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How Much Is a Replacement Car Key in the UK

How Much Is a Replacement Car Key in the UK?

Losing or damaging your car key can be a stressful and potentially expensive experience. In the UK, the cost of replacing a car key can vary significantly depending on various factors, including the make and model of your vehicle, the type of key required, and where you choose to get the replacement. This comprehensive guide will explore the different aspects of car key replacement in the UK, helping you understand the costs involved and the options available to you.

The Evolution of Car Keys

To fully appreciate the complexity and cost of modern car key replacement, it’s essential to understand how car keys have evolved over the years:

  1. Traditional Metal Keys In the early days of automobiles, cars used simple metal keys. These were relatively inexpensive and easy to duplicate at any local hardware store or locksmith.
  2. Remote Central Locking Keys Introduced in the 1980s, these keys featured buttons for locking and unlocking doors remotely. While more advanced than traditional keys, they were still relatively simple in design.
  3. Transponder Keys Emerging in the 1990s, transponder keys contain a small electronic chip that communicates with the car’s immobilizer system. This technology significantly improved vehicle security but also increased the complexity and cost of key replacement.
  4. Smart Keys and Keyless Entry Systems Modern vehicles often use smart keys or keyless entry systems. These advanced keys allow drivers to unlock and start their cars without physically inserting a key, relying instead on proximity sensors and push-button ignition.

Types of Car Keys and Their Replacement Costs

The type of key your car uses is a significant factor in determining the replacement cost. Here’s a breakdown of common key types and their approximate replacement costs in the UK:

  1. Traditional Metal Keys Cost Range: £5 – £50 While rare in modern vehicles, some older cars still use traditional metal keys. These are the least expensive to replace, often costing between £5 and £20 for a simple cut. If the key includes a remote fob, the price may increase to around £50.
  2. Remote Central Locking Keys Cost Range: £50 – £150 These keys combine a traditional cut key with a remote fob for central locking. Replacement costs typically range from £50 to £150, depending on the vehicle make and model.
  3. Transponder Keys Cost Range: £100 – £250 Transponder keys are more complex due to the embedded electronic chip. Replacement costs usually fall between £100 and £250, as the key needs to be cut and programmed to work with your specific vehicle.
  4. Smart Keys Cost Range: £200 – £500+ Smart keys, also known as “keyless go” or “proximity keys,” are the most advanced and, consequently, the most expensive to replace. Costs can range from £200 to £500 or more, depending on the vehicle manufacturer and the complexity of the system.

Factors Affecting Replacement Car Key Costs

Several factors influence the final cost of replacing your car key in the UK:

  1. Vehicle Make and Model Luxury and high-end vehicle brands often have more sophisticated key systems, resulting in higher replacement costs. For example, replacing a key for a BMW or Mercedes-Benz is typically more expensive than for a Ford or Vauxhall.
  2. Key Complexity As discussed earlier, more advanced key types with additional features like remote locking or keyless entry are more expensive to replace than simpler designs.
  3. Need for Programming Most modern car keys require programming to sync with the vehicle’s immobilizer system. This process adds to the overall cost, as it requires specialized equipment and expertise.
  4. Where You Get the Replacement The cost can vary significantly depending on whether you go to a main dealer, an independent auto locksmith, or attempt a DIY solution.
  5. Emergency Situations If you need an emergency replacement, such as during weekends or outside normal business hours, you may incur additional charges for the urgent service.
  6. Additional Keys Some providers offer discounts if you order multiple replacement keys at once, which can be a cost-effective option if you want a spare key.

Where to Get a Replacement Car Key in the UK

When you need a replacement car key, you have several options to choose from:

1. Main Dealer Pros:

  • Guaranteed to have the correct key for your specific vehicle
  • Keys are original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts
  • Often have the most up-to-date programming equipment


  • Usually the most expensive option
  • May have long wait times, especially for less common models
  • Might require towing your vehicle to the dealership if you’ve lost all keys

2. Independent Auto Locksmith Pros:

  • Often more affordable than main dealers
  • Can usually provide faster service, including mobile services
  • Many offer 24/7 emergency services


  • Quality and expertise can vary between providers
  • May not have access to the latest programming equipment for some newer models

3. Online Retailers Pros:

  • Can be the cheapest option for basic keys or remote fobs
  • Convenient for ordering replacement shells or batteries


  • Limited to simpler key types; not suitable for complex smart keys
  • Requires DIY programming or additional locksmith services
  • Risk of purchasing incompatible or low-quality products

4. Local Hardware Stores Pros:

  • Convenient for cutting basic metal keys
  • Usually very affordable


  • Limited to traditional metal keys only
  • No programming capabilities for modern keys

The Process of Replacing a Car Key

Understanding the process of replacing a car key can help you appreciate the costs involved:

  1. Verification of Ownership Before providing a replacement key, most reputable providers will require proof that you own the vehicle. This typically involves showing your vehicle registration document (V5C) and a form of photo ID.
  2. Key Cutting For keys that require a physical cut, the provider will need to cut the key to match your car’s lock. This is done using specialized key-cutting machines.
  3. Programming the Transponder For transponder keys, the electronic chip needs to be programmed to communicate with your car’s immobilizer system. This requires specialized diagnostic equipment.
  4. Pairing Remote Functions If your key includes remote locking functions, these need to be paired with your car’s central locking system.
  5. Testing The new key should be thoroughly tested to ensure it works correctly with all of your car’s systems before you leave.

