All The Different Types of Car Keys

Car keys come in all shapes and sizes and with a wide range of features. The cost(s) associated with replacement keys increase with the level of difficulty. Below you will find them listed in order of difficulty.

Level 1. Simple Mechanical $

The most basic form of car key is a simple metal head key with teeth. Classic cars used this design but it is rarely used on modern vehicles.

Level 2. Transponder $$

Transponder keys have an embedded microchip inside the key. Each key must be programmed into the vehicle or the anti theft system will prevent starting. Transponder keys have a range of complexity. Most transponder keys can be duplicated in a locksmith shop provided you still have a working key.

Level 3. Password Protected Vehicle Computer $$

As an additional measure to prevent theft, auto-makers implemented vehicle computers with a security password or pin code. The password or pin code must be known before the vehicle system can be accessed. Once learned, a locksmith can program new keys to the car.

Level 4. Remote Head Key $$

Most modern remote head keys offer features like keyless entry and have an embedded transponder to work with the vehicle anti-theft system. The keyless entry remote is directly attached to the key. Each model of vehicle may use a different part number for this type of key. Sometimes different trim levels will use different keys.

Level 5. Proximity (Smart) Key $$

Some newer vehicles offer smart-keys which allow the doors to automatically lock / unlock with a touch provided your key is close to the door. This is done with a small radio transmitter and receiver. The vehicle detects a key and allows access. Starting these cars is done pushing a START button. Some cars have a limit of two working smart keys while others may allow as many as eight. Most proximity smart keys are unique to each year/ make / and model of vehicle. Sometimes a different key is needed between trim levels.

Level 6. European (VW, Mercedes Benz, BMW) $$$

Many European models require electronic components be removed from the car before accessing the vehicle security system. These components can be hidden deep inside the vehicle and can take hours of labor removing to access. Locksmiths are usually able to generate a working copy of a transponder key without much trouble but generating new keys without a working key can be more challenging and costly.

Over the years added technology and security has increased the cost of tools, parts, and additional training needed to make car keys. It is not as easy as it once was to generate lost keys and, at times, make duplicates. We advise our customers to have a duplicate made if they only have one key for their vehicle. The cost to duplicate is much less than generating a lost key.