How to replace lost, broken, or stolen car keys – the ultimate guide

Most modern car keys are three keys in one – a mechanical key to release the steering lock, an electronic transponder chip for ignition, and a key that unlocks the car’s doors.

As car keys now contain complicated pieces of tech, replacing lost, broken, or stolen keys can be expensive and time-consuming. 

In this article, we’ll take you through the best, quickest, and most cost-effective methods to go about getting new or replacement keys made up for your car.

How to get replacement car keys

You should first check your car insurance documents to see if you have signed up for key cover – as many policies offer this as a premium add-on. However, if you do claim on your insurance, it is worth bearing in mind that it may affect your no claims bonus – so, it might cost you more in the long term.

If you do not have key cover, you could try getting your car keys replaced at a local garage. However, this can end up being expensive as most typically charge for using their diagnostic equipment. Few garages will have the specialist key-coding equipment on site – and will be unable to replace and program new car keys. So, it can also take a long time. 

Going to your vehicle’s franchised dealership may sound like your safest bet, but it is often the most expensive option – and, oddly enough, it might also take the longest time. It is likely that your dealership will have to order a blank key and then send it away to be programmed. Which is often a drawn-out and costly process.

How to get replacement car keys
It’s always worth checking if your car insurance policy includes key cover

You could call your vehicle breakdown service – however, it really does depend on what type of car you drive and if your breakdown service has the correct key-coding equipment.

Typically, the quickest and least expensive way to get replacement keys made up for your car is via an auto locksmith. Not only will they have equipment to replace car keys for most makes and models of car, but most will offer a mobile service – meaning that they will come to you. As they do usually have all this equipment within their mobile units, auto locksmiths can usually programme new keys and delete old (lost) keys that no longer work in a single visit. As well as providing new keys, auto locksmiths can also programme remote key fobs, open locked car doors, and change and repair damaged locks.

How to get replacement car keys without the original

How to get replacement car keys without the original
Most auto locksmiths will be able to fix or replace all types of car keys

If you’ve lost, broken, or had your car keys stolen – and have no spare set – it might seem like you’re in a tight spot – but you don’t really need to panic. The best thing to do if you find yourself in this position is to contact an auto locksmith. 

Typically, you will need to provide the auto locksmith with the following information:

  • Make and model of your car
  • Your car’s registration number
  • Your car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) – which can be found on your V5C logbook
  • Personal identification (for example, your driving licence)
  • Your address and postcode, so that the auto locksmith can come to you.

Most auto locksmiths will be able to fix all types of remote car keys and non-remote transponder keys. 

Remote car keys will usually come in the following types:

  •  Remote fob with key – a key that unlocks the car and turns off the alarm, and is used in the ignition of the car
  •  Remote entry fob with integrated key – the remote fob unlocks the car’s doors, turns off the alarm and the car’s immobiliser, and the key starts the ignition
  • Remote keyless fob – these ‘remote keyless fobs’ actually have mechanical keys hidden in the fob – for use in emergencies to unlock the doors.

Most cars manufactured since 1995 have had transponder chips built into them that are programmed specifically for the car. Non-remote transponder cars have no remote central locking and no remote-control functions on the key.

These are keys that you need to use to open the car’s doors and start the ignition. Therefore, if you lose a transponder-style car key, you will not be able to turn the ignition – and, consequently, your car will not start. So, you will need a replacement transponder chip.

How much does a car key replacement cost?

How much does a car key replacement cost?
The cost of replacing your car keys will depend on your cars make, model, age & what type of key it is.

Well, it depends. 

Prices will usually be contingent on where you go to get your car keys replaced, but will also depend on the following factors:

  • Your car brand – the make, model, and age of the car
  • The type of key it uses – for example, if it’s a remote key fob, remote keyless fob, or has been made prior to 1995 (without a chip)

Costs range from as little as £25 to many thousands of pounds, depending on how prestige your car might be. To get a replacement key made for a BMW i8, for example, will cost around £1,000. Whereas the ‘Diamond key’ used in top-of-the-range Bentleys will typically cost around £8,000 to replace. 

However, according to recent research by the website Checkatrade, the average cost of a car key replacement in the UK is £252.

Should I get a spare car key if I want to sell my car?

If you’re selling your car – and you’ve lost, broken, or had one of your car keys stolen – it can be a good idea to have a new car key made up, as having only one set of keys can have a serious impact on your car’s resale value. 

However, this may require some number-crunching, as it’s probably only worth investing the money to get a spare key made up for your car if the cost of replacing it is likely to be covered by the higher price you’ll get for selling a car with two keys.  

Usually, if you have a fairly new car – purchased within the last decade – that had a high sticker price when you bought it, it is worth investing in a new car key if you have had one lost, broken, or stolen – as having two sets of keys is desirable and will generally result in a faster sale and higher sale price

If you look at online car sales, most vehicle profiles will include the fact that they have ‘two sets of keys’ as standard as it is a known selling point – and buyers are often wary of profiles that don’t mention the number of car keys for precisely this reason. 

Should I get a spare key if I want to sell my car
Having two sets of keys can add value to your car when selling.

When it comes to selling your car, if you’ve only got one key for it, it can often be worthwhile having a duplicate made from that key. It’s usually a quick and simple process too – in fact, most auto locksmiths can do it for you while you wait.

When it comes to car sales, small investments on the side of the seller often make a big difference to the price you’ll achieve for the car – and very often the cost of having a duplicate key made up is a top tip for selling a car as it’s an investment that will pay for itself.

Need more information

Need more info on selling, or not sure what the best route is?

Thankfully we’ve got a ton of guides covering every topic you could think of, from trading your car in to cleaning it before you say goodbye.