DIY Key Replacement: Is It Possible?

While it’s possible to replace some types of car keys yourself, it’s generally not recommended for modern vehicles due to the complexity of their security systems. However, here are some DIY options for simpler key types:

  1. Purchasing a Key Shell If your key is physically damaged but still functions electronically, you can buy a replacement shell online and transfer the internal components.
  2. Replacing the Battery For keys with remote functions, a dead battery is often the culprit. Replacing the battery is a simple and inexpensive DIY task.
  3. Programming a Basic Remote Some older vehicles allow you to program a new remote yourself using a specific sequence of actions (like turning the ignition on and off). Check your owner’s manual for instructions.
  4. Cutting a Spare Key If you have a spare key, some hardware stores can cut a copy for a low price. However, this won’t work for transponder keys or smart keys.

Protecting Yourself from Expensive Key Replacements

Prevention is always better than cure. Here are some tips to avoid the need for expensive key replacements:

  1. Always Have a Spare Getting a spare key made when you first buy your car can save you money and hassle in the long run. Many dealers offer discounts on additional keys at the time of purchase.
  2. Consider Key Insurance Some insurance providers offer key insurance as an add-on to your car insurance policy. This can cover the cost of replacement if your keys are lost or stolen.
  3. Be Careful with Your Keys Treat your car keys with care. Avoid exposing them to water, extreme temperatures, or physical stress that could damage the electronic components.
  4. Use a Key Finder Attach a Bluetooth key finder to your keyring. These small devices can help you locate misplaced keys using your smartphone.
  5. Store Your Spare Safely Keep your spare key in a safe place at home, not in the car. Consider giving a spare to a trusted family member or friend for emergencies.

The Future of Car Keys

As technology continues to advance, we’re likely to see further changes in car key technology:

  1. Smartphone Integration Many manufacturers are developing systems that allow drivers to use their smartphones as car keys. This could potentially reduce the cost and inconvenience of physical key replacement in the future.
  2. Biometric Access Some concept cars have showcased biometric access systems, using fingerprints or facial recognition to unlock and start the vehicle.
  3. Advanced Anti-Theft Features Future car keys may incorporate more sophisticated anti-theft measures, potentially including GPS tracking or dynamic encryption.

Environmental Considerations

As we become more environmentally conscious, it’s worth considering the environmental impact of car key production and disposal:

  1. Electronic Waste Modern car keys contain electronic components that can be harmful to the environment if not disposed of properly. When replacing your key, ask about proper disposal options for your old key.
  2. Battery Usage Keys with remote functions use batteries, which should be recycled when depleted. Consider using rechargeable batteries where possible.
  3. Sustainable Materials Some manufacturers are exploring the use of sustainable or recycled materials in key fobs to reduce their environmental impact.

Legal Considerations

When replacing your car key, be aware of these legal considerations:

  1. Proof of Ownership It’s a legal requirement for key replacement services to verify vehicle ownership before providing a new key. This helps prevent car theft.
  2. Insurance Implications Some insurance policies may be invalidated if you don’t inform them of key loss or if you use non-approved key replacement services. Check your policy details.
  3. Vehicle Coding Regulations In the UK, businesses that code vehicle keys must be registered with the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) as a “Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Transponder Security Device Tester.”

Common Myths About Car Key Replacement

There are several misconceptions about car key replacement that are worth addressing:

Myth 1: “I need to go to the main dealer for a replacement key.” Reality: While dealers can certainly provide replacement keys, many independent auto locksmiths can offer the same service, often at a lower cost.

Myth 2: “All locksmiths can replace any type of car key.” Reality: Not all locksmiths have the equipment or expertise to handle modern car keys, especially for high-end or newer vehicles.

Myth 3: “I can’t get a replacement key without the original.” Reality: While having the original key can make the process easier and potentially cheaper, it’s usually possible to get a replacement even if you’ve lost all your keys.

Myth 4: “Key replacement is always extremely expensive.” Reality: While it can be costly, especially for modern vehicles, shopping around and considering independent specialists can often result in more reasonable prices.

