What to Do If You’ve Lost the Car Keys and Have No Spare

We’ve all been there, you lost your keys and can’t find them. You’ve rummaged through all of your pockets, drawers, and every nook and cranny you can think of. But the keys are nowhere to be found.

First, stop panicking. It’s not the end of the world, and I’m about to show you why. I’m going to tell you what information you need to prepare before you can get your next pair of keys. Let’s see how and where to get new car keys when all seems lost.

What should you do if you have lost your car keys.

Start Collecting the Information You’re Going to Need

There are a few things you need to get ready before you call your car dealership or the locksmith. Take a pen and paper and start writing everything down. First, you’ll need to find your vehicle identification number (VIN).

VIN Number

You can usually find your VIN on the dashboard on the driver’s side. However, if it’s not there, there are a few more places you could check. Look for it on the rear wheel as well.

If you still can’t find it, try looking at the front of your engine block, in your trunk, or door jam. In some cars, the VIN can also be between the carburetor and windshield washer.

However, if your car is locked or you can’t find the number anywhere on your car, you can always check your insurance card for the information. Look for the number with 17 digits.

Year, Model, and Make

Next, you’re going to need the information about your car’s model and make, and the year it was manufactured in. Don’t try and guess this information. If you don’t know exactly, you can look at your insurance again to check.

Figure Out What Kind of Car Keys You Have

The next thing you’re going to need is information about the type of key you have. The type of key will determine the price and how long you have to wait for a new one. Most cars have one of the following four types of keys:

The Basic Car Key

You’ve all seen these; you know what they look like. These are regular, machine-cut keys, which are the easiest to replace. They don’t have any electronic hardware in them, which means you can even go to your local hardware store and cut a new one there.

The Remote Control Key

Next, we have remote control car keys. These keys are the second most popular type, right after the basic ones. They usually run on batteries and have a button on the key fob, which you can use to disable your car’s alarm.

Remote control keys use radio transmitters or infrared signals to send a coded message to your car. Also, there are three types of remote control keys:

  • Fob with key
  • Entry fob with an integrated key
  • Keyless system fob

As I’ve said, remote control keys are pretty common, so you shouldn’t have any problem replacing them.

The Transponder Car Key

Back in the 90s, most car manufacturers started putting an electronic transponder chip in the head of the key. Every chip was programmed with a unique serial number. When you use this type of key to unlock or start your car, the chip inside will send a request to a receiver or immobilizer in your car’s board.

Also, as an added security measure, car manufacturers program transponder keys for each car make and model. Since they all have their unique serial numbers, depending on what kind of car you have, expect to pay a different price.

For example, while a transponder key for a Honda might cost $50, the same key for a BMW could cost $500. Also, if you don’t have a spare car key, you’re probably going to have to pay more.

However, if you do have a spare key, you could program it by following instructions from your car’s manual. Keep in mind that this is a tricky process, and I would recommend going to a professional, just in case.

Smart Keys

In recent years, some car manufacturers have started making smart keys. Most luxury and hybrid cars nowadays have them. With most smart keys, as soon as you approach your car, the doors will unlock. Also, you can start your engine without pressing any buttons or inserting a key.

Now you might be thinking, “What’s the big deal, they’re just car keys, right?” While their main purpose is to unlock your car, they do so much more than that. For example, if someone tries to steal your car and doesn’t have your key, the computer in your car can shut down the engine.

Also, if the car doesn’t recognize the key, an alarm could go off automatically, scaring the thieves away. Not only that, but your key can store information about your preferred seat position and mirror settings.

With that being said, losing a smart key is basically a nightmare. It’s much more complicated than going to your locksmith and having a new key cut. You would have to reprogram your car and your new car key. As you can imagine, all of this programming costs a pretty penny.

See also: Where to Hide a Key on Your Car

Getting New Car Keys

Now that you know everything you need to prepare and the type of car key you have, what’s next? Well, depending on the kind of key you have, there are a few services you can call.

Auto Locksmith

Going to a locksmith is the easiest way to go if you can’t even open your car doors. Depending on your car key, you might not even have to go into their shop — they will just come to your address. Also, locksmiths tend to charge less than your average, local garage.

However, keep in mind that a locksmith will probably not be able to help you if you have a smart key. While they might work wonders on standard or transponder car keys, you’re probably better off going somewhere else if you have a smart key. If you are in the US, you can follow this link to find a locksmith near you.

Licensed Car Dealership

The safest way to go if you’ve lost your key is a car dealership. First, if that’s where you bought your car, you know they’re going to have a key that matches your car’s make and model. Also, a lot of car dealerships work with auto locksmiths, so they’ll be able to issue you a new key, even if it’s a smart one.

On the other hand, they’re not as fast as locksmiths. If you go to a car dealership, be prepared to wait for a few days or weeks for a new key. Since they don’t specialize in making new keys, they might not have all of the equipment needed to give you a key right away. Also, they won’t come to your location to give you a new key.

Car Insurance Provider

Next, depending on if you have car insurance, you can go to your insurance provider. However, going to an insurance provider for a new key depends on the type of insurance you have and if that service is covered.

Local Garage

If for some reason, you can’t go to either of these places, you could go to your local garage. However, doing that should be your last resort once you’ve exhausted all of your options.

First, a mechanic at a garage will charge you just for running diagnostics you don’t need on your car. Also, they’re not usually experts in the field. Again, if you have a regular or transponder key, this shouldn’t be an issue. On the other hand, if your key has some advanced software, I’d recommend skipping the garage.

How Much Does it Cost to Replace Lost Car Keys?

While I understand why you’re asking this question, the truth is, there’s no universal answer. As I’ve mentioned, the price of your new car key will depend on the make, model, and year of your car.  Also, it depends on what kind of key you have and whether you want to get a spare one.

Finally, the last thing that will determine the price of your key is where you choose to get it. Auto locksmiths are the cheapest option, but might not be the best choice if you have a newer car.

On the other hand, car dealerships are a great choice, but you’ll probably end up waiting a while before you get a new key.

To Sum Up

I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but this bears repeating — don’t panic. We’ve all lost keys at some point, and chances are, we’re going to lose them again. Once you’re completely sure you’ve lost your keys, just like in similar situations, start collecting all the information you’re going to need.

Find your VIN and look up the year, make and model of your car. Next, figure out what kind of key you have. If you have an older car, first start with the locksmith. They might even come to you and replace your keys on the spot.

However, if you have a newer model, go to your dealership. Also, if they ask you if you want a spare key, I recommend getting it. Who knows what’s going to happen in the future, and having that spare key will give you a piece of mind if something like this happens again.




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