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Auto Refinance

JUN 22, 2022

About car key replacement: How comprehensive key replacement programs help



6 min read

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As a driver, your car keys are very important. You need them to unlock the door of your vehicle and turn your car on. They also help to provide security so that no one can steal your car. Without your car keys, you would be stranded and unable to get around. Have you ever had a moment of panic when you couldn't find your keys? We all have at some point, and we can misplace keys or lose them even with our best efforts to keep track of them. Let's learn about car keys and what you can do to replace a key if you lose yours.

About car keys

You may think of a car key as a simple piece of metal with slots, grooves, and teeth. Traditionally, that is exactly what they are. A car key by definition is a small metal object that is used to start a car. A key has a series of teeth on it that matches to a series of tumblers inside of a lock. Having the matching key allows the car's door lock to open or ignition to start. But how do traditional keys compare with modern keys? Well, good question. Most of the vehicles on the road currently are modern cars controlled by many computerized systems. The modern keys used to access and control these newer vehicles are much more advanced than their older counterparts.

Modern versions of car keys often come with wireless transponders or built in key fobs. These modern keys communicate wirelessly with a car's onboard computer system. This type of key allows the vehicle's owner to open doors or the trunk with the press of a button, start the car without having to insert the key in the ignition, or find the car in a parking lot by hitting a "panic" alarm button. The transponder can also monitor vehicle activity, such as when the car is left in idle mode or started in cold weather VIA a key fob's remote start feature. A traditional metal key is usually embedded in the transponder for emergencies or if the transponder's battery dies, but drivers most often use the remote’s buttons to control the car wirelessly.

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The average cost of a car key replacement

Today's car keys are more like a smartphone than a typical key and replacing one isn't as easy as getting a key made at your local hardware store. When it comes to transponder and car key replacement, there are a few things that you need to know. The first thing is that key replacement is often not cheap. If you lose your set of keys or your transponder breaks, you will have to pay a lot of money to get a new one from a dealership or service center. The second thing to know is that there are ways to lower the cost of replacement through car key replacement programs.

When your car key stops working or you misplace it, the first thing you need to do is figure out the cost of a replacement. Maybe you dropped your set of keys into a river while fishing, lost them in a field while hiking, or forgot them at a restaurant while traveling abroad. Replacing your keys could be expensive depending on the type of key and vehicle you have. If you have a traditional metal regular key, the replacement cost will normally be much less – usually between $5 and $20. However, most modern vehicles which were made over the last ten years are actually equipped with electronic transponder keys. For example, if you have a key with a built in transponder, the replacement cost could be hundreds of dollars with many replacement sets running over $200. That's because you need to buy a new transponder which has to be programmed by a dealership or locksmith specifically for your car.

As you can see, the cost of losing transponders can add up quickly. If you lose a few of these fobs in a short period of time, you could easily be looking at many hundreds of dollars in replacement costs. This is where key replacement programs can come in handy. If you are prone to losing things, you may want to consider one of these programs to help you lower car key replacement costs for just a few dollars a month.

About car key replacement programs

Make sure your car keys are covered with a comprehensive Key Replacement program. These programs replace lost, stolen, or damaged keys up to $400 per key with no out-of-pocket costs and also apply to keys, remote transponders, and key fobs. You can also benefit from up to one qualifying replacement per year. These programs are based on tiered plans like tier 1 or tier 2 depending on the level of coverage you need. For example a tier 1 plan may cover up to $400 per year while a tier 2 plan may cover up to $800 per year in replacement costs.

All of these benefits come with a low price point as well and are available to you as add-on products when you refinance your car loan. For example, if you refinance your car loan with a term of 36 or 48 months, a tier 1 plan with $400/year coverage may cost around $4 to $8 a month. If you choose a tier 2 plan with $800/year replacement coverage, it may cost around $10 to $15 a month. If you have a longer term loan, you can probably expect to pay less for the replacement program.

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Other program benefits

Key replacement programs often come with other benefits like 24 hour roadside assistance services, rental discounts, and access to a concierge while traveling. Roadside assistance is a service that can help you with a variety of things when you're stranded on the side of the road. The service can provide emergency roadside assistance, towing, flat tire changes and repairs, battery jump-start service, vehicle lockout help, fluid or supply deliveries, and even repairs to your vehicle. Having a key replacement program can add all of these benefits to help you while on the road.

How to use your replacement program

Replacing your keys, remote transponders, or key fobs through the program is fairly simple. To start, you must have an active comprehensive key replacement program and an eligible key which was lost, stolen, or damaged. Eligible keys or remotes are defined as the key(s) and/or remote(s) you received at the time of vehicle purchase. The replacement program often does not apply to valet keys, or other keys with limited functionality – these are excluded. Next, it is time to get your replacements! Any lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed keys must be deprogrammed at an approved dealer. This helps to make sure no one can use them in the future, and this step must happen prior to getting your new replacement keys.

Key replacement FAQs

  • What type of car keys do most modern vehicles have? Most cars made in the last 10 years use electronic transponder key fobs. This means the key and buttons used to lock or unlock your car are built into the same device.

  • How much does it cost to replace an electronic transponder key? Electronic keys which unlock your car remotely use built in transponders. The replacement cost for an electronic transponder key fob could be hundreds of dollars with many replacement sets running over $200.

  • How much does it cost for a key replacement program? You can find key replacement coverage for around $4 to $15 a month depending on the yearly replacement value needed. There is usually no out-of-pocket costs at the time of replacement.

  • Which keys does the car key replacement program apply to? Eligible keys or remotes are defined as the keys and/or remotes you received at the time of vehicle purchase. Other keys with limited functionality and valet keys are excluded.

  • What events are covered through the program? The program helps you replace car  keys, remote transponders, and key fobs which were lost, stolen, or damaged. You can benefit from up to one qualifying replacement per year.

  • How are the keys replaced? Any lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed keys must be deprogrammed at an approved dealer service center. Then, a new replacement key is paired with the car which is covered by the program.

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* This information is estimated based on consumers whose auto refinance loan funded through Caribou between 3/1/2023 and 3/1/2024, and had an existing auto loan on their credit report. These borrowers saved an average of $115.72 per month. Refinance savings may result from a lower interest rate, longer term, or both. There is no guarantee of savings. Your actual savings, if any, may vary based on interest rates, the repayment term, the amount financed, and other factors.

+ To check the refinance rates and terms you qualify for, we conduct a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a loan product and continue your application, we or one of our lending partners will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

++ Social security number is required should you choose to move forward in the loan application process.

** APR is the Annual Percentage Rate. Your actual APR may be different. Your APR is based on multiple factors including your credit profile and the loan to value of the vehicle. APR ranges from 5.95% to 28.55% and is determined at the time of application. Lowest APR is available for a 60 month term, to borrowers with excellent credit. Conditions apply. Advertised rates and fees are valid as of 3/4/24 and are subject to change without notice.

Terms and Conditions apply. Caribou reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Participating lenders, rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether our lenders can make you a loan offer. If any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. If approved, your actual rate will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Offers not available in MD, MS, NE, NV, WV.

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