The typical cost to copy a basic key is $1 to $4.
Chipped keys cost the most to copy, ranging from $50 to $1,000.
Hardware and home improvement stores offer the lowest rates.
Materials and necessary expertise impact key-copying costs.
If you carry a key ring, you’ll likely find yourself in need of a key copy at some point, and, in many cases, several times over. Thankfully, the process of copying a key is straightforward, though it does help to understand the costs associated with the process.
The cost to copy a basic key, like a house key, can be as low as $1. Copying modern car keys is the most expensive, generally running $30 to $175, but some premium car brands may charge $1,000 or more for a new key fob. Let’s break down how much you can expect to pay for a key copy.
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How Much Does It Cost to Copy a Key?
Basic Door or Car Key
Basic door or car keys are the cheapest and easiest keys to copy, usually costing between $1 to $4. Key blanks are widely available, and many hardware, home improvement, and big-box stores have the equipment to make a key copy in a few minutes.
Decorative Basic Door or Car Key
Decorative keys feature fun shapes, bright colors, or illustrations. These keys are just as easy to copy as basic keys, but they generally cost a bit more to account for paint, machining, or the licensing of cartoon characters, sports team logos, and other protected works. You can expect to pay $3 to $10 for this type of key.
Luggage or Safe Key
Since luggage and safe keys aren’t as commonly requested as house and car keys, you may have limited access to the hardware stores that can help you. In some cases, you may have no choice but to visit a more-expensive locksmith. Luckily, these keys aren’t expensive to copy once you find the right service at $5 to $7.
High-security keys are designed with safety and security in mind, so they’re not easy to replicate. Some lock manufacturers, such as Medeco and Schlage, may only allow authorized dealers or locksmiths to copy their keys. You’ll probably need to register your lock upon purchase and then show proof of ownership before a locksmith will make you a key copy. You can expect to pay $8 to $20 to replicate a high-security key.
Chipped or Transponder Key
Modern cars use keys that feature computer chips or transponders that must be programmed to work with your vehicle. While any locksmith is likely to have the equipment to cut a key, not all will have the tools or expertise to program the key afterward. Depending on the model of your vehicle, the only way to make a copy of a key may be to visit your dealer, which is generally the most expensive route, usually costing between $50 to $175. However, some high-end vehicles require key fobs that cost $1,000 or more to replace.
Copying a Key Cost Breakdown
When considering the cost to copy a key, the two biggest factors that affect the price are the cost of materials and the level of expertise your project needs.
Key blanks are keys that are not yet cut to fit a specific lock. While there are more than 7,000 different key blanks, you’re unlikely to find a local store that carries them all. But that’s okay—most basic keys can be made from one of a handful of the most popular blanks, such as Kwikset, Schlage, and Titan, and they’re inexpensive.
If you need a more obscure key blank, find a reputable locksmith. Many professional locksmiths keep an inventory of up to 1,000 blanks in their workshop to help copy even the most uncommon keys. If your locksmith doesn’t carry the exact blank you need, they'll generally order it for you.
Even local hardware stores can generally help you copy older car keys. If you have a modern vehicle with a chipped key, you’ll need to purchase a key blank from a locksmith, online source, or car dealership. These key blanks tend to be the most expensive due to the technology contained within the key fob.
A key duplicator uses your existing key as a template from which it will cut a new key using a blank. The machines you’ll find at hardware and home improvement stores are not difficult to use, so almost any employee can help you when you need a key copy. In some cases, you may not even need the help of an employee—self-serve machines are inexpensive and user-friendly.
The key-duplicating machines that professional locksmiths use may be more complicated. In some cases, your locksmith may even need to carve a new key by hand. Whatever the job requires, you’ll pay more for the premium equipment and professional’s expertise when you take your key to a locksmith for copying.
The most expensive type of key to copy is the modern car key. In addition to the cutting, these keys contain chips or transponders that a mechanic must program to your vehicle. The process of cutting and programming a car key isn’t particularly complicated, but car dealerships are known for their high prices.
Cost to Copy a Key Yourself
If you want to copy a key yourself, there are two ways you can go about it: with a machine or by hand.
Purchasing a key duplication machine to cut your own keys is unlikely to make financial sense. The most economical duplicators cost at least $500. Even if you plan to cut several keys each year, you’d have to cut hundreds of keys to break even on the cost of your machinery versus heading to a local hardware store.
The less expensive way to copy a key yourself is to use a vice and hand file. You can purchase a basic tabletop vice for $10 to $25, while a simple hand file generally costs $5 to $10. Blank keys cost pennies each when you purchase them in bulk online.
No matter whether you use a key duplication machine or copy a key by hand, these processes will only work for basic car, house, luggage, or safe keys for which you’re able to obtain the correct key blank. These methods are not feasible for modern car keys because they require precision copying and need to be programmed by a knowledgeable professional, like a local locksmith, car dealership professional, or a mechanic.
Cost to Install It Yourself vs. Hiring a Contractor
In almost all instances, it’s less expensive and easier to have a key copied for you rather than copy one yourself.
Even if you already own a vice and hand file to copy a key, it’s important to place value on your time. It’s money well spent to pay a home improvement store or even a locksmith $1 to $4 to copy a key rather than spend an hour (or more) of your own time carving one by hand.
How to Save Money When Copying a Key
Even though it’s generally inexpensive to copy a key, there are some ways that you can cut costs further or save money on more expensive jobs.
Make a Spare Key Before You Need It
You can save money on key copies by making additional keys before you actually need them. For example, copying new keys will yield better results than copying older, worn keys. If you wait too long to copy a key and your original can no longer offer a clean copy, you’ll have to go through the added expense of having a locksmith inspect your lock to make a new key.
Likewise, you’ll have to call out a locksmith if you lose your only copy of a key and are locked out of your house or car.
Head to the Hardware Store
You have several options for copying keys. If you need a basic house or car key, head to a hardware store rather than a locksmith—both will offer the same results, but the home improvement store will cost less.
Similarly, if you need a new key for a modern car, a home improvement store may not be able to help, but a locksmith will generally be cheaper than going to the car dealership.
Purchase Several Duplicates at the Same Time
Some professionals may cut you a break if you purchase several copies of a key at the same time. This deal is more likely to be the case with standard keys, but you may find a car dealership that offers a similar deal for chipped keys.
Buy Your Blank From Another Source
If you need a copy of a specialized key, such as a high-security or chipped key, you may be able to save money by purchasing your blank online directly from the manufacturer or through a third party. Once you get your blank, you can then take it to a locksmith or car dealership for key cutting and, if necessary, programming.
Frequently Asked Questions
When you take a key to a hardware store or a locksmith for copying, you can expect the key-cutting process to take as little as 30 seconds. The key copier will review your current key to decide on the correct blank. Then, your original key and the blank are inserted into a key duplication machine to cut an exact key copy. When it’s all said and done, you can have a new key in your hand in just a couple of minutes.
If you don’t have your original key, the easiest way to obtain a copy is to call a locksmith. For house keys, your locksmith has several options for configuring a new key:
They can input a lock’s identification code into a database to obtain key-cutting instructions.
They could analyze the lock cylinder to determine how to cut a new key.
They can create an impression of the lock cylinder from which to cut a new key.
Many local hardware stores have the equipment to copy basic keys at a low cost. Some locations may have freestanding machines where you can pick out a blank and insert it and your original key into the duplicating machine.