Lost Car Keys: An Expensive Lesson in Organization

April 5th, 2013

Car keys

If everything in life happens for a reason, I can only assume there’s a lesson on organization in losing one’s car keys.

There was a time when losing keys wasn’t that big a deal. A copy of a copied spare could be made for about $1.50, and life would get back to normal. Even if no spares were around, a locksmith could whip up a replacement in no time flat, or a new lock and/or ignition could be picked up at the local auto parts store and installed in an afternoon.

Losing keys to a vehicle made in the last decade, though, spells real trouble. Real expensive trouble!

My car is a 2004 model. It’s old. It rattles. It makes funny buzzing sounds. Only one heated seat works (lucky passengers). The car isn’t worth much anymore, but I like it, and it’s served me well for many problem-free years.

I have only one key fob, though the car came with two. The spare has been missing for about a year. Earlier this week I lost my other one, too. Of course, panic set in as I slowly realized I had no way to get into my car. Or start it. Or drive around and look for my keys. Since the car was parked outside, I knew there was a pretty good chance the keys had to be nearby. Detailed searches came up empty, and I reached a point of desperation: I called the dealer to see what it would take to get new keys.

I probably should’ve been sitting down when I made the call.

The dealer could help, of course, but it would take $500. And a tow bill to get the car downtown. Obviously, there’s much more to modern keys than the intricately carved sticks of metal we used in the past, and computer chips make them like little computers. Still, for $500, I can buy a new iPhone and a couple months of service. I couldn’t stomach that price for a key. So, I thanked my friendly service manager for the information, hung up, and had a stroke of brilliance.

My other coat. Of course. I had spruced up my wardrobe for an evening and wore a coat I didn’t often wear. I ran to it, shoved my hand in the right front pocket, and felt the familiar form of the well-worn key fob. Relief doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling.

This little scare came up in conversation with friends, and one person shared a recent experience of being quoted $800 by a dealer to replace a lost key. Holy smokes! I think I’d rather just eliminate my risk and always wear the same jacket.

Have you ever needed to replace a lost key fob? How much did it cost?

-tgriffith

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  1. | #1

    I work as a car locksmith in London and can sympathise with this. It’s surprising how quickly people find their keys when they realise the cost of a replacement, lol! All car keys work differently with the car and some can be replaced for £100 around $160. However some can be much more expensive since the dealer has no way of programming a new key without replacing an expensive engine control unit. A good auto locksmith can still save people lots of cash here however.

    Mark

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