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Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals

How Much Does It Cost For Car Key Duplication?

by Hugo Reed May 10, 2021
Car Key Duplication

Car key duplication cost is not set in stone, even though some people will be tempted to think so. Much like anything else, there are a variety of factors that come into play to help determine how high (or low) car key duplication cost can get. Some people never worry about car key duplication costs because they don’t think they will ever need a duplicate car key. However, it is important to realize that duplicate car keys come in handy for several different reasons.

The main factors that affect car key duplication cost are:

  1. Service Options
  2. Car Key Type
  3. Machine Type

Having a duplicate car key will automatically help reduce the probability of you ever being stuck in a car lockout. However, if you do find yourself stuck in a car lockout, you will probably be put at ease knowing that your duplicate car key is nearby. At that moment I am pretty sure that the car key duplication cost will be the last thing on your mind. As it very well should, because you have been saved from a harrowing lockout scenario simply because you decided to invest in some duplicate car keys, so good for you!

Car Key Duplication vs. Full Replacement

It is also important to understand the differences between duplicating a car key, replacing a car key, or cutting an entirely new car key. As the name implies, a duplicate car key is ideally going to be an identical copy of the key that you have. Therefore, to have a duplicate car key made, you will need to have your pre-existing physical key in your possession.

If you do not have your current physical key in your possession, then you shouldn’t be paying attention to the cost of car key duplication. At this point, you will either need to have your key replaced (either because the key got broken in the lock, or because you lost your car keys, etc.) or you will need to have a new key cut. A qualified locksmith or a dealership will be able to help you, but you need to be aware that this is not car key duplication.

So, just to be clear, to even worry about the car key duplication cost, you need to have your physical key handy so that the process can begin. Now, let’s take the time to walk through some of the factors that will come together to determine the car key duplication cost.

Key Takeaways:

  • Car key duplication requires a working key that can be copied.
  • If you lost your car key and have no spare, there are different cost considerations.
  • When your key blade is broken, your options for duplication will be limited.

Factors That Determine Car Key Duplication Cost

Multiple Car Keys

1. Where The Duplicate Is Made

The car key duplication cost will vary depending on where you go to get the duplication done. Let me explain. If you take your key to your nearest local hardware store in search of having a duplicate made, you will undoubtedly find someone to help you. However, many hardware store employees do not have enough experience to give you proper insight into your purchase. They have simply been trained to insert your existing key into a machine so that the duplicate can be made.

On the flip side of things, if you happen to take your key to a trusted local locksmith or the dealership where you got your car, you will be helped by individuals who have been trained to duplicate car keys (among other things). This is the main reason why the car key duplication cost will vary depending on where you have the duplicate made.

In addition, local locksmiths and automotive dealers tend to have a much larger inventory and selection of key blanks for you to choose from. If you take a trip down to your local home depot, you will find that they do not have a vast array of key blanks and an especially limited number of car key blanks.

Aside from the reasons discussed above, the car key duplication cost will also differ based on the average cost of local competitors. If there are any special rates within a specific area or wholesale sellers for the various key blanks, costs will decrease due to supply. If the key blanks are rare or their availability is made artificially scarce by the manufacture, then the price will be more.

Key Takeaways:

  • If a hardware store has the proper key blank, they should be able to duplicate the key.
  • Some car key blanks are only available from authorized locksmiths and dealerships.
  • Hardware stores offer cheap service, but without reliably professional service.
  • Locksmiths can come to your location and are less expensive than dealerships.

2. Type Of Car Key

The model of your car is important in determining the car key duplication cost because your car model directly influences the car key model that you have. This will determine the type of key blank you should use. In some cases, the brand of the key blank you need will be the average cost of other key blanks, but sometimes it might be much more. This instance normally arises when you need a duplicate car key for an older car model, a luxury car, or a car key that has additional features that most traditional car keys do not have.

It is advisable to look up the information about your specific car key before you delve into finding the car key duplication cost. The necessary information can be found by looking through your car manual or by doing a little bit of research on everyone’s favorite search engine. This is important because it will help you understand whether or not you should be looking to get a replacement key or a duplicate key. Keep in mind, as I explained earlier, to make a duplicate key you need to already have a functional key. However, it is not always as clear-cut as it may seem. I’ll break this down.

A car owner manual can tell you whether your car key is a standard key or not. Standard car keys are keys that have no added features and their duplicate keys are the easiest to make. Also, the car key duplication cost for basic keys is the lowest price. However, basic keys are not that popular these days since a majority of cars now utilize key fobs, transponder chips, remote parts, laser cut keys, or switchblade keys.

These additional features have made it a little bit more complicated to duplicate keys. This is not necessarily a negative thing because it makes it much harder for burglars to take advantage of car owners. Essentially, very few keys are standalone items anymore. More often than not they are paired to a specific vehicle through the use of transponder chips.

Key Takeaways:

  • Your make, model, and year determine your type of car key.
  • Certain types of car keys are limited in their availability.
  • The more available replacement parts are, the lower the car key duplication cost.

3. Type Of Duplication Machine Used

Another factor that comes into play when you are discussing the car key duplication cost is the type of duplication machine that is used. The car key duplicator machine is important because it influences the amount of time that is needed to duplicate the key, the precision of the key cuts that combine to form the bitting, and also how complicated it will be to duplicate the key. 

