Don’t lose or break your car-key fob—you can’t replace it for a few bucks at the local hardware store, writes Sean P. Murphy, a consumer-advocacy reporter at The Boston Globe. “In all likelihood, replacing the fob will cost hundreds of dollars, maybe even more than $1,000, if you drive an expensive luxury vehicle,” he notes.
Murphy looked into the situation when a disgruntled reader complained about spending $347 to replace a broken fob for his 2013 Nissan Altima. What bothered the reader in particular was the $120 charge for labor.
“Really, all they do is connect the car to a computer and click the download button,” the reader told Murphy. “That’s not labor. That’s surely not $120 worth of labor.”
Unfortunately, the amount the reader paid is typical of what other dealers charge to replace fobs. Murphy quotes the general manager of a Nissan dealer as saying the company made a big investment to get the necessary equipment and software, adding, “My prices are right in line with where they need to be.”
The good news, at least for Massachusetts, is that the state has a “right to repair” law, and locksmiths can compete with car dealers to replace keys.
“Sean Harney of City Locks in West Roxbury showed me how to program a fob by plugging a scan tool (it looks like an extra-sturdy laptop and costs thousands of dollars) into the OBD (on-board diagnostic) port located under the dash of my car,” Murphy writes. “You can buy the plastic fob itself from the manufacturer or on the aftermarket at parts stores like NAPA or AutoZone.”
If all goes well, the locksmith can replace a fob for about $200 to $250, including the fob itself, with programming taking less than 10 minutes.