Myth 5: “I can’t drive my car without the key fob.” Reality: Many cars with push-button start have a backup method to start the car if the key fob’s battery dies. Check your owner’s manual for details.

Case Studies: Real-World Key Replacement Scenarios

To illustrate the variety of situations and costs involved in car key replacement, let’s look at some hypothetical case studies:

Case 1: Lost Keys for a 2010 Ford Fiesta Sarah lost both keys to her 2010 Ford Fiesta. She contacted three providers for quotes:

  • Main Ford dealer: £180 for two new keys, programming included
  • Independent auto locksmith: £140 for two new keys, programming included
  • Online retailer + local garage for programming: £100 total, but took several days to complete

Sarah chose the independent auto locksmith for the balance of cost and convenience.

Case 2: Broken Key for a 2018 BMW 3 Series John’s key for his 2018 BMW 3 Series stopped working. Quotes received:

  • BMW dealer: £290 for a new key, programming included
  • Specialist BMW independent garage: £250 for a new key, programming included
  • Local general auto locksmith: Unable to provide service for this model

John opted for the BMW dealer for peace of mind, despite the higher cost.

Case 3: Spare Key for a 2015 Vauxhall Astra Emily wanted a spare key for her 2015 Vauxhall Astra. She received these quotes:

  • Vauxhall dealer: £180 for a new key
  • Independent auto locksmith: £120 for a new key
  • Online retailer (key only): £40, but required additional programming

Emily chose the independent auto locksmith, balancing cost and convenience.

These case studies demonstrate how costs can vary significantly based on the vehicle make, model, and chosen provider.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: How long does it take to get a replacement car key?

A: The time can vary from a few hours to several days, depending on the key type, vehicle model, and service provider. Emergency services can often provide same-day replacements, while main dealers might take longer, especially for less common models.

Q: Can I get a replacement key if I’ve lost all my car keys?

A: Yes, it’s possible to get a replacement key even if you’ve lost all your keys. However, it may be more expensive and time-consuming, as the locksmith or dealer will need to verify your ownership and may need to access your vehicle’s OBD (On-Board Diagnostics) port.

Q: Will my insurance cover the cost of replacing lost car keys?

A: Some comprehensive car insurance policies include key cover, either as standard or as an optional extra. Check your policy details or contact your insurer to find out.

Q: Can I start my car without the key fob?

A: Many modern cars with keyless ignition systems have a backup method to start the car if the key fob’s battery dies. This often involves holding the key fob against a specific part of the steering column or dashboard. Consult your owner’s manual for details specific to your vehicle.

Q: Is it cheaper to replace a key fob or buy a new one?

A: In many cases, it’s cheaper to replace individual components of a key fob (like the battery or the shell) rather than buying an entirely new one. However, if the internal electronics are damaged, a full replacement may be necessary.

Q: Can I program a new key myself?

A: While it’s possible to program keys for some older vehicles yourself, most modern cars require specialized equipment for key programming. It’s generally recommended to have this done by a professional.

Q: Are aftermarket keys as good as original manufacturer keys?

A: Quality can vary with aftermarket keys. While many are perfectly functional, they may not be as durable or reliable as original manufacturer keys. If opting for an aftermarket key, choose a reputable brand and supplier.

Q: What should I do if my key is stolen?

A: If your car key is stolen, inform the police and your insurance company immediately. You should also have your car’s locks reprogrammed as soon as possible to prevent the stolen key from being used.

Q: Can a locksmith make a key from my car’s lock?

A: Yes, a skilled auto locksmith can often create a new key by examining your car’s lock. However, for modern cars with transponder systems, the key will still need to be programmed to work with your car’s immobilizer.

Q: Is it worth getting multiple spare keys?

A: Having at least one spare key is highly recommended. Some providers offer discounts for multiple keys, which can be cost-effective. However, balance this against the risk of losing multiple keys simultaneously.


The cost of replacing a car key in the UK can vary widely, from as little as £5 for a basic metal key to £500 or more for an advanced smart key. Factors such as the vehicle make and model, key type, and chosen service provider all play a role in determining the final cost.

While main dealers can provide reliable service, they are often the most expensive option. Independent auto locksmiths frequently offer a good balance of cost-effectiveness and expertise, especially for older or more common vehicle models.

As car key technology continues to advance, it’s likely that we’ll see further changes in how we access and start our vehicles. However, the need for secure, reliable access to our cars will remain constant.

Remember, the best way to avoid the hassle and expense of emergency key replacement is to take preventative measures. Always have a spare key, consider key insurance, and treat your keys with care.

If you find yourself in need of car key replacement services in the Corby area, consider reaching out to Corby Auto Locksmith. With their expertise in a wide range of vehicle makes and models, they can provide efficient, cost-effective solutions for your car key needs.

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