$37 for a key replacement at the Honda dealership?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 2004

Dear Tom and Ray:

I recently bought a "pre-owned" 2002 Honda Civic LX. Unfortunately, it only came with one key, so I am in the midst of trying to get a copy of my car key made. The only thing is that the dealer keeps telling me there's a chip in my key that acts as some kind of anti-theft device, but all the key people I talk to think that he's lying to me. The dealer wants to charge me $37 to copy, install and program the key, whereas a simple key copy is like $5. So, my question is whether there really is a chip in my key. And do I really have to go to the dealer to get a copy?

-- Sabrina

RAY: The dealer is telling you the truth, Sabrina. As part of the effort to stay one step ahead of car thieves, lots of manufacturers are embedding high-tech chips in their keys. In theory, the car won't start unless it "sees" the proper chip in your key.

TOM: So, that limits the thieves' choices. They either have to settle for stealing your car stereo and air bag, tow your car all the way to the chop shop or break into your house and steal your keys, first.

RAY: If you get a $5 key at your local hardware store, it should let you open the door and the trunk. It'll even fit in the ignition and turn. But it won't start the car.

TOM: So you do need to take your existing car key to a Honda dealer.

RAY: You're actually lucky, Sabrina. We've seen some high-end car makers charge well over $100 for a new key with a chip in it. Honda is actually letting you off easy. If I were you, I'd hurry in, before they read this and raise the price.

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