/ Motoring

You won’t believe the cost of a spare car key…

How much does it cost to replace your car key? Let’s just say that for a modern car, you’re not looking in the tens of pounds. Have you ever had to buy a replacement car key, and did you feel ripped off?

A few weeks ago, I went to get some spare house keys cut. It cost me £14.50 for two cylinder keys and a mortice key.

Although I was expecting to pay a little less, on reflection, I felt that was a pretty fair deal – after all, security is worth paying for, right?

However, I’m glad I didn’t need to buy a spare key for my car.

The expense of car keys

Of the hundreds of Which? members who contact us every month, one query caught my eye. The member described the cost of getting a new car key as ‘exorbitant’ – and suggested we investigate.

I quickly got on the phone to some of the car dealers in my area. I asked them to quote the cost of a year-old version of their most popular medium or large car.

The average price of a key from Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Ford, Vauxhall and Hyundai? £174!

Every single manufacturer I’ve spoken to so far charges well over £100 for a replacement key. Ford was the cheapest at £130 (admittedly this isn’t for the latest Focus), while Audi and Mercedes both asked for a whacking £228.

Are car keys a rip-off?

I have to say, I certainly like the convenience of remote central locking. But the latest must-have feature (one which is being promoted by Ford in the current Fiesta adverts) is “keyless entry”. This requires even more sophisticated chips and transponders inside the key – ultimately pushing the price up.

I rang another Ford dealer and found that a keyless fob for a new Fiesta (the UK’s biggest-selling car) costs £193, while a normal key is ‘just’ £135.

Car keys perform what is, in essence, a very simple job. They let you into your car and start it. Do they really need to be quite so complicated – and expensive? Or do you think the convenience of a remote locking or keyless system is worth the extra cost?

Alan says:
8 February 2014

You say how much outlay for cost of business etc and how long lo recoup the outlay, I had a business and I never ripped off the customers like this.
Now imagine you brought a a large fast food franchise ,the outlay is in the 100s of thousand, do they charge you £10 for fries-£15for a coke and £30 for a burger?

They have staff and overheads and running costs
The con starts at the top and runs down like a pyramid sales scam, although locksmiths are not that bad as main dealers.
In this country we just talk but no action- lets look to France if we want our voices heard.


You will find most auto locksmiths do not rip anyone off! If you don’t know what a locksmith get there items at at trade price then you shouldn’t comment really!
Has said before example Renault key car for auto locksmith at trade between £60-80
programming it into the vehcle around £15 reason being autolocksmiths programming machine costs betwwen £2000-8000 and some use tokens around £15 a vehicle.
cutting of the emergency blade £10 . auto locksmith key cutting machine to code3 cost anything from £2500-£6000.
Picks to enter vehicle and decode £80
Van fuel cost average £10 per job
van insurance ££
wear and tear of vehicle£££
liability insurance £150-400
auto locksmith wage
Now tell me how a auto locksmith rips customers off with that outlay?


And for costs of fries ect you would normally get 50 plus customers a day, an auto locksmith may only get 1 job a day, its not a 9-5 job!

Mike says:
1 May 2014

As the previous reply stated to compare a burger bar to a locksmith isn’t a fair one, obviously the higher the volume of customers the cheaper the service or products becomes, as a manager of an establised locksmith i am all to much aware of the very high outlay on diagnostic equipment, high tech key cutting equipment, well trained qualified staff and good quality stock, we also have to invest
on regular software updates and purchase various licences to enable us to reproduce vehicle transponder keys and remote keys, our last investment was around £17,000.00 on diagnostic
software alone, so don’t be to quick to judge as i can assure anyone that reproducing modern vehicle keys involves time, effort, and can be money pit, we forecast we will not actually draw a profit for three years based on our initial investment, then there is the on going cost of software updates and training but as this is part of the general service we supply we continue to provide this service to our customers, not whinging just trying to give another perspective,

Alan says:
8 February 2014

Very quick to defend charges and costs which every business face what makes your such business different?
Forget it my post will not make a difference so you carry on…. Happy 2014 matey

Mike says:
1 May 2014

As a follow on to my previous post it may be worth mentioning that the entire concept of purchasing a burger and a remote key is completely different, when you purchase a burger ( or any fast food for that matter ) the reasons for that purchase are generally because it tastes good, its quite cheap, but more to the point you WANT IT, therefore you don’t mind paying however in my 28 years experience in the lock trade i can say without doubt we are classed as a ‘grudge purchase’, you do not WANT our service however you may NEED it so people mostly resent parting with there cash for our services and products.


I believe that rather than complaining about the cost of a spare key we should be asking why manufacturers don’t provide enough keys in the first place.

My new VW Golf came with only two keys (the previous one had come with two and an emergency key with the transponder but no remote control function. I suppose I should feel luckier than a couple whose new car was supplied with two keys but only one with a remote control function.

A couple will need two keys, or three if a son or daughter uses the car, and it is commonsense to keep a spare key. Therefore manufacturers should provide four keys with a new car. Unlike cutting and programming a new key, which is expensive, providing an extra couple of keys would add very little to the cost of a new vehicle and could save a great deal of hassle.

Come on manufacturers. Provide four keys with each new car.

localsmith says:
1 December 2014

You are really good and fast but the best thing is quality and prices, thank you for keep doing that great job. GOD Bless.

Nymie says:
1 December 2014

The modern key does so much more than open the car and start it.
Well worth the price, most need to be computer matched to your car, the price usually includes that work and takes an odd 15 mins or so depending on make.