With the average American spending more than two days every year just looking for lost household items, your keys shouldn’t be one of them. However, it’s not uncommon to drop your keys while out at a restaurant or to lose your keys if you have a bag or jacket stolen. Getting a car key replacement is a pain in the neck but it’s possible to do.

Here are six ways to ensure that you can get access to your car if you lose your key and a few ideas to make sure it never happens again.  

1. Call An Auto Locksmith

When you’re locked out of your home, your first thought might be to call a locksmith. However, car keys work very differently than house keys, so the average locksmith may not be able to help you. Thankfully, there’s a whole world of specialized locksmiths that cover automobiles and cars.

Auto locksmiths, when available, can be one of the cheapest options for getting access to your vehicle. While they have the equipment to replace keys for all makes and models, they’re not always easy to find.

Some will charge a small fee for you to use their diagnostic software. This software is used to program car keys to make them unique but also to figure out what the patterns are that make them unique. 

This is also a fast option. Most auto locksmiths have a mobile service, meaning they can meet you wherever you are. This is especially good for people who lose their keys while out in the world and have their car away from home.

While some auto locksmiths are going to be able to fix your car in one visit, others may need to go back to their office or garage. Ask about deleting old keys so that if you have a transponder style lock, no one can steal your car with your old key.

During your talk with the auto locksmith, ask about having them offer a spare car key. This way, you can keep a second key at your home or a friend’s home, to be bailed out in the future. The printing of the key is negligible compared to the cost of bringing in the locksmith.

2. Car Insurance Can Help

While you might associate your car insurance provider with the help they can offer during an accident or emergency, they might have car key services. Depending on your plan, help with a missing key might be available

Beware of using this service, however. It can be very pricey in the case that it’s not covered by insurance. Every insurance policy is different and while one may include this with the cost of your premium, others might charge a minimum deductible for you to receive the benefit.

Terms and conditions are available on your insurance provider’s website and in the paperwork provided when you sign up for the policy. Look for a specialized program called something like “car key coverage”, as this is usually the policy where this type of thing is covered.

For some insurance policies, a key cover policy is an add-on included in your premium. However, you’ll be paying extra for this with your car insurance. 

There’s a standalone policy for key cover under some insurance policies. However, the keys of a stolen vehicle won’t be covered just the same.

Before you order services, inquire regarding what your insurance provider is going to do to solve the issues. Some will just call up an auto locksmith. You’ll be charged not only for the insurance provider’s time but also for the time of the locksmith.

Instead of paying twice, it can be much more economical to just call the locksmith on your own. However, other policies might be able to easily replace your car keys without the locksmith. Ask plenty of questions when you call your provider.

3. Service for Vehicle Breakdowns 

If you subscribe to AAA or another resource for drivers, you know that they’re a dependable resource for any emergency. For a very low monthly fee, that piece of mind for roadside assistance when you need it is more than worth it. Many of these services include some kind of key replacement or help when you lose your keys.

If you’re out and away from home when you lose your keys, your service will come and meet you. However, the only downside is that it can be slow. Depending on the type of vehicle that you drive and the kind of equipment the roadside assistant service member has on hand it could take several hours.

Check that they know exactly the type of key that you have. The make and model of your car can give them a clue, but they might overlook the exact specifications of what you need. 

If they’re just going to call an auto locksmith, again it could be cheaper and faster for you to handle it yourself. They’ll call the least expensive auto locksmith they can find. This means they’ll take their time and have the highest number of clients competing at the same time.

Breakdown services use an auto locksmith because they’re not experts in this field. They know how to diagnose and repair many common car problems but with all of the specialized equipment that auto locksmiths need, don’t be surprised if AAA can’t help.

4. Car Dealerships

If you bought your car new at a franchise or dealership, you might be in luck. The reason that so many people buy new cars from dealerships has a lot to do with the kind of services that come from working with a dealership. 

This is the most expensive option if you don’t already have a premium plan from the dealership. It also could take quite a while. Not every dealership has the tools required for the job.

