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Don’t Lose Your Smart Key

If you have a so-called “smart” car key with an embedded computer chip, you’ll want to take extra care not to lose it.

Replacing these smart keys can cost an arm and leg — $400 in some cases or potentially much more.

Consumer Reports said a couple of years ago one of its engineers had to pay $600 to replace the key to his Toyota Prius, after he accidentally went swimming with the key in his pocket.

Many auto dealerships offer key replacement policies. They may sound expensive, too, but bear in mind what it costs to replace a lost key. Prices are negotiable, so it’s hard to generalize about prices. To state the obvious, the retail price better be less than the price to replace a lost key.

Policies also may cover more than just key replacement, like roadside assistance if you’re locked out of your car, or rental car coverage if a replacement key can’t be made right away.

Obviously, it’s the finance manager’s job at the dealership to explain the cost vs. the benefits. If it’s offered, try not to be bowled over when you hear how much it costs. Keep an open mind, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. A clever finance manager might have copies of real-life examples documenting how much it costs to replace a lost key, for instance.

Also, be realistic. The finance manager is probably not going to give up right away when you say, “I don’t plan on losing my keys.” Nobody does. Even if you never make a claim, key replacement also represents peace of mind, like any form of insurance.

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