Getting replacement keys can be expensive and time-consuming. Here's why, and what you can do.

The modern key

Your car’s master key operates everything in your vehicle and is programmed specifically for it, so replacing the key can be both inconvenient and time-consuming.

A vehicle generally comes with two master keys, but if you lose yours and you don't have a spare, you may need to replace the body control module, or at least have it reprogrammed.

You’ll need to reprogram or even replace your vehicle's body control module if your keys are stolen and it’s possible that the thief could come back.

However, if the key is damaged and needs to be replaced, or if you lose it in a way that it's unlikely to be found and used by anyone else – for example, you’ve dropped it over the side of your boat while fishing – you should be able to get a replacement from your dealer.

Cost of replacing keys

The cost of replacing car keys is usually around $70, but in some cases it can be up to $3000.

You might have to wait several days or more if you have an imported vehicle and authorisation is required for the dealer to issue new keys.

For newer makes and models, the key is often part of the vehicle's security system, so you may have to get the system re-coded if you lose the key.

Keep a spare

Your safest option is to keep a spare key in a safe place at all times.

When you buy a used car, make sure the seller gives you a complete set of keys, as getting additional keys later could be a difficult and costly process.

If your car doesn’t have a spare key, have one made as soon as possible, making sure you check the vehicle manufacturer's handbook for key details and follow the instructions about code details.