We’ve all done it at some point in time, you’ve either locked your keys in your car somehow, have lost car keys in some crazy place, or even had your car keys stolen, so there is no possible way for you to get back into your car. Ideally you would have a spare set of car keys, but that’s not always going to be the case.
A recent survey indicated that over a quarter of all drivers had lost car keys at some point (the main places being at work, during shopping or with friends and relatives and about 5% had them stolen, so this happens to a lot more people than you may think.
The good news is that if this happens to you and you have recently lost car keys, we’ve put together a step by step checklist of the things you can do:
OK, you’re in a rush for an important meeting and you can’t get into your car. Well the worst thing that you can do is panic and try to break into your car. Gone are the days when you can use an old coat hanger to unlock your car door, unless you’re using a very old car.
The fact is that most cars now come with electronic keys, with central locking and an immobiliser device so trying to break into your own car is going to be fruitless and will probably cause a lot more damage than good.
Take a deep breath and go to the next step.
If you've just lost car keys, then the first thing that you will need to do regardless of the following steps that you take will be to gather as much information as you can about your situation so you will be able to pass this onto the relevant parties:
What Type of Car Key do You Have?
Your lost car keys will most likely be one of the following types:
Transponder Car Key – These are used on all cars made after 1995. They key will have a transponder chip, which communicates with an immobiliser in the car
Electronic Chips / Key Fobs / Remote Keys – These are usually just remote control devices that you click on to open the car door and turn off the alarm. These don’t have a physical key
Non Remote / Standard Car Keys – These will be found on older cars, who do not have central locking
Write Down the Year, Make and Model of Your Vehicle
This information will help to identify the type of key that you will need to replace to get into your vehicle.
Write Down Your Car Registration Number
Find your Vehicle Identification Number
This will be found on your car insurance documents and is also usually located on the dashboard on the driver’s side of the car.
Sometimes this will also be found in the boot of the car by the spare wheel well, or in the space between the carburettor and windshield washer.
Have some Personal Identification Available
You’ll need something showing your name, address and photo to help confirm the car is yours and you’re not just trying to break into it!
Before you call anyone out to unlock your car, you want to double check if you are covered by any existing insurance of breakdown cover. They may stipulate certain conditions so make sure you review this before you proceed.
Option 1 - Call Your Breakdown Service
A lot of the breakdown services like the AA, RAC or Green Flag will offer specific services around car lock outs. If you are locked out on the roadside then they will cover the cost of driving you to your house to pick up a spare key, unlocking your car and delivering a new set of keys to you. This is particularly useful if you’re locked out miles away from your home.
Most of these services do usually rely on you having a spare key available, but will also be able to help you get back into your car if you’re stuck.
However, be sure to check the terms and conditions in case additional charges apply.
Option 2 – Call Your Car Insurance
Check your car insurance policy thoroughly. In general your car insurance should cover the costs of lost or stolen keys, however, you want to check the fine print, particularly around the excess and how this affects your no claims bonus as this could end up costing you more than getting a new set of keys cut.
Also be sure to check if there are any specific conditions that would invalidate your insurance. For example, some insurance companies will only let you claim if you get a new set of keys from a registered car dealer.
A lot of car insurance policies will include car lockouts and car key replacement as standard, however, some companies only include this in their premium policies, so be sure to check first.
You may also have taken out a specific car key cover insurance policy with a company like Keycare. They offer further services than simple car key replacement or lockout calls and will usually provide you with a replacement car whilst they in in the process or finding you a replacement set of car keys
Great, so you’ve stopped panicking, have got all your details together and hopefully your insurance is going to pay for the job, so now you just need to find the right person to help you.
Option 1 - Contact an Automotive Locksmith
Your best bet for a speedy response and usually the lowest cost option is to call a locksmith or a specialist automotive locksmith near you.
An automotive locksmith will be able to drive out to you and your car and if you have the sufficient id available will be able to open your car for you. You’ll find that automotive locksmiths have all of the kit and necessary machinery to be able to then create a replacement key for you.
They should be able to help you most different car models and most of the common key types, although you’re more likely to need to contact your car dealership if you have a switchblade key, smart key or laser cut key, which will usually incur a bigger fee.
An automotive locksmith will be able to help you reprogram the replacement key and if your keys have been stolen an automotive locksmith can also reprogram the car so the stolen key will no longer work.
There are lots of automotive locksmiths out there but I would advise asking friends and family for recommendations first and making sure that the locksmith is certified with the Master Locksmiths Association.
Option 2 - Call the Car Dealer
Unfortunately, you’ll find that this will be a more expensive option, especially if you’re stuck on the side of a road as the charge will usually include a fee to send out a vehicle to tow you back to their premises.
Typically a car dealer will only have your key information from a few years back so if your car is older than that then the cost is likely to increase.
Getting a key from a franchised car dealership is going to cost you upwards of £200 and costs can vary wildly from one dealership to the next, so make sure you shop around.
The other disadvantage of a car dealership is that they will usually need to order your replacement car keys, which can take up to a couple of weeks to come back, leaving you with no car in the meantime.
Option 3 – Get Replacement Keys on the Internet
If you really have lost your car keys, but have enough time to shop around and wait for your keys to arrive, then you could try sourcing a set of replacement keys on the internet.
If you do a search for ‘replacement car keys” or “replacement key fobs” online then you will be able to find factory replacements and after market keys. Look for companies specialising in replacing car keys.
It’s also worth checking out both Amazon and Ebay who have a range of replacement key types available. The general rule is the older the car, the easier it is to replace it.
If you have an electronic key then just search for “aftermarket electronic car keys” online and if you key in your Vehicle Identification number, you should be able to pick up a replacement car key for up to 75% cheaper than going through a car dealership.
What Will it Cost to Replace my Car Keys?
The cost to replace your car keys will vary considerably depending on the type of key you have, the make and model of your car, and of course, who you choose to provide you with a replacement key.
If you don’t have a spare key that a locksmith could clone then they’ll need to create a new one and re-programme your car, which is likely to cost somewhere in the region of £100 to £150 as a guide price.
Of course if you go via a car dealership you are more likely to pay in the region of £200+
How to Prevent a Lockout
The best thing that you can do to prevent yourself against high replacement fees is to get yourself a spare key cut. You could pop into to your local automotive locksmith and order one in advance then keep this in a safe place at home
Another option is to opt for a specific key cover policy with someone like Keycare who are specialise in the recovery of lost and stolen keys.
Alternatively you could look at someone like sparekeys.com who will keep a spare set of keys for you, for a fee.
- Don’t panic
- Prepare your information
- Check out your options with insurance and breakdown cover
- Try to find a local automotive locksmith to replace your keys
- Only contact a care dealership as a last resort