Why is a replacement chip key so expensive?

Replacement transponder and replacement chip key were first introduced in the mid-1990s as a security measure to prevent cars from being stolen by forcing over an ignition.

The basic idea is that there is an antenna ring that receives information around the ignition, and there is a chip in your key that sends out information.  If the key and the antenna ring match up, the car will start. If not, either the fuel pump or the starter will not engage.

So, if you were to lose your key and you needed replacement chip keys but you only had a metal keys, it would turn the ignition but it would not start the car.  Likewise, if someone were trying to steal your car, and put a screwdriver into the ignition to turn it, the car would not start.

Transponder chip keys are more expensive for 2 reasons.  One is the cost of the physical key.  A standard metal key costs typically between .50 and $1.00. After cutting a key generally costs between $2 and $10 for a copy.

A replacement chip key costs anywhere from $6 to $200 depending on the year, make and model of the vehicle.  On top of this, you have to pay for the cost of programming.  Some keys are easily programmed, others use expensive software and even more expensive diagnostic computers to access the ECU or “brain” of the car.

A typical domestic replacement chip key in Austin runs between $120 and $175 during normal business hours.  Most dealerships don’t offer free towing, so a locksmith is usually a better alternative.  The Austin Key Guy can be onsite within an hour most days and is able to replace the key for less than the dealership in most cases.

If you ever have a question about the cost of a key or programming give The Austin Key Guy a call.  Don’t over pay and don’t let someone tell you how much something costs without doing a little research.


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