Car key cutting

Even if most vehicles in America today are going keyless, there remains a need for precise and affordable key cutting services. One of the best ways to get car keys cut is by calling an automotive locksmith near you by using Auto Locksmiths.

When a new key is needed for your car

When is a good time to get a new key for your car? Chances are, you probably found out the hard way. Keys tend to be fairly reliable and durable… until they aren’t. Over time, physical keys can wear out and become brittle, often breaking into pieces when inserted into the door or ignition cylinder lock and turned.

In addition to the physical wear and tear on keys, most modern keys also contain electronic components that can also malfunction. If any of these happen, you’ll need to have your car key replaced.

Car key cutting is the process of either duplicating an original car key from a blank key or creating a brand new ‘original’ car key compatible with your vehicle. This service is most commonly used in conjunction with key programming.

Key cutting

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Car key cutting near you

If you need to have a new set of car keys cut, you have a few options depending on your circumstances. Secondary keys for your glove box or perhaps for your trunk can be duplicated for a few dollars at most brick and mortar locksmith shops or kiosks.

Duplicating keys for your door and/or ignition might also only cost a few dollars for the key itself, but the process is more often than not a lot more complex than simply duplicating a physical key. Part of the reason for this complexity is due to the fact that most modern cars use transponder keys or key fobs which require more than a simple laser-cut key, and these keys are the norm for doors and the ignition on most makes and models today.

Considering the above, for most standard car keys today you’ll need to either call a car locksmith near you or contact your dealership. From the dealership, you can get OEM car key replacements and they’ll also cut and program the key for you, but often at a huge markup that can range from $50 to $500 or more than what you’d pay by calling a locksmith instead.

The most efficient and affordable way to have car keys cut for your vehicle is to contact a car locksmith by using Auto Locksmiths.

The most common types of car keys

There are many different types of car keys in use today, as well as many more from the past that may or may not be used today. Below are some of the most common types of car keys found in the United States:

  • Traditional physical keys – these keys were common on vehicles manufactured before the early 1990s, although they still may be used for secondary locks such as the glove box.
  • Transponder keys – originally rolled out with the GM Corvette in 1986, transponder keys equipped with RFID chips became the norm on vehicles until 2003, whereafter modern iterations of GM’s VATS transponder key technology evolved into the modern lock and key systems found on most vehicles today.
  • Key fobs – over nine out of every 10 vehicles on the road in the US today use key fob or other keyless entry systems, so these are the most common keys that locksmiths work with today. Many key fobs combine a physical key with integrated RFID and RKE functions.

How car keys are cut

Car key cutting requires the right amount of skill, proper equipment, and compatible key blanks for the make and model of vehicle in question. Most auto locksmiths use vans that are fully equipped to cut a wide variety of keys to just about any specification needed, all on the spot.

Car key duplication shares many similarities with how residential and commercial locksmiths cut house keys, for example, but there are so many differences that make this a fundamentally distinct trade. The process generally works like this:

  1. The locksmith determines the correct key blank to use for your vehicle make and model;
  2. The key blank is inserted into a manual or laser cutting key duplication machine;
  3. A new key is cut using the original as a template, or if the original is lost or missing, a brand new original can be cut according to the vehicle’s unique identification number (VIN).

Indeed, this is essentially what a commercial or residential locksmith does, but it’s skipping one very important step. Almost all modern car keys use key fobs or transponder RFID chips which need to be programmed to your vehicle. This adds an additional, critical step to the equation.

Therefore, key cutting is usually done in tandem with key programming for the vast majority of vehicles.

Generally, car key cutting only takes around 30 minutes to an hour to perform by a qualified locksmith. It may take around 5-10 minutes for the locksmith to determine the correct key blank to use for your vehicle and to look up your vehicle’s VATS number, followed by around 20-30 minutes of cutting the key using a manual or laser cutting machine.

What to look for in car key duplication

Car key cutting is an important service that requires skill, care and precision. If a car key is cut improperly, it may not work on your doors or ignition, or worse, it can break off inside the locking mechanism and thus require extraction.

When you need to have car keys copied, either originals or duplicate spare keys, you can either call a qualified locksmith near you or go to your dealership. Generally, going to a dealership will cost substantially more and can take a lot longer as they do not always have spare keys in stock. Moreover, many dealerships do not have the ability to program keys for car models that are over 10 years old.

It is therefore almost always better to contact a reputable car locksmith near you by using Auto Locksmiths. When searching online for a locksmith, look for the following traits:

  • Reputation & experience: a reputable locksmith with years of experience will be able to get the job done quickly and efficiently and to a high standard, which ensures that you’ll be back in your vehicle and on the road in no time.
  • Response time: sometimes, you just can’t afford to wait to get back into your vehicle. For urgent service, consider calling a 24/7 locksmith that offers emergency callout services.
  • Price: avoid getting price gouged and instead always ask for a fair quote over the phone. All locksmiths listed on Auto Locksmiths offer FREE, no-obligation quotes over the phone.

Frequently asked questions about car key copy

What are the different types of car keys that can be cut?

A qualified locksmith can cut almost any key for almost any make or model of vehicle. Some of the types of keys that they can cut include traditional mechanical keys (single & double bitted, sidewinder keys), transponder keys, key fobs, smart keys, proximity keys, and increasingly, digital keys such as keypads.

How long does it take to cut a car key?

It normally takes around 20-30 minutes for an experienced locksmith to cut a car key, but it may take up to an hour for certain makes or models. It normally takes the locksmith around 5-10 minutes to research the correct compatible key blank to use for your vehicle, according to the VIN.

Can a locksmith cut a car key without the original key?

Yes. If you’ve lost or misplaced your car keys and no longer have access to the original, a qualified locksmith can create a brand new original that is compatible with your vehicle. They will need your vehicle’s identification number (VIN) and some other information, which can take longer than duplicating an existing key.

How much does it cost to cut a car key?

The cost of cutting a car key depends on many variables, but generally you can expect to pay anywhere from around $90 up to $230 or more to have your car keys cut by a locksmith. Generally, foreign luxury vehicle keys tend to cost substantially more, often around $350 up to $1,000. It is best to obtain a quote from a nearby car locksmith before engaging them for business.

Is it possible to program a new car key after it has been cut?

Yes. A newly cut car key can be programmed to be compatible with your vehicle by either your dealership or by an experienced car locksmith. Indeed, it is necessary to program transponder keys so that the key is uniquely compatible with your vehicle’s computer system.

Can an auto locksmith cut a car key for any make or model?

Generally, yes, an experienced automotive locksmith can cut a car key for just about any make or model. Naturally, some of the most common vehicle makes and models in the United States are fairly straightforward work for a locksmith, whereas foreign and rare vehicles may require more time and labor.


Auto locksmith near you

Choose Auto Locksmiths

Car key cutting is a lot more complex than many may believe it to be, which is why it’s important to leave this job to skilled and qualified professional locksmiths. Even as more and more vehicle manufacturers opt for smart keys and keyless entry systems, traditional keys are still commonly used on many makes and models for doors, the ignition, trunk, and glove box.

Choosing a reliable car key cutting service doesn’t need to be complex, however. Choose Auto Locksmiths and choose from one of our over 400 vetted and approved locksmith member partners. We work with genuine, local and independent locksmiths across the United States. Get started today.