Lost your car keys? Don't have a spare car key?

Thousands of UK motorists find themselves in the situation of lost car keys, no spare, each year - unable to leave home for work, school or travel - or stranded in a car park or side street with no way of accessing and starting their car.

Lost keys can cause a real inconvenience – and a worry if you think they may have been stolen.

Plus, lost car keys can cost!

Paying a locksmith to replace a key system can be costly - and for some older vehicles a replacement system is so expensive the car might effectively be a write-off.

Consider the following if you’ve lost car keys and have no spare, before you contact a locksmith.

Lost car keys: What to do

Check your car insurance

Your regular car insurance may cover the cost of repairing your keys or replacement keys, although such car key cover may only be available with upgraded insurance policies, or by purchasing add-on cover for lost car keys.

If you're not sure if you have car key cover, contact your insurer to find out.

Your car insurance policy may cover the cost of a locksmith being called out to gain entry to your car.

Be aware that any claim may affect your no claims discount, so in some cases may not be an economical option.


Standalone key cover policy

A number of insurers specialise in standalone cover for lost car keys.

If you have standalone car key cover, contact your provider to make a claim.


Check your breakdown cover

Does breakdown cover include lost keys?

Some car breakdown policies include coverage for the replacement of lost car keys but are often more costly premium products.

Some providers may offer key cover as an optional add on.

A good breakdown cover provider will, in the event of key loss, damage or theft, or of having locked your keys inside your car, cover the call-out and mileage costs back to their operational base - or to your home address if it is closer.

Some breakdown policies will arrange transport for you and any passengers, and may cover the retrieval of any spare car key from your home.


Key Assist from Start Rescue

Start Rescue provide key assist with all levels of breakdown cover.

If you lose or break your keys, Start Rescue pay the call out and mileage back to the Recovery Operator's base or your home if closer.


Buy breakdown cover


Call out a locksmith

If the above options are not open to you, calling out a locksmith to sort your car key replacement may be your only choice.

Calling out an auto locksmith is likely to cost around £200, but may be more, depending on the make of your car.

As well as the lost car key cost, arranging car key replacement may take time.

A given locksmith may not have blank keys for your particular car in stock. If so, they may need to order a new car key which could take a week or more.

Replacement car key being cut

Stolen car keys?

If you think that your car keys may have been stolen, the locksmith should also deprogram the original car key.  - i.e. remove it from the vehicle’s database.

This will prevent anyone unscrupulous from gaining access to your vehicle.

It is also possible to change the car locks so the mechanical key will no longer turn in the ignition and door locks. 

You should always call the police about stolen car keys.

If you do happen to find your old key, it is possible for the auto locksmith to reprogramme the key so that it will again work with your vehicle.


Car key replacement: High street, mobile and online providers

Some high street locksmiths claim to offer car key replacement services for substantially less than local garages and dealerships, as do some mobile and online locksmith firms.

For example, Timpson claim to be able to offer replacement keys for up to 50% less than the cost charged by the main dealers.

Mobile locksmiths should be able to come out to your location.

These services may be worth checking if you lose your car keys in the UK.


How much does a replacement car key cost?

The cost of a replacement car key will vary, depending on the make and model of your car, and the type of key required.

As established above, the replacement car key cost will also depend on your situation and where you choose to purchase your new keys.

The average car key replacement cost is around £300.


How long will it take to get my new car keys?

How long it will take to get your replacement car keys will depend on the type of car key and, as mentioned above, the brand of your car.

The age of your vehicle also matters; older cars may need to have their ignition barrels reconfigured.


Mechanical keys

Mechanical keys are the most basic type of car key and are generally used on older cars. 

These keys are cut from metal and so are easy to make a copy of.


Keys with transponder chips

Since 1995, the vast majority of car keys feature a transponder chip.

Such a key unlocks the car doors and disables the car alarm, while the car recognises the transponder chip, so the engine will start once the car key is inserted into the ignition.

The mechanical part of the key which is placed in the ignition barrel releases the steering lock.


Keyless entry and ignition

Many cars now offer remote keyless entry and remote keyless ignition, whereby the ‘key’ just needs to be in close proximity to the vehicle to open and start it.

Keyless entry may make your vehicle more vulnerable to theft. For example, relay theft.

There are some preventative measures you can take to prevent becoming a stolen car victim through relay theft, such as keeping keys in an RFID-blocking pouch or using a steering lock or wheel clamp.


Spare emergency key

For emergency car key replacement, spare emergency keys open your car doors and turn off the alarm system, but do not let you start the engine because they lack a transponder chip.

These are far cheaper than a complete key, but since they cannot start the engine, they are not a long term solution.


Damaged car keys: Do you need a new remote?

Some car keys feature a transponder and key shaft, but have a separate remote central locking system control for gaining access to the car and activating/deactivating the alarm system.

Other keys are all-in-one key fobs, which combine key shaft, transponder and remote control in one unit.

If your car keys are damaged, you may only need to replace the key shaft, which is much cheaper than having to replace the transponder.

Car key locksmith

What information do I need to give to the locksmith?

When arranging car key replacement for damaged or lost car keys, you will need to provide the locksmith with the following details:

  • Make and model of the vehicle
  • Registration number
  • VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) - this is on your V5 document; check your vehicle's log book.
  • Documentation proving you own the vehicle - together with personal identification.
  • Your precise location, if an emergency locksmith is required.


Not lost your key but can’t get you car to start?

Here are some common causes and solutions for when your car won't start. 


Useful information on car insurance

We also have a wealth of information on car insurance to help you better understand car insurance and how insurance works.

For example, what happens when someone claims against your car insurance?

What is pay as you go car insurance, and is it right for you?

And how is a no claims bonus calculated?