Transponder car keys are sometimes referred to as chipped car keys. Car manufacturers started using transponder chips in car keys around 1995. A transponder is an electronic chip that transmits a specific digital code. When the car key with the transponder chip is inserted into the ignition key switch, a sensor inside the ignition activates the transponder key. The transponder key is then read by a sensor in the ignition that is connected to the cars computer. If the digital code of the transponder key is recognized by the cars computer, it will then allow the cars ignition to start the engine.
Although a standard car key ranges in price from $3-$5, a transponder key will vary in price from $40 to over $100 depending on the brand and model of car. This big price difference is not only caused by the cost of the transponder chip, but more by the cost of the equipment that is required to program the key to the car’s computer. Most of the high-end and import car brands require expensive programmers and software to program the transponder key to the car. Some of these programmers cost over $10,000.
It is always a good idea to have a spare car key just in case the transponder key ever gets lost, stolen, or broken. If the only key is ever displaced, a new transponder key will need to be programmed to the cars computer. This will require towing the car to the dealer or paying for a mobile locksmith to come to the cars location. This unfortunate situation could cost more than $200 after paying for towing and the dealer’s price to make a new key. On the other hand, a mobile Locksmith usually requires less time because a tow truck is not needed. In most situations, a mobile Locksmith will even cost less than the combined cost of wasted time, towing, and dealer pricing. Once again, this could be potentially avoided if a spare transponder key is available for use.