While getting a car key replaced is a more involved process than replacing a standard door key, many auto shops and home improvement stores make car key copies. If you have an older car with a basic key, the process is as simple as cutting the key blank to fit the door lock; however, newer cars have laser cut or chip-embedded transponder keys, which may require cutting or reprogramming by a professional locksmith or dealer. See below for more details about getting basic, laser cut, and transponder car keys made.
How to Have a Key Made
Older cars and more recent base models might have traditional keys that simply need to be cut to fit the ignition and door lock. More modernized cars have laser cut keys (also known as sidewinder or internal cut keys), which look similar to traditional keys, but they are specific to a car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) and offer higher security than traditional keys. While they are not cut with actual lasers, they do require special machinery to cut.
Nowadays, most newer cars require chip-embedded keys, also known as transponder keys. Many laser cut keys also contain transponders. Transponder keys offer an extra layer of security because even if the key is cut to fit the lock, it won’t start the car unless the chip is programmed to the vehicle’s specifications. If you have a transponder key and only want a second key that can open the truck and exterior doors, you can get a basic key without a transponder and have it cut to fit the lock.
Additionally, very new cars may have entirely electronic keys for both opening the doors and starting the ignition. These keys may not include a physical key at all; keyless proximity remotes allow you to unlock the door and start the ignition with the push of a button.
Key Cutting Requirements
After identifying the type of key you need, you must purchase a key blank and/or replacement remote. Key blanks and remotes will only work for designated vehicle makes and models, so you’ll want to be sure that the products you purchase will work with your car.
In many cases, particularly if you order the key online, you’ll need the VIN for your car. You can typically find the VIN on the driver’s side dashboard (or, if you can’t find it on the car itself, it should be on the top left-hand corner of each page of your car insurance policy).
Many hardware stores and automotive stores sell key blanks, and some can make a copy of an existing key. However, some of these stores can only cut basic metal keys; they may not be able to laser cut or program specialized keys. Additionally, if you need a new key and you don’t have an original to copy, you’ll likely need to go to a locksmith to have it cut and/or programmed.
You can buy the key blank from the same locksmith service that will cut and program it, but it may be cheaper to buy the key elsewhere and bring it in. Car dealerships will also provide replacement keys for your vehicle, but this will typically be the most expensive option.
Places That Sell Key Blanks (and May Cut/Program Them)
It’s important to note that some of the stores below may also offer key-cutting services — however, in most cases, you don’t just need a key that physically fits in the lock. You also need the transponder in the key programmed to work with your car. The key-cutting and programming services vary widely among different locations of these stores.
It’s best to call your local store and ask if the store can cut and program car keys. Of the chains listed below, NAPA advertises that it will cut and program a new chip-enabled key to work with your car, but you’ll need to get in touch with a local store for details beyond that. If the store doesn’t cut keys, you can purchase a blank and bring it to a local locksmith to have it cut and programmed.
1. NAPA Auto Parts
- Hours: Most stores open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Cost: Transponder keys start at $70, with no extra fee to program the new key.
- Find a NAPA
2. O’Reilly Auto Parts
- Hours: Most stores are open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. (some are open until 11 p.m.)
- Cost: Varies widely by vehicle make and year; sells basic key blanks, keyless entry remotes, and cylinder-and-lock replacements
- Find an O’Reilly
3. Advance Auto Parts
- Hours: Most stores are open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. with more limited hours on weekends.
- Cost: Blank keys typically cost between $20 and $50 (including basic ignition keys, door keys, and key fob case replacements).
- Find an Advance Auto Parts
- Hours: Most stores are open 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Cost: Basic ignition keys start at $20, and prices increase for chip-embedded keys.
- Find an AutoZone
5. Ace Hardware
Note: Ace Hardware advertises that its experts can cut and program keys for most car makes and models.
- Hours: Many locations are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday with more limited hours on Sunday.
- Cost: Standard mechanical keys are as low as $2 to $3; transponder keys can be anywhere from $40 to $75 or more depending on the type of car.
- Find an Ace Hardware
6. The Home Depot
- Hours: Many locations are open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday with more limited hours on Sunday.
- Cost: Transponder keys start at roughly $40; standard mechanical keys are as low as $2.00.
- Find a Home Depot
- Hours: Most stores are open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays.
- Cost: Blank automotive keys and keyless entry remotes start at approximately $40.
- Find a Lowe’s
- Hours: Most stores are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.
- Cost: Traditional keys cost around $2 to $6; prices vary for transponder keys.
- Find a Walmart
Find out more about getting a key made at Walmart in our article about Walmart’s key making policy.
9. Sears (Select Locations)
Note: Sears locations with a Keyless Shop can laser cut car keys and program transponders.
