March 15

How to Get a Replacement Car Key Without the Original

Last Updated on March 15, 2024

Losing your car keys can be stressful, especially when you don’t have a spare on hand. Not only are you left stranded, but replacing the key can be an expensive and time-consuming process. Fortunately, there are several options available to get a replacement, even if you don’t have the original. Let’s discuss the different methods of obtaining a new key, review the associated costs, and answer some of those frequently asked questions.

Methods for Replacing a Car Key Without the Original

1. Car Dealership

One of the most straightforward ways to get a replacement key is through your car’s dealership. Dealers have access to your vehicle’s key code, which is necessary to cut a new key. However, this convenience comes at a cost, as they typically charge higher prices.

2. Auto Locksmith

Car locksmiths are another popular choice. They get a key made by extracting the key code from your vehicle’s computer system or obtaining it from the manufacturer. A professional locksmith will typically offer mobile services, making the process more convenient.

3. Key Cutting Service

Some hardware stores and specialized key cutting services craft copies without the original, provided they have access to key codes or VIN (Vehicle Identification Number).

4. Online Key Replacement Services

Several online companies will replace your missing key by mail. You just have to provide them with your vehicle information. This is a convenient option for those living in remote areas or unable to visit a local service.

The Cost of Replacing a Car Key

What you pay will be determined by whether or not you need a basic car key, a smart key, or a transponder key. Buying a basic copy for older models can be as low as $25, but newer models can reach $200 or more. Transponder and smart keys can be even more expensive depending on the year and make. Some reach $500!

In general, expect to pay more if you go through a car dealership. The charge for an auto locksmith varies, but is generally less expensive depending on factors like the locksmith’s location. Key cutting services are relatively inexpensive too, depending on the complexity of the key and programming needed, and the same is true of online key replacement services .

Factors to Consider When Replacing a Car Key Without the Original

1. Vehicle Type and Key System

The cost and complexity of obtaining a car key replacement depends on your vehicle’s make, model, and key system. Newer vehicles with advanced systems, such as keyless entry, push-button start, and smart keys in general, require additional programming and specialized equipment. The more specialized, the higher the cost.

2. Proof of Ownership

Most service providers will require proof of ownership before replacing your car key. This may include a valid driver’s license, vehicle registration, or other documentation to ensure you are the rightful owner of the vehicle.

3. Programming and Coding

In addition to cutting the physical key, some vehicles require programming or coding to sync the new key with the vehicle’s computer system. This process adds to the overall cost and could require specialized services from a dealer or automotive locksmith.

4. Key Type and Complexity

Traditional metal keys are generally less expensive to replace than more advanced key fobs or transponder keys. Those with integrated remote entry or ignition systems can be more costly due to the additional electronics and programming required.

Buying Cars Without Keys

If you’re buying a vehicle from an auction, know that not all vehicles come with keys. In some cases, an automobile may have been forfeited, even seized. If a fleet vehicle like a service truck gets retired and was only operated via a fleet key, then you will need a replacement in this case too.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can AutoZone make a key without the original?

No, AutoZone and most retail stores cannot create a new key without the original. They can duplicate existing keys but cannot program or code new keys for your vehicle.

What happens if you lose the original key to your car?

If you lose your only car key, you’ll need to obtain a replacement key from a dealer, automotive locksmith, or key cutting service. They can create a new key using your vehicle’s key code or VIN.

Can you get a key code from a VIN number?

Certain key cutting services or locksmiths are able to obtain your vehicle’s key code using the VIN. However, this does not work for all makes and models.

Tips for Getting a Replacement Car Key Without the Original

1. Research and Compare Costs

Before deciding on a service provider, research and compare costs from multiple sources, including dealerships, locksmiths, and other key cutting services. This will help you find the most cost-effective option.

2. Consider Mobile Services

If available in your area, consider using a professional locksmith who is mobile. They come to your location, saving you time and hassle.

3. Provide Accurate Vehicle Information

When requesting a replacement key, provide accurate information about your vehicle’s make, model, year, and any other related details about the key system. This will help ensure you receive the correct key.

4. Ask About Warranties

Some service providers offer warranties or guarantees on their key replacement services. Inquire about these to ensure you’re covered in case of any issues.

5. Keep a Spare Key

Once you’ve obtained a replacement key, consider making a spare and keeping it in a secure location. This will save you time and money in the future if you ever lose your keys again.

Here are some additional details on getting replacement keys made for popular vehicle makes like Ford, Chevy, Dodge, and BMW:

Ford Key Replacement

Many newer Ford models use keys with electronic components that require programming from a dealership or an auto locksmith. On the other hand, older replacements are easier if they only use a basic metal key. Locksmiths and key cutting services make copies based on the key code obtained from Ford using the vehicle’s 8-digit key code sequence.

Chevy/GM Key Replacement 

For Chevy and other GM vehicles, the dealership route is often recommended, especially for newer models with anti-theft keys and fobs. The dealer can cut and program the new key using the vehicle’s unique ID code.

Some automotive locksmiths also handle Chevy key replacements if they can access the vehicle’s ID code. Though, key copying services may be limited to just cutting a blank if programming is required.

Dodge/Chrysler Key Replacement

For Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, and other FCA/Stellantis brands, the key replacement process depends on whether you need a basic or smart key. Newer Dodges use coded chips that usually require a trip to the dealer or an automotive locksmith capable of cloning and programming the new copies. Older Dodges with standard keys can be completed through a third-party.

BMW Key Replacement 

BMWs are renowned for advanced key fob systems that make replacement more complicated, and more expensive. Most owners opt to go through the dealership to get a new key coded and programmed properly. Some specialty locksmiths can handle BMW key replacements, but this requires expensive equipment to clone the key’s transponder and sync it with the vehicle systems. This specialized service typically costs almost as much as the dealer route.


Losing your car keys can be a frustrating experience, but there are several options available to replace it even without the original. Whether you choose to go through a dealership, an automotive locksmith, a key cutting service, or an online replacement service, be sure to consider factors such as cost, vehicle type, and key complexity. By following the tips and guidelines outlined in this article, you can navigate the process of getting a car key replacement smoothly and efficiently.

If you’re in the market not just for replacing keys but for finding affordable and retired vehicles like police cars, school buses, and more, then be sure to check out Municibid’s automotive surplus.


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