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If you ever need a spare house key, you’re in luck. Take your original key to Home Depot and they will make as many exact copies for you as you need. But what happens if you need a spare car key? Copying car keys used to be a simple task, but nowadays, it is a little more complex than copying house keys.

Home Depot does, indeed, make copies of car keys. However, this only applies if the car key does not have a transponder chip or is not an electronic key fob or smart key. If a copy of a key with a transponder chip is made, the copy will only have the capability of opening the car door, but not starting the car. Copying a smart key that acts as a key to your car is much more difficult.

Today, most modern cars are being made without traditional keys. Many cars today are being made with a push button to start the car. This button does not require the insertion of a key. Therefore, the “keys” that we now get with our cars are called “key fobs” or “smart keys” and look more like small rectangles that fit in the palm of your hand.

 

What is a smart key?

A smart key acts as a key to your car, in addition to having other capabilities. While a smart key can start your car without physically inserting a key, it can also lock and unlock your doors, open and close your trunk, and activate the panic alarm.

 

How does a smart key work?

A smart key is a small electronic device that is programmed to match one car specifically. Smart keys typically use radio waves to communicate with the electronics in your car door, telling it to open or close on command. Some more high-tech smart keys use transponder chips to communicate with your vehicle. When the smart key is in close proximity to your car, the command buttons on your key will be able to send their signals to complete the desired command.

 

Pros and cons of having a smart key

There is a reason why many car manufacturers are switching to smart keys instead of traditional keys for their cars. First, smart keys are more convenient than traditional keys. The key merely must be on your person, i.e. in your pocket, purse, etc. for the doors to unlock. No more fumbling with keys and trying to insert your key in the dark. A simple hand on the handle will unlock the doors, while a push of a button will start the ignition.

Second, smart keys are a safer option. The car will only unlock with the unique code that your key provides, making it much more difficult for someone to steal. Certain car brands even use computer-encrypted microchips in their smart key system, adding another layer of safety.

Lastly, most key fobs or smart keys automatically lock the car when they are a certain distance away. This gives you the peace of mind that your car is safe and locked as long as your key is with you. No more wondering if you remembered to lock your car. Your smart key will do it for you!

While there are many great advantages to having a smart key instead of an actual key, there are a few drawbacks. First, smart keys are expensive to replace if you lose them. Purchasing a new key fob from the dealership could cost well over $200, just an un-programmed key. The key then must be programmed either by the dealer or at a specific automotive locksmith for an additional cost.  Second, while there are many encryptions and safeties in place in a smart key, there are even more programming tools in cyber-space to help crack the codes in place and hack the safety systems. It is important to realize that while smart keys are safer than regular keys, they are still not immune to theft completely.

 

What do I do if I need a new smart key?

There are a few options you have if you need a replacement smart key for your car. First, as previously mentioned, you can contact your dealership. Depending on the brand of your car, your new fob could cost anywhere from $50 to $400. Their price will get you a new fob only. Then, you will have to pay an extra fee to have the key programmed to work with your car only. Programming could cost anywhere from $50-$100.

Another potentially cheaper option is to search online for a replacement key fob. Many times, you can find your car’s smart key on a site such as Amazon for a discounted price. Simply type in the model of your car and add “smart key” or “key fob” behind it. If it is sold online, you will be able to peruse through website to find the best price. Get the new fob shipped directly to your home.

For example, if you have a 2018 Mazda CX-5, go to Amazon and search, “2018 Mazda CX5 key fob.” Using the term “smart key” will work as well. In the search results, scroll through to find a key that is a match to the one you have, or used to have. This smart key is a match to the 2018 Mazda CX-5.

Once it arrives, however, you will still have to get the smart key programmed to work with your car specifically. Unfortunately, this cannot be done at home, or for free. This has to be completed at a locksmith that specializes in automotive programming, or at your dealer. Call before you arrive to make sure you do not need to schedule an appointment for re-programming.

 

Can I still go to Home Depot?

While the answer is complicated, yes, you could potentially get a new key fob at Home Depot. However, not all car models can be found through the store. Some Home Depot locations offer key fobs that are compatible with certain makes and models of cars, but most of the options available are for older vehicles. You can search on their website and peruse the different key fobs. Under the description for the key you choose will be a list of compatible vehicles that work for that specific key. Make sure you know the year your vehicle was made so that you can purchase the correct fob for your vehicle.

If you are able to find a fob that is compatible with your make and model of vehicle, then these key fobs claim to be “self-programmable.” This means, you can take the fob home and program it to work with your vehicle on your own, without going to a dealership or automotive locksmith. Detailed instructions are included, and they claim to be easy to follow and take only a few minutes to complete programming.

 

Conclusion:

Unfortunately, the answer to getting a new key fob is not a simple one. In the end, the best option takes a few steps. Overall, it is best to search for the key fob online. Most makes and models of modern smart keys can be found online at Amazon, or at specific automotive supply stores. When you choose this option, you can guarantee that you get the exact key fob that you need for your vehicle. Then, you can take your new fob to a dealership or locksmith that you trust to do the job correctly. While these options are less expensive than going straight to the dealership, it will still cost you on average $100 for a new, completely programmed key fob for your vehicle.

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