How To Get a Car Key Replacement

Keying you in

Car key replacement can be costly and time-consuming. But there’s no way around it if your keys have been lost, stolen or damaged. Here’s how to get a new set.

Our car keys allow us to get to important appointments, visit friends and family, and travel home after a long day. Not knowing where they are spells inconvenience — and because someone else may have access to them, the safety of your vehicle may be at stake. 

To make matters worse, car key replacement is not always instantaneous. In some cases, you may have to wait a few weeks. It can also be costly. The more high-tech car keys get, the higher the price of replacing them. 

The good news is that if you need to replace your lost car key, you have various options, including visiting an auto locksmith or car dealership. 

Read on for details. 

How do I replace a lost car key in the UK?

Follow these steps to get back on the road ASAP.

STEP #1: Get your vehicle and personal info ready 

The first thing to know is what kind of key you have. 

The options? A remote key, a non-remote key, or a combination of the two. 

A non-remote key (for a car manufactured since the 90s) usually houses a transponder, a tiny electronic device programmed for your vehicle. A transponder is an anti-theft mechanism that uses radio frequency to communicate with your immobiliser. Without it, your car will be unable to start.

Many newer cars have a keyless system where a fob unlocks the doors and starts the car. (Pro tip: many of these fobs have a key hiding inside them, so you can open the door manually if you need to.)

Another key type is a hybrid key system that includes a remote that opens the doors and turns off the immobiliser and a key that starts the engine.

Source: Autotrends

Knowing what type of key you have will help you speed up the key replacement process.

Other information to have ready includes:

  • Make and model of your vehicle
  • Registration number of your vehicle
  • Vehicle identification number from your vehicle’s logbook (if you are unable to open your car, this may not be possible to access)
  • Personal ID to confirm that you own the vehicle
  • The specific address of where you are if you require a locksmith to do a call-out

STEP #2: Check in with your insurance

Communicating with your insurance should always be your first port of call when you have vehicle trouble. If you have breakdown cover, you will probably have access to a range of different services, including roadside assistance, vehicle recovery and, in some cases, car hire and accommodation if you’re really stuck. 

Some plans also include car key insurance to compensate you for the money you have to spend on lost, stolen or damaged keys. 

Check your policy and/or call your provider to see what you are eligible for. Depending on your plan, you may be covered for key replacement and locksmith bills, as well as have other perks, like emergency assistance. 

STEP #3: Call a pro

If your insurance doesn’t cover care key replacement, the next stop is a locksmith, dealership, or garage. 

Here’s what to know about each:

Auto locksmith 

An auto locksmith offers a specialised service — to get you into your vehicle if you cannot access it yourself. They can open your car up, get you a new set of keys, and even replace your locks and ignition system if need be. They’re also able to repair damaged keys.

Auto locksmiths are often equipped to deal with a variety of different car models. Plus, they’ll likely have a number of blank keys on hand that they can program for you.

Mobile locksmiths will be able to meet you where you are, which is, of course, incredibly handy if you’re stranded. 

It is important to note that auto locksmiths can be costly — but in emergency situations, it’s not always possible to get around this if you don’t have insurance coverage. 

Franchised car dealership 

This is a safe bet if you’d like to stick with the car dealership where you bought your vehicle. They should be able to provide you with a replacement key that fits your make and model. 

It’s important to note, though, that going through a car dealership can be a less convenient and more costly option. They may not be able to come meet you if you’re stuck. Added to this, most auto locksmiths are advertised as being cheaper than dealerships. 

That being said, if you’d like to have the peace of mind of going through an establishment you’re already familiar with, this could be the right option for you.

Your local garage

If you have a garage in your area that usually services your vehicle, they may be able to help you out with key replacement services too. It’s not likely to be the cheapest or most efficient option, though. They may not have your particular key in stock, which could mean longer wait times and additional costs as they access the part they need.

It may be worth phoning around before you make your decision to ensure that you get the best deal available. 

What should you do if you think your car key has been stolen?

If you fear that your car key has been stolen:

  1. Report it to the police. You’ll get a crime reference number so that you can track any progress they make on your case. 
  1. Get your key deprogrammed. This can be done by an auto locksmith or your car dealership so that you don’t run the risk of your car going missing along with your key. 

Most car keys nowadays are electronic, meaning they run off an internal computer chip. There are various benefits to this, including being able to stop potential criminals from gaining access to your car. Once your keys are deprogrammed, they cannot be used to start your vehicle.

If you do happen to find your key in the future, you can always have it reprogrammed (just bear in mind that this may mean an additional cost).

How much is a replacement car key in the UK?

Unfortunately, replacement car keys are not cheap.

The cost of car key replacement depends on what kind of car and car key you have and who is going to replace your key for you. 

For a non-remote (manual) key replacement, you’re looking at an average cost of £160. For a remote key replacement, the average cost is double that. On the high end, key replacement can cost up to £1000.

The make of your car is also a crucial factor here. Replacing a BMW key may cost as much as four times what it might to get a new Ford Focus key.

Again, getting multiple quotes before deciding which option to choose is not a bad idea. 

Why are replacement car keys so expensive?

Modern car keys make use of advanced technology to keep your car safe. Unfortunately, this doesn’t come cheap. Whether you have a non-remote key with a transponder or an all-in-one keyless fob system, these small devices include intricate pieces of machinery that tend to require specialist knowledge to program. 

Can I program a car key myself?

It all depends on the key and vehicle type.

Some older remote and transponder keys can be programmed from home. If you have a spare key at home and a vehicle that supports easy programming, you might be able to accomplish this task yourself. 

New cars generally require professional car key programming, as specialised knowledge and equipment are needed to get the job done.

The website Program Your Remote provides step-by-step instructions for programming keys for a huge variety of car types, as well as information about whether the specific vehicle is programmable at home or if you need to call a professional.

In summary:

If you’ve found yourself car keyless, you have options. 

The first thing to do is gather the info you need about your car key and vehicle. Next up, take a look at your insurance policy to see if car key replacement is covered under your plan.

Next steps? Contact either:

  • An auto locksmith
  • A car dealership
  • A local garage

Car key replacement is not the cheapest exercise — but you should be up and running in the not-too-distant future.

Good luck!