- Hours: Most stores are open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday; store hours vary on Sundays.
- Cost: Traditional automotive keys start at around $3; transponder keys range from $20 to $40, and key fobs cost around $75.
- Find a Sears location with a Keyless Shop
Places That Laser Cut Keys
Some car keys require laser cutting, and traditional key duplicating machines cannot do this. Fortunately, there are several companies that offer this specialized service. You can always get a new key cut at a dealership, but the dealership will likely charge much more than the places listed below. Local locksmiths are also typically able to laser cut keys, but their hours, costs, and services will vary by location.
1. Batteries + Bulbs
- Hours: Vary by location; Batteries + Bulbs has stores in every state.
- Cost: Varies by location and car, but can be up to $150 or more
- Find a Batteries + Bulbs
2. The Keyless Shop
- Hours: Vary by location; The Keyless Shop has independent kiosks and locations inside Sears and other automotive stores.
- Cost: Varies by location and car, but can be up to $150 or more
- Find a Keyless Shop
Online Options for Getting a Replacement Key
The places listed below allow you to start getting your replacement key made without leaving your house. Pop-A-Lock will connect you with a local locksmith who can physically meet you and bring the necessary supplies to cut and program a key on the spot. Car Keys Express and KeylessRide simply ask you to submit information about the car that needs the key, and you’ll receive your key in the mail a few days later.
1. Car Keys Express (formerly iKeyless)
- Hours: Customer service available Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST.
- Cost: For less than $50 (most keys are around $20), Car Keys Express provides 2 keys that require programming, which can be done by a dealership, a locksmith, or yourself.
- Find your replacement key at Car Keys Express
- Hours: Customer service Monday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. CST.
- Cost: Prices start at $20 for the key, and fobs are usually included free of charge (depending on make and model). KeylessRide will provide detailed instructions to program the keys yourself.
- Contact KeylessRide for assistance with your key
- Hours: Most local Pop-A-Lock locksmiths are 24/7.
- Cost: None disclosed online
- Find your replacement key at Pop-A-Lock
Locksmith Key Cutting and Replacements
In many cases, because key-cutting services vary by location at auto parts retailers and other stores, calling a local locksmith may make it easier to get the key that you need. Below are a few things to keep in mind when replacing your car keys with the help of a locksmith:
- Prices will vary based on the type of key and car.
- Locksmiths have blank keys, as well as the sophisticated machinery needed to make and program a new key.
- The locksmith can also help you reprogram the replacement key.
- Any time you’re getting a new key made for a vehicle, be sure to bring along any other key fobs associated with that car. The fob might not work until the new key is programmed.
You can search for a locksmith near you on the Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA) website.
Getting a Replacement Key from a Dealership
Buying and programming your replacement key at a dealership is the most expensive option for key replacement. For luxury brands like BMW and specialized keys like keyless remotes, replacements may cost $500 or more, depending on the vehicle’s make and model. Simpler, chip-embedded keys will also cost around $200 or more at dealerships like Ford and Toyota.
Sometimes, though, a dealership replacement is necessary. If you have a particularly complex laser cut or transponder key, your best bet for a replacement may be to purchase the replacement directly from a dealership.
An auto parts store will be unable to cut or program these key types, and locksmith services will vary by location. Keep in mind that, as an anti-theft measure, dealerships often require photo ID and proof of vehicle ownership (such as the title or registration) when issuing replacement keys.
Other Important Information About Replacing Car Keys
As a general rule, the older the vehicle and simpler the key, the easier it will be to replace. However, if you do need a chip-enabled and programmed key, you can save money by purchasing an after-market key and programming it yourself.
You can often find after-market keys and factory replacements online for less than it would cost you to get a new key directly from the manufacturer. You may have success with a reputable dealer on a site like eBay, but it’s best to look for companies that specialize in replacing car keys, such as Car Keys Express.
If you intend to purchase a key somewhere other than a locksmith or dealership, be careful about where you choose to buy. Secondhand keys will be extremely difficult to cut, and once a transponder is programmed to work with one car, it can’t be reprogrammed to work with another.
Programming Your Own Key
Depending on your car’s make and model, you might be able to program a cut key yourself. Once you’ve purchased the key and had it cut to fit the locks, you can most likely find instructions and videos online for programming the transponder. Start with a Google search for “[car make, model] key programming,” and you’ll likely find plenty of tutorials for how to get the transponder working with your car.
Doing this process yourself can save you quite a bit of money over going to a locksmith or a dealership. However, you’ll want to make sure you’ve done thorough research before beginning the process to be sure that you’ll be able to program the key correctly. Keep in mind that some keys are not programmable by the owner and will require you to visit a dealership or professional locksmith.
For more information on key services, see our article listing more than 20 places that make keys.