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All you need to know about car key cutting

In United Kingdom car key cutting is an essential service for any vehicle owner. With the rapid advancements in automotive technology, the process of creating a new key for your car has evolved significantly.

This comprehensive guide will provide you with all the information you need about car key cutting, from the different types of keys to the cutting techniques and costs involved.

Types of Car Keys

Car keys have evolved over time, and each type serves a specific purpose. Understanding the different types of keys will help you choose the right key cutting service.

  • Traditional Mechanical Keys

Traditional mechanical keys are the simplest and oldest form of car keys. They have a unique pattern of ridges and grooves cut into the metal, which corresponds to the internal configuration of the lock.

These keys only provide a basic level of security and are becoming less common in modern vehicles.

  • Transponder Keys

Transponder keys were introduced in the 1990s as an additional security measure. These keys contain a small electronic chip, which communicates with the vehicle’s engine control unit (ECU) via radio frequency.

When the key is inserted into the ignition, the chip sends a unique code to the ECU. If the code is recognised, the engine will start. If not, the engine remains immobilised. Transponder keys require professional programming and cutting.

  • Keyless Entry Remote Keys

Keyless entry remote keys are a combination of a traditional mechanical key and a remote control. The remote control allows you to lock and unlock the vehicle without using the key. These keys require both mechanical cutting and electronic programming.

  • Smart Keys

Smart keys represent the latest evolution in car key technology. They use advanced radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to allow keyless entry and ignition.

With a smart key, you can unlock your car and start the engine without inserting the key into the ignition, as long as the key is within range of the vehicle. Smart keys require professional programming and cutting.

Car Key Cutting Techniques

There are several techniques used in car key cutting, depending on the type of key and the equipment available.

Manual Key Cutting

Manual key cutting is the traditional method of duplicating a mechanical key. A skilled locksmith uses a machine called a key duplicator, which traces the original key’s pattern and cuts a new key accordingly.

This technique is suitable for traditional mechanical keys and some transponder keys.

Automatic Key Cutting

Automatic key cutting machines use computerised technology to duplicate keys. The locksmith inputs the key’s specific code into the machine, which then cuts the key accordingly.

Automatic key cutting is more precise than manual key cutting and is suitable for most types of keys, including transponder and smart keys.

Laser Key Cutting

Laser key cutting is a high-tech method that uses a laser to cut the key’s pattern. This technique is suitable for keys with complex patterns, such as high-security keys and some smart keys.

Laser key cutting is very precise, but it requires specialised equipment and expertise.

Reasons for Car Key Cutting

There are several reasons why you might need car key cutting services:

  1. Lost keys: If you lose your car keys, you’ll need a new set cut to gain access to your vehicle and drive it.
  2. Spare keys: It’s a good idea to have a spare set of keys in case of emergencies or if you share your vehicle with someone else.
  3. Damaged keys: Over time, keys can wear out, break or become damaged, requiring a new set to be cut.
  4. Upgrading keys: If you want to upgrade your car’s security, you may opt for a more advanced key type, which will require cutting and programming.

How to Get a Car Key Cut

There are several options for getting a car key cut, depending on your preferences and budget.


Car dealerships often offer key cutting services for the vehicles they sell. This is a convenient option if you need a new key for a specific make and model. However, dealership key cutting services can be more expensive than other options.


Professional locksmiths can cut and program most types of car keys. Local Locksmiths usually have a wide range of equipment and expertise, which allows them to handle various key types.

Additionally, locksmiths often offer mobile services, which can be convenient if you’re locked out of your car or need a new key immediately.

Online Key Cutting Services

Some companies offer online key cutting services, allowing you to order a new key by providing the necessary information, such as the make, model, and key code.

These services can be more affordable than other options, but they may not be suitable for urgent situations, as shipping times can vary.

Car Key Cutting Costs

The cost of car key cutting varies depending on several factors, such as the type of key, the cutting technique, and the service provider.

Factors Affecting the Cost

  1. Key type: More advanced keys, such as smart keys and transponder keys, generally cost more to cut and program than traditional mechanical keys.
  2. Cutting technique: Laser key cutting is typically more expensive than manual or automatic key cutting due to the specialised equipment and expertise required.
  3. Service provider: Dealerships tend to charge higher prices for key cutting services than locksmiths or online key cutting services.

Ways to Save on Car Key Cutting

  1. Shop around: Compare prices from different service providers, such as dealerships, locksmiths, and online key cutting services, to find the best deal.
  2. Choose the right key type: If you don’t need the added security of a smart key or transponder key, opting for a traditional mechanical key can save you money.
  3. Consider insurance coverage: Some car insurance policies may cover the cost of car key cutting under certain circumstances, such as lost or stolen keys.

DIY Car Key Cutting

While it may be tempting to attempt car key cutting yourself, it’s essential to consider the pros and cons before diving in.

Pros and Cons


  1. Cost savings: DIY car key cutting can potentially save you money on professional services.
  2. Skill development: Learning how to cut keys can be a useful skill, especially if you’re interested in automotive or locksmithing.


  1. Limited to mechanical keys: DIY car key cutting is typically only suitable for traditional mechanical keys, as transponder and smart keys require specialised programming.
  2. Risk of damage: Inexperienced key cutters may damage their keys or locks, leading to more expensive repairs or replacements.
  3. Lack of specialised equipment: Professional key cutting equipment can be costly, making DIY key cutting less feasible for most people.

Tools and Materials

If you decide to proceed with DIY car key cutting, you’ll need the following tools and materials:

  1. Key duplicator: A manual key duplicator is the most basic and affordable tool for cutting traditional mechanical keys.
  2. Key blanks: Purchase the appropriate key blanks for your vehicle’s make and model.
  3. Key cutting files: These files are designed specifically for key cutting and will help you refine and smooth the edges of your new key.
  4. Safety equipment: Wear safety goggles and gloves to protect yourself while cutting keys.

Remember, DIY car key cutting is not recommended for everyone, and it’s essential to weigh the risks and benefits before attempting this task.

Car Key Cutting FAQ

Can I cut a car key at home?

While it is possible to cut a traditional mechanical key at home, it requires specialised tools and expertise. DIY key cutting is not recommended for transponder or smart keys, as they require professional programming.

How long does it take to cut a car key?

The time it takes to cut a car key depends on the type of key and the cutting technique. Manual key cutting can take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, while automatic and laser key cutting can be faster. The programming of transponder and smart keys may add additional time to the process.

Can I get a car key cut without the original?

Yes, it is possible to get a car key cut without the original. A professional locksmith can generate a new key using the vehicle’s make, model, and key code. The key code can typically be found in your vehicle’s owner’s manual, on the original key, or on a key card provided by the dealership.

Can I get a car key cut by VIN number?

Yes, a professional locksmith or dealership can use your vehicle’s VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) to obtain the necessary information to cut and program a new key. However, you may need to provide proof of ownership and identification to ensure security.

How do I find a reputable car key cutting service?

To find a reputable car key cutting service, you can:
1. Ask for recommendations from friends, family, or colleagues who have had positive experiences with car key cutting services.
2. Check online reviews and ratings to gauge the reputation and quality of local locksmiths or dealerships.
3. Look for professional certifications or memberships, such as the Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA) or the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF), which can indicate expertise and professionalism.


In conclusion, car key cutting is an essential service for vehicle owners, with various key types, cutting techniques, and service providers available.

By understanding the different options and factors affecting the cost, you can make an informed decision when choosing a car key cutting service.

Always consider the pros and cons of DIY key cutting and consult a professional when dealing with advanced key types.