The immobilizer key is a device that permits the car to be started when the proper key is present. This is the same whether the car actually requires the key to be in the ignition or the car has a keyless, push-button style – ignition. Basically, how it works is that the car will not allow the engine to run unless the immobilizer key is present, which prevents the car from being hotwired as well as someone using any other method of starting your car. This is a very effective way to cut down on vehicle theft.
Even though the immobilizer key seems like recent technology, it was actually patented in 1919. The mechanism was quite different back then of course, not having the advantage of the modern computer technology of today, but the system was somewhat effective. It required drivers to manually activate the system upon exiting their car, much as you would place a steering wheel disablement device.
Modern locksmiths have the tools that are needed to create immobilizer keys. They use computers to create these complex immobilizer keys, programming them so that not only does the key turn in the ignition, but also the immobilization technology deactivates so that you can start your car. These tools are very hard to come by and they are also very expensive, which is why there is a much higher cost that comes with making an immobilizer key compared to simply cutting a key in the right pattern out of metal.
Immobilizer keys are definitely worth having, even if you have to pay more to have the key replaced if you lose it. Studies published in Economic Journal show that cars were 40% less likely to be stolen if they had an immobilizer key and that the cost ratio was much, much lower on getting an immobilizer system compared to having to deal with a car that has been stolen.
But locksmiths do charge more for immobilizer keys than for simply making a key for a door lock or other simple task. How much you will pay depends upon the locksmith, the type of car that you have and the particular circumstances. In most cases, however, it is going to be a lot cheaper than going to your dealership to have a new key made or calling your manufacturer and asking for a replacement key. It will almost certainly be faster and much less hassle as well. It is difficult to quote an exact price, but you might pay somewhere around $50 to $150 for an immobilizer key at a locksmith.
The bottom line is that locksmiths are a terrific resource for getting a replacement immobilizer key made and on average you will pay between $20 and $50 more if you go to your dealership. The only disadvantage with using a locksmith to make your replacement car key is that they may not have the car make branding that your dealership will, but for most people, that’s a small price to pay for the savings.