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The days of walking into a hardware store and getting duplicate car keys made for pennies are long gone. In fact, many drivers today have never seen the older metal car key that looks like a house key. Today’s cars use everything from the simple black-headed transponder chip key to the much more complex keyless remote proximity fob. Newer keys have electronic components that do everything from operating the door locks to disabling the car’s immobilizer. Of course, all these electronics are prone to wear over time. So, at some point, you may need to repair your key or get replacement car keys made.

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What Impacts the Cost of Replacement Car Keys?

There are several factors that impact the cost of replacing a car key. They include the type and complexity of the key, the year, make, and model of the vehicle, and who you choose to make the key for you.

Parts Costs

As we said, the physical car keys and remote fobs are miniature electronic devices. As such, there is circuitry inside the key, as well as a battery to power the key’s functions. Therefore, the actual replacement key can be quite expensive on its own. And, that is before any work is done to cut or program it to work with your particular vehicle.

For example, a genuine residential locksmith can key fob can cost anywhere from $170 for a regular ignition key to $1,000 for a radio remote control display key. These keys are coded to your vehicle’s VIN, but the chip inside still requires programming. So, before you even start, the part is quite expensive. Similarly, a replacement key fob for a 2015 Lexus ES350 can run about $160.00. You can get cheaper versions of these keys that are not made by BMW or Lexus. However, the quality varies widely and many are very cheap imitations of the original. In fact, many other automotive locksmiths near you won’t even cut or program these keys as the failure rate is so high.

Equipment Costs

Cutting the blades of your replacement car keys requires sophisticated and expensive machinery. Remember, to remain profitable, all businesses build their overhead into their prices. Therefore, that machinery’s cost is going to be factored into the cost of replacing your key. And, in cases of vehicles like Mercedes and BMW, special machinery is required that is exclusive to these brands. So, the cost to cut those keys will be even higher, as only owners of these cars will be charged for the special equipment required to cut those keys.

Labor Costs

With most car keys (even proximity key fobs where a key blade is not visible), there are two components to the labor process. Physically cutting the key to operate the locks and ignition (where necessary) and programming the electronics so that the key communicates with the computer in your car.

In a normal situation, it takes approximately one hour to cut a key to your vehicle and program and test the key, so you will pay for one hour of labor, assuming no problems occur along the way. Depending on where you go to get this work done, the amount you pay for that labor will vary. Generally speaking, a car locksmith near me will charge less for the labor than a dealership.

Ask the Locksmith for References

When you find a local locksmith you are considering, ask for references of people in your area for whom he has performed work. Many satisfied customers will agree to provide references for someone whose work they liked, and with whom they felt comfortable. Locksmiths who are good at what they do should have no problem sharing references with you.

You can also get help in the decision-making process by finding out how a locksmith has performed in a variety of situations. Google and Yelp are great resources for finding exceptional providers.

Credentials Count

If you live in a place that requires licensing, make sure any locksmith you choose can produce a copy of his license. Currently, only 14 states* require state licensing of locksmiths, although there are some local municipalities in other states that require licensing within their jurisdictions. One example of that is Miami-Dade County in Florida. Florida does not require state licensing, but Miami-Dade County requires locksmiths operating in the county to hold a county-issued license.

While licensing is no guarantee, it does provide some indication of legitimacy. For example, to be licensed in Miami-Dade County, a locksmith must have been apprenticed to, or working as a locksmith for at least one year. This information must be attested to by a locksmith supervisor, business owner, or other person affiliated with the locksmith industry. In addition, Miami-Dade will perform a background check, so if nothing else, the license will tell you the guy does not have a criminal record.

Check the Locksmith’s Insurance

This is a must. Make sure to find a local locksmith who has valid liability insurance. And, don’t take his word for it; ask for proof of insurance. Accidents happen, and if someone gets injured, or something gets damaged in your home, you will want to be protected and compensated. Your locksmith’s liability insurance should cover that.

Remember, when you wait until you are in an emergency locksmith situation, you put yourself at a disadvantage. There are many locksmith scams out there, and you don’t want to fall victim to any of them. So, do your homework in advance, and find someone who you know will treat you right. That way, when the need arises, you can keep an already stressful situation from becoming even more stressful.

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