How to save money replacing your key fob

By Amy Davis - Reporter/Consumer Expert

If you have ever had to replace your car's key fob, you know it can cost hundreds of dollars from the dealership. Manufacturers have a lock on the price, so to speak. But you can get around the high price by calling a locksmith.

We called a local Toyota dealership to get a quote to replace the key fob for a Sienna minivan. If we didn't have a spare and couldn't start the van at all, it would cost $583.67 plus the cost of a tow to get the vehicle to the service department.

Automobile Locksmith, a family-owned Houston business, quoted us $295. That's a savings of $288; and the locksmith comes to you, so you won't have to pay for a tow.

"We go out to your location. We do it under 5 minutes, most likely. And we'll be done," explained Khaled Bakkar.

So how do they do it for so much less and faster?

"A lot of times they don't have the key in stock," said Bakkar. "But we have hundreds of keys in stock for every vehicle type that we support."

Most fobs have a key tucked inside for emergencies in case your fob battery dies and you need to manually open your door.

"This part right here (the key insert) costs about $75 at your local dealership. We're able to replace it with a brand new one at no cost," Bakkar said. 

When you lose the only fob you have, most car makers require that you purchase two, even if you don't want to buy the extra one.

"We're able to cut costs by instead of programming two keys to a vehicle, we only program one," said Bakkar.

Be careful when you call around for quotes for a new key fob. You want the complete price for the key insert, the fob, programming and any fee for the service call. Some locksmiths may try to trick you.

"You call them. They give you a basic $20," explained Bakkar. "They'll show up. They'll do all the work, show you an invoice for about $500 to $600." 

Channel 2 also compared prices on a replacement fob for a Ford Expedition and  found we would save at least $135 using the locksmith instead of the dealership. An employee at one dealership even told consumer expert Amy Davis she should call a locksmith for a lower price.

2016 Click2Houston/KPRC2