6 Reasons Why Car Keys Are So Expensive

One of the biggest aggravations to car ownership is being forced to make a new electronic key/fob. Here are six reasons car keys are so expensive to replace.

There are several factors involved in the ever-rising price of key replacement. Advanced security technologies like push button start or proximity fobs cost more to produce. In addition, some keys require specific programming so that the car’s computer will recognize the fob in your pocket.

Unfortunately, if you own a car long enough, you will likely have to pay for a new key. Not only are the cost of vehicles skyrocketing, but so is the cost of every component, including car keys/fobs.

Part of the reason is that new technology is being implemented (we have computers in everything). Yet, the increase in pricing for a key/fob also has to do with helping dealerships can maximize their revenues. 

Why Are Car Keys So Expensive To Replace?

Why Are Car Keys So Expensive 1 6 Reasons Why Car Keys Are So Expensive

There are various reasons why replacing the key on your vehicle these days is so expensive. 

Cars and Keys are More Complicated with New Technologies

Just stop and think about how quickly smartphones have developed. Every day another company is pushing the latest, greatest gadget in our faces. 

The rate of innovation in key design is astounding, from keyless entry remotes to fobs that fit in wallets like credit cards or apps that let us drive with the tap of a button. 

New technology is also expensive to produce. So as manufacturing costs have risen, automakers have had to charge the consumer more for the luxury of having these new technologies and safety protocols as a part of their lives. 

Manufacturers Want More of Your Money

If you feel that you are getting ripped off when you walk up to your dealership’s service department, it is because you have to pay for their markups. Like any business, dealerships want to make as much revenue as possible for their goods and services. 

One of the ways that dealership can maximize their revenues is to force you as a consumer to come to them. If you cannot program a key/fob yourself (and most of us don’t have that ability), they think you will have to pay the price for their services. 

(They would be right). The days of going just about anywhere to have a key made are over, and now we must pay the price for specialists. (Medicine has gone the same route if you hadn’t noticed).

Laser Keys and Microchips Mean Limitations for Dealerships

One of the primary reasons a key is so expensive is the limitations of what the dealership can and cannot do.

The technology to embed a microchip into the interior of a keyfob requires a dust-free environment and technological equipment that no dealership in the world could afford to have on the premises. 

To combat this issue, parts managers across the country simply order the fob with the computer inside it, just like you might from Amazon. The warehouse sends it, and the dealership has another way of getting more money from you because you are paying for the part and are now paying a markup on the shipping. 

The Equipment A Dealership Uses

Every time you bring your car in for service, you pay all kinds of fees (some you may not notice). 

The truth is that the many pieces of equipment and supplies a dealership uses daily cost money, not to mention the costs of paying technicians a fair wage. 

As the price of these goods and services goes up (inflation happens to everything), so do the prices that consumers are forced to pay. 

The Race for Success (The Large Variety of Keys/Fobs Available).

Why Are Car Keys So Expensive 2 6 Reasons Why Car Keys Are So Expensive

While advancing technologies might mean more straightforward conveniences for consumers, it also creates horrible side effects. Every auto manufacturer is racing to produce technologies that make operating a car more effortless and convenient for the American consumer. 

The fact that there is constant competition for your wallet is reason enough to explain the rising cost of key/fob replacement.  

The Willingness of Consumers To Pay Prices

There is one reason we have saved for last because it needs to be said. There is a willingness on the part of the American consumer to pay the prices that automakers charge. 

The dealerships get into your wallet because they know you will pay the price or have to walk to work. 

How Many Different Kinds of Keys Are There? What Do They Cost?

It might not seem like it, but as technology increases, so do the options for manufacturers to choose which type of key/fob/computer they want to use to start the vehicle they produce. 

Standard Metal Key

This is the key your grandfather used. (A piece of metal cut for the car’s ignition lock). While there are still vehicles on the road that can be operated in this manner, their numbers are becoming fewer every year. The cost of cutting a metal key can range from a few dollars at the local hardware store to fifty dollars or more at a dealership or auto locksmith. 

Keyless Remotes

Many cars have keyless entry, which is a fancy way of saying that the key comes with a separate programmable fob. Generally, the key fob comes with a couple of buttons, lock and unlock, and a horn or a rear hatch button.

These fobs have to be programmed by a professional with an OBDII scanner. (The scanner recognizes the VIN of the vehicle and can erase the memory of the former fob and have the new one programmed). 

Since these kinds of fobs involve the services of a professional technician or locksmith, you can expect to get charged for their ability to do about ten minutes’ worth of work.

(The average cost at a dealership is to pay for one hour of labor to have the fob programmed. Don’t forget that it is on top of the part price for the key and blank fob or any cutting fee the dealership might charge.

Be prepared because the price will likely be a couple hundred dollars or more).

Transponder Keys

These keys have a built-in computer chip that verifies the key and the car. They are more expensive than regular metal keys. 

Usually, they have to be specially ordered from the manufacturer because they require laser cutting and can cost several hundred dollars.

Switchblade Fobs

This fob has a metal key that snaps out of the side of the fob like a switchblade knife. 

Often the key portion is laser cut (many dealerships cannot perform this service) and the fob programmed.

Be prepared to pay more because these keys get both the programming and the laser treatments. 

Proximity Fobs/Cards

These fobs can lock, unlock, and start your vehicle by recognizing the pre-programmed fob’s presence. 

(Some manufacturers have created the car’s microchip so small that it can be fitted onto a credit card that you stick in your wallet, eliminating the need for a fob. Others tie the chip to an app on your smartphone, so as long as you have your phone, you can plug in a passcode and drive your car). 

Key Takeaways

Why Are Car Keys So Expensive 3 6 Reasons Why Car Keys Are So Expensive
  • There are many ways to start a vehicle in today’s world
  • Replacement keys are expensive due to advancing technology and greed.
  • Many dealerships want to force consumers to seek out their services.