A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products, including home, life, auto, and commercial, and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, mainly in the insuranc...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers Insurance CSR 4 Years

UPDATED: Oct 19, 2021

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Here's what you need to know...

  • The average cost to replace a key for a modern vehicle model ranges between $150 and $250.
  • Since some carmakers use proprietary technology to program keys, several class-action lawsuits have been filed in an attempt to make smart keys more affordable.
  • Lawsuits haven’t had much of an impact on the cost of keys and the cost for replacement and programming remains high with carmakers like VW, Porsche, BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes.
  • While keys are costly, if you lost your keys and need a replacement you’ll need to check with your insurer to see if a deductible would apply.
  • In most cases, keys are only covered under standard insurance policies when they’re stolen and can’t be located
  • It’s more common for a roadside assistance plan to provide insurance coverage for lockout and replacement keys

Misplacing your keys can ignite panic all throughout your body. Whether you’ve got somewhere to be or you’re just bothered by the fact that you can’t find the one item that starts your vehicle’s engine, it can be frustrating to set your keys down never to find them again. What makes lost keys even more frustrating is just expensive they are to replace.

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Technologies change on a regular basis, and carmakers have really taken the time to advance that way that cars are keyed. In an effort to combat the rising number of vehicle thefts around the nation, new smart keys have been developed. These keys have to be programmed for use on a specific vehicle to work properly. Since the key itself uses smart technology and it must be programmed by the carmaker, it makes losing keys a much more expensive mistake. But is this a mistake that you can resolve by filing an auto insurance claim? The answer depends on the scenario and your carrier.

How much will a new key really cost you?

How much a key will cost you depends on the type of vehicle that you have and what model year it is. In the early years, carmakers only made basic keys. As technology advanced, more and more features were added to make it harder for thieves to steal cars with makeshift keys. Here are some differences in pricing:

  • Basic Keys- A basic key for an older vehicle that was manufactured in the mid-90’s would only cost between $12 and $40 to replace.
  • Transponder Keys- Vehicles manufactured in the late-90’s started to come with keys that were designed with a transponder chip. The purpose was to make it so that a key had to be programmed before it would send the right signal to start the ignition of the car. These transponder keys would cost around $75 through the dealer.
  • Laser Cut Keys- If you have a later model vehicle with a laser-cut key, you’ll have to pay for a key with a transponder chip that’s cut in a unique way with a unique machine. Since many locksmiths don’t have laser-cutting machines, it’s almost a must to get a laser-cut key through the dealer that can cost upwards $150.
  • Smart Keys- Then there are smart keys, which start the car with the press of a button by sending a security code to the ignition. Since these are high-tech keys automakers have made proprietary for their own brands, replacing and reprogramming the keys can cost several hundred dollars to replace.

The actual cost of replacement depends on the make and model. Nissan smart keys cost around $220 and Acura’s keys cost around $400. Check with your carmaker to see if their programming is proprietary because this means you can only go to a dealer to get your replacement.

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What happens when I lose my keys?

When you misplace your keys, you might feel like you’re going crazy. You may think about how easy it would be to take advantage of someone else’s misfortune. However, most people who file claims for lost keys aren’t trying to do anything malicious. They simply want to recover from a situation where they misplaced their keys.

Does a standard auto insurance policy cover the cost to replace keys?

If you’ve called and your key will cost upwards of $200 to replace, you might be wondering whether or not your auto insurance provider will help you get a new key so that you can get back on the road.

Insurance is designed to protect you against financial loss in unexpected scenarios, but that doesn’t mean all unexpected scenarios qualify for coverage.

Losing your keys is a tricky situation because not all auto insurance companies handle the loss the same.

What does comprehensive coverage pay for?

Any policy that’ll pay for lost keys must have comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive is a form of physical damage coverage that pays to repair or replace the covered vehicle. Some of the causes of loss that are included under comprehensive coverage include:

  • Fire
  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Glass breakage
  • Collision with a live animal
  • Damage from falling objects
  • Flood damage
  • Explosion

Since losing your keys isn’t necessarily damage to the vehicle that needs to be repaired, coverage isn’t always extended. Some companies include key cover under comprehensive automatically and some companies require additional cover before a claim will be paid.

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The Lost vs. Stolen Debate

The cause of the loss could truly affect your coverage. If your keys are stolen either in or away from your car, there’s a good chance the company will help pay to re-key your car. This helps mitigate loss so that a would-be thief won’t come around and steal the car later down the line. If you make the mistake of misplacing your keys or you drop them out of your purse, this could be a tricky situation.

The major reason why companies try and avoid paying for a key that the insured lost is because there’s not much risk of a theft.

Someone who stumbles across the keys isn’t likely to know which car they belong to. Even if they did, they’re not likely to swoop up the opportunity to steal the car. You should check to see what’s covered under your plan before making assumptions.

Paying Your Deductible

If your policy does provide coverage, your claim will still be subject to a deductible. This means that you must pay a portion of the claim before your policy will pay. Typically, your deductibles for comprehensive are low. If you have a smart key, costs will more than likely exceed the deductible that you carry.

Other Ways to Pay for Keys

If you don’t have comprehensive under your auto policy or your policy won’t pay, there are other ways to get help paying for your keys. If you have a roadside assistance plan or breakdown plan, you will have lockout coverage. This coverage may also cover key replacement or give you discounts for replacing your keys.

If you’ve done your research and discovered that keys are covered, don’t be afraid to use your insurance. Since comprehensive claims don’t raise your rates, you can put your policy to use without fearing about retaliation. Consumers who aren’t happy about the way that their insurer handled their claim should shop around. Use an online rate comparison tool and check out the rates by the carrier. Once you find the best rates, do more research to find the best company. Compare car insurance rates now by using our FREE tool below!