What Types of Car Keys Can Be Replaced?

Consulting your local dealers, locksmiths, or mechanics can help provide accurate cost estimates. When it comes to car keys, there are many different types that have been used throughout the history of the automobile. From basic keys to laser-cut car keys and digital keyrings, understanding the different types of car keys can help you make an informed decision when it comes to replacing your car key. Let's take a look at 11 different car keys that span the entire history of the automobile.

Many of them will be familiar to you, while others may surprise you. We'll also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each type of key, as well as the cost of replacing them. The first type of car key is the basic key. These are by far the easiest types of keys to replace. They are traditionally manufactured in the same way as other keys, meaning that copies can be made using a grinder to shape additional keys to match the originals.

Of course, this also means that someone who obtains your car key or makes a mold with the lock can create a replica and, potentially, steal your car. Laser-cut car keys are designed to thwart this plan. Initially used in the 1990s for luxury cars, the laser-cut wrench is thicker than a regular car key and is laser-cut to have matching teeth and grooves on both sides. This makes it extremely difficult to make copies. Imagine having a master key that works for cars. This is precisely what a car master key is.

They are designed to work on the doors and ignition systems of many different vehicles. Car master keys are often regulated by law, and simply being in possession of one without legal basis can result in very serious criminal charges. Mechanically cut keys are no longer common and are usually only found on older vehicles. Instead, they have been replaced by laser-cut car keys and digital keyrings. Chances are, when you think of key rings, you're imagining a remote key to a car.

Unlike laser-cut car keys, the key part of a remote key fob doesn't have a transponder chip. This type of car key is one of the safest options out there. First introduced in 1999, it is a popular alternative to a car key transponder with a very simple security function. Tibetan keys are another type of car key that has been around since the 1980s. Mostly used by Ford and Jaguar, this strange type of key is designed with safety in mind. They are cylindrical rather than flat, meaning that you can't just go to the hardware store to make a copy.

As a result, it's much harder to steal a car or duplicate your key if that car uses Tibetan keys. Transponder keys are not just one type of key, but a complete classification for any type of car key that contains a transponder chip. They first came into use in the 1990s and are now the standard for most cars. The four most common types of car keys are as follows:

  • Laser-cut Car Keys
  • Car Master Keys
  • Remote Key Fobs
  • Transponder Keys
Thanks to Mercedes-Benz and its innovation, a completely new generation of car keys entered the market: smart keys. You can touch the button and unlock the car, turn on the radio, adjust the position of the seat, among other comforts.

Some smart keys lock the vehicle on their own in case the owner of the vehicle leaves. A car that uses smart keys detects the keys on its own, thanks to the integrated antenna. Even though there are fewer such keys, meaning that fewer car owners accidentally leave their keys in the ignition for car thieves, car theft continues to increase. Unfortunately, this also means that losing a key can cost you a few hundred dollars, as the car's locking system will also have to be reprogrammed to replace the key. As electronic car keys use modern technology and are very secure, it can be a little more expensive to replace them. Valet keys are another type of traditional style of car key that remained popular for a large percentage of automotive history. This type of key uses computerized sensors and microchips to open and start a car without actually using a key. Whatever the reason, it's important to know what type of car key is best for you when choosing a replacement one.

This type of key has become increasingly popular both among car manufacturers and car owners due to its compact nature. Unfortunately, smart car keys are expensive to replace in the event of loss or damage, and you may have to ask your local dealer to reprogram your car key in the process. The downside is that valet keys don't work on vehicles that use more specialized types of keys.


To make an informed decision when it comes to replacing your car key, it's important to understand all 11 types of car keys discussed here: basic keys; laser-cut; master; remote; transponder; Tibetan; smart; valet; crank wrench; razor-style; and electronic. For more information on which car key replacement is right for you, contact our professional locksmiths.

Sophie Boucher Girard
Sophie Boucher Girard

Student. Unapologetic entrepreneur. Hardcore zombie nerd. Infuriatingly humble bacon buff. Typical zombie scholar.

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