I’m sure it sounds like these factors might not have anything to do with the cost, but they do. If it takes more time to duplicate a key, the key will automatically cost more. Also, it would be unfair if the price for more precise key cuts was the same as a less precise method. In this manner, the machine used influences the car key duplication cost.

Say you go to a hardware store that only cuts the keys. You get your key blade duplicated, and it opens your doors. However, your newly cut key will not start your car. You find out too late that you needed a car key cutter that also programs transponder chips. So the type of car key duplication machine you used still hasn’t solved your problem, and you are not done spending money on car key duplication costs.

Key Takeaways:

  • The more advanced your key is, the more expensive the duplication machine.
  • Competitive pricing may be limited if there are limited duplication machines.
  • Cheap machines will make less accurate duplicates.

Car Key Duplication Cost

Car Door Car Keys Cost

Now that we have outlined all the necessary steps that you have to consider when you are trying to figure out the car key duplication cost, it’s time for us to take a look at some of the numbers. Like I have said several times, it is important for you to remember that this is talking about car key duplication, not car key replacement or cutting new keys or any of that. I will, however, touch on how the prices for car key duplication tend to change when you need some extra services like programming transponder keys. Let’s dive right in:

  • At your local hardware store, the cost of duplicating a basic key ranges from $1.25 to $2. More often than not, your local hardware store can only duplicate basic/standard keys.
  • At a locksmith shop, the cost of duplicating a basic key ranges from $1.50 to $4, but as stated before they will have a wider array of key blanks for car owners to choose from.
  • At a locksmith shop, the cost of duplicating car keys with additional features (transponder chip, etc.) starts at $120. The price variation depends mostly on the type of car key blank that you need.
  • At an automotive dealership, the cost for duplicating car keys runs upwards of $150. The disparity in these prices is mainly because automotive dealers usually do not replace basic car keys. The keys that they work with are usually transponder keys or key fobs.

The prices described above focus on car key duplication costs and do not take into account the additional services that your duplicate car key might have to undergo. Essentially, for older, basic car keys the duplication process can be a breeze because there is nothing else that has to be done. However, when it comes to newer versions of car keys that utilize transponder chips, you will have to account for the cost of programming your transponder key.

There was a lot that changed before the dawn of the 21st Century. A great number of these changes were technological advancements that also made their way into the automotive industry. It was around this time that many car manufacturers began to use transponder chips in their keys. This simple act makes cars much harder to steal and also makes keys harder to duplicate. The chip works by emitting a signal to a receiver that is housed in the ignition. In the instance that the wrong key is used (i.e the wrong signal is detected), the car will not start.

This means that if your original key has a transponder chip, your duplicate car key will most likely not be able to start your car. In this case, you will have to program the chip in your duplicate transponder key so that it can work in conjunction with the receiver in your ignition. When this happens, the car key duplication cost increases, and at that point, it is an entirely different service that is being offered to you. However, if you happen to stumble across a nice locksmith they might program the transponder key for you for free, but that is on a case-by-case basis. Let’s take a look at some of these additional costs:

  • At a local locksmith shop, the costs for programming a transponder key run between $30 to $75, which will effectively bring your total cost to a range between $150 to $195. Please note that in some instances the prices might run much higher than that.
  • At the automotive dealership, the costs for programming a transponder key will place your finals costs at over $150.


How does a locksmith make a new car key?

A locksmith can make a new car key by code, or by putting an existing key into a duplication machine. A car key’s code can be gathered from the VIN (vehicle identification number), by decoding the key, or by decoding one of the locks. A duplication machine requires a working key that will be copied.

How can I get a duplicate car key without the original?

Car keys can be made without an original. The specific process of duplicating a car key requires a working key that can be copied. When you are duplicating a car key, there are lower costs than when you have to go through all the steps of making a car key without existing keys.

How long does it take for a locksmith to make a car key?

It takes an average of 20 minutes to make a car key. It can take less if a key can be duplicated and does not require programming, and longer if a key must be made without an original and programmed. 

Can you program your own car key?

Most older car key fobs, remotes, and transponder keys can be programmed without professional tools and training. However, many newer car keys require professional technicians with special tools to access the car’s onboard diagnostics port. If you cannot find information on programming your car keys in your manual or online, call an auto locksmith.

Who programs key fobs?

Certain hardware stores will have machines that allow you to program certain key fobs from an existing working remote. Newer key fob duplication will require either an auto locksmith or the dealership. An auto locksmith is the only option that can come to your location at your convenience.

Who can program a transponder key?

You can program your own transponder key, call a locksmith, or go to the dealership. In some cases, big box stores may have car key duplicators that also copy transponder signals. For the lowest price and best service, a locksmith will often be your best option.

Final Thoughts

If you have walked away from this thinking that car key duplication is actually much cheaper than you would have thought, then you are probably right. The reason for this being the fact that many people tend to group other related services under the blanket term of ‘car key duplication’, which is not entirely true. It is important to make sure you understand the differences between car key duplication, car key replacement, and transponder key programming. 

When you can identify which service you need, you will be able to get a better picture of what your total cost will be. Car key duplication costs are not as high as their aforementioned counterparts. Hopefully, the costs and points discussed above will help you get a better understanding of the service that you need, while simultaneously giving you some insight about what to expect when you want to duplicate your car keys.

Category: Automotive, Car Keys

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