Automotive Keys Explained
How Much For A Car Key?
As a professional automotive locksmith, we deal with automotive keys
and security every day. We get a lot of the same questions
every time. We also get a LOT of stunned faces when they
find out the price of even simple things related to their
car keys: finding out that even a lowly replacement key
can cost upward of $115 is never a pleasant surprise. So
what’s going on?
Here’s a primer on automotive keys: let’s see if we can
break down some jargon and explain why costs are so much
higher than people expect.
Automotive Keys: Jargon Explained
Also referred to simply as a
‘chip’ or ‘chip key’, this is a small electronic device
contained in the head/fob of a car key that instructs your
car’s engine control unit (ECU) to disable its immobilizer.
This is a security measure to prevent a car being started
without the key present. Since 1995, most car keys have
included transponder chips: even if your key looks like a
traditional key, it contains a sophisticated (and expensive)
electronic device. This is the principle reason why prices
are so much higher than people expect. The first question we
ask anyone when they talked to us about their car key is
whether or not it has a chip in it. Most people
automatically say no, but the answer is almost certainly
Car Remote –
this normally refers to a
transponder key (see above) that also has a remote control
included in its fob. In the industry we refer to this as a
‘Remote Headed Transponder’. This will include a Remote
Keyless Entry system, (RKE), also referred to as central
locking, for locking and unlocking the car. It may also
include a Remote Keyless Ignition System (RKI) allowing the
car to be started without a physical key, though this is
Smart Key –
this usually (but not always)
refers to a key fob that has a transponder, an RKE and an
RKI. Developed by Siemens in the mid ’90s and initially
patented by Mercedes Benz, this used to be a feature only of
luxury cars but is increasingly used on entire ranges. The
Toyota prius, for example, comes with a full smart key as
standard. In the industry we call this a ‘proximity
'FOBIK' stands for 'Fob Integrated Key'. FOBIKs have a square shape at the front of the fob which plugs into the vehicle dashboard, which is turned to start the vehicle as with a standard metal key.
Keyless Start / Keyless Go.
These are remote start and opening opening options unique to Mercedes Benz. Keyless start offers a push button start and remote unlocking; keyless go adds the ability to open doors just by touching their handles as long as the proximity sensor is detected.
Automotive Key Costs
Transponders and the associated technologies
revolutionized car security, making it much more difficult
for cars to be stolen; however, they also made what was
once inexpensive into a much more substantial cost.
Unfortunately, this is something we don’t have a lot of
control over. Car companies usually protect their
technology and don’t allow third parties to manufacture
cheaper, after-market alternatives. As a result, the
prices WE have to pay for transponder keys are very high.
We have no choice but to pass them on to our customers.
One thing we CAN guarantee, though, is that we will always
charge you less than a car dealer will. Because of high
markups by dealers you’ll often find that we are generally
20% – 30% cheaper than them on duplicates, replacements,
re-keys and repairs.
What We Do
We are able to duplicate, replace, re-key and repair for
the majority of car brands. Some high end brands refuse to
allow their products to be serviced by anyone other than
And, of course, every automotive job that comes to us gets
the same Car Keys Done Quick “straight talk” guarantee. We
will always offer you what you need rather than a more
expensive option. We’re not going to try to sell you the
wrong thing to benefit our bottom line. We’ll always offer
the cheapest solution to your problem as long as it will
keep you safe and secure.
So there you have it! We hope this answers some questions
and helps you come to terms with the prices of modern car
keys. We’re here Monday to Friday and we’re always ready
to answer your questions.
Need to know more?