Replace It?

On some occasions, you may be able to get the key repaired rather than replaced.

The most common things that can be repaired are if:

  • The key has snapped in two
  • The key is worn out
  • The key is jammed in the ignition
  • The transponder chip in the key is damaged
  • The buttons on the key are damaged

If one of these happens to you, then you should contact an auto locksmith or a local garage and they’ll be able to advise if it can be repaired and then complete the work for you.

If I Have Lost My Car Keys Do I Need to Change the Lock?

If you lose your car keys then with modern cars you’ll have no need to change the physical locks as an auto locksmith is able to program a new key and remotely disable the lost keys for you. They’ll also be able to reconfigure existing locks if needed.

Can I Claim the Cost of New Car Keys on My Insurance?

Some insurance providers will cover replacement keys as part of their policy or as an added extra but it is not always guaranteed so we recommend checking your policy to see whether this is covered for you.

You may need to pay your excess or you might only be able to receive a certain amount for a replacement key even if it is covered so again you should check this and see whether it makes financial sense for you to claim on your insurance for the new key.

Five Tips for Keeping Your Keys Safe

1. Have a designated key spot at home and keep your car keys there so you always know where they are when you’re home. This spot should be out of sight and away from your front door so that they are not easy to spot. Additionally, if you have a transponder key then you might want to consider using a faraday pouch to prevent relay theft

2. Keep your keys close to you in a secure pocket or bag when out and about to avoid them easily falling out or being taken without you noticing.

3. If you have a retractable key then make sure it’s folded in when you’re not using it to reduce the risk of damage to the key.

4. Invest in a key finder or tag, so that if you do lose the keys you have a better chance of finding them again.

5. Make sure you have a spare key at home so that if you do lose your primary key you’ll still be mobile even if it is just a basic key rather than a remote or transponder one.


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