However, some mechanics working on cars with transponder type keys can fashion a new fob in a jiffy. Call ahead to see what their plan is before you bring your car in. You don’t want to be sitting there for hours on end only to pay twice what an auto locksmith would charge.

Dealerships might not have key blanks on hand. This is going to lengthen the time it takes for them to get the key that you need. It could take days for them to help, especially if they need to also acquire the key programming and diagnostic equipment you need.

Again, auto locksmiths could be the people who a franchise calls to come to the rescue. If this is the case, it’s not worth the trouble to wait and overpay for this service.

5. Check Your Local Garage

For car and truck owners who lose their keys, the local garage where they get their checkups is a great way to get a key replaced. While it might not be the first place that comes to mind, it’s just as good an option as many of the others. 

The one thing to watch out for is using diagnostic equipment at a mechanic’s garage. They’ll often include a surcharge when it comes to using those tools. Small local garages don’t have massive budgets so the costs of replacing and maintaining these tools will be folded into the cost of using them.

It might be a challenge to find a garage that can replace or reprogram new car keys. It’s a specialist kind of work that not every shop has invested in. If you’re in a hurry, note that it might take a while to find a garage that can handle this kind of work. 

6. Order a New Set of Keys

While this might not be the most expensive option, it’s definitely one of the pricier ways to deal with your lost keys. Replacement keys from your car dealer or manufacturer could cost you hundreds of dollars.

Above we talked about bringing your car into a franchise and this is a similarly expensive option that may take longer. If you call the manufacturer, they can quote you a price and send it express. If you bring the car into a dealer, you might have to wait for them to fit you into their schedule.

There’s a bit of reprogramming and re-coding that goes into making a new set of keys for a modern automobile.

There’s no instant turnaround there. Depending on the car you have and the types of keys you need, it could take five to 10 days to get your replacement.

How to Prepare for the Worst

Preparing for losing your keys is the best (and cheapest way) to ensure that you don’t scramble for new keys after they’re lost. While this may not help you right now, it can avoid further problems in the future.

Use a Hide-a-Key

While it might seem like a surefire way to have your car stolen, plenty of automobile owners store their keys on their vehicle. Using a magnetic box that can slide open to hold your key, you’ll never have to worry about losing your keys.

These keys are made of air-tight materials that can withstand all kinds of weather. They’re also made with strong magnets to ensure that no bumps in the road will cause you to lose your key.

Some homeowners put these around the exterior of their home or garage. Using them on your car can ensure that you’re never stuck away from home, having lost your keys, with no way to get back to your home. 

Leave a Copy at Work or With a Friend

Making a copy at your local garage or mechanic is the best way to start your road to eliminating future key issues. Next time you’re at an auto parts shop, see if they can make you a copy of your key. Spending that one dollar could end up saving you a massive headache later.

Next, take that key to someone who you can call up or put it somewhere that you could access it at any hour. For some people, that’s in their office, at their desk. For others, it means going to a friend or neighbor and asking if you can keep your key in their junk drawer.

Giving your key to someone who you trust ensures that you’ll have a key available to you if the worst happens. It could also be reciprocal, allowing you to look out for someone you care about and know that they trust you as you trust them.

Put a Spare on Your Partner’s Keychain

If you’re in a relationship with someone who you feel close to, why not ask them to do you a huge favor and carry around your key. It tells them how much you care about and trust them and allows them to feel like they’re doing something very kind for you.

Even if they never have to visit you to drop off the key, knowing that they have it will give both of you peace of mind. You’ll know that there’s a copy of your key out there in case you lose yours and they’ll know that you can count on them when you need your key.

It’s a very small act with a potentially massive positive impact. 

A Car Key Replacement Doesn’t Have to be a Headache

While it’s easy to imagine that losing your keys can be a stressful experience, it doesn’t have to be the headache that it is for some people. One of the big issues for some auto owners is deciding to replace or rekey.

Read our breakdown before you open your wallet for a car key replacement!