Why Does A Volkswagen Key Cost So Much?

Published on July 23, 2012 under Humble Mechanic

This situation happens about once a month.

Volkswagen Immobilizer Key

This is where the reader coil is located, just around the key hole.

Customer calls in saying they lost the key or keys for their VW. We tell the customer they will need to show proof they own the vehicle. Then they will need to have the car towed to the dealer.

Once the key comes in, we will have to program the new key to the car. The cost of a new Volkswagen key, remote, and programming is about $300.

So why the heck does getting a new key for a Volkswagen cost $300? My guess is the little mechanism that lets the key flip out is made of some top secrete element. Maybe a derivative of Turbonium? Okay, obviously that is not the case. Before we talk about why it costs so much, let’s talk

about how the system works.


All VWs, and most every other newer car, are equipped with an anti-theft device that will prevent someone from “hot wring” the car. Volkswagen calls this system the Immobilizer. The car must see an authorized key, or it will not start. Well, on a VW, it will start and immediately shut off. ~FREE TIP, if your Vw start and shuts off right away, odd are you have an issue with the immobilizer system.

How It Works

There are 3 main components to the immobilizer system

  1. The vehicle’s key
    Volkswagen Immobilizer Key

    This is what the actual transponder looks like

  2. A “reader coil”
  3. An “evaluation unit”

The vehicle’s key has a chip inside of it called a transponder. It looks like a glass tic-tac. When you put the key into the ignition, the “reader coil” will energize the transponder in the key. Then the transponder will send a code back to the coil and on to the evaluation unit. If everyone is authorized, the evaluation unit will authorize the vehicle to start. If not, the car will start, or it will not stay running.

The Cost

Now that we know how the system works, let’s get into the cost. Anytime there is electronics in something the cost will go up. These new keys are not like the old ones you could get cut at the local Ace Hardware. Also, most newer keys have the keyless entry remote built into it. That will bring the cost up.

The keys and remotes also need to programmed to the car, adding a little more to the cost. That requires the vehicle to be at the dealer. When I program keys, I have to hook up the VW scan tool. Then we go online and retrieve the proper coding for the car. I don’t get to see the code anymore, it is loaded right into the car. Each key for the vehicle will need to be programmed to work properly.

Is It All Worth it?

Is going to all this trouble to prevent vehicle theft worth it? I think so. It will deter amateurs from stealing cars. But let’s face it, if someone really wants to steal your car, they will steal it no matter what you do.

I also have another tip. The keys that you find on Ebay, or that weird store in the mall are JUNK! I would say that ~95% of the keys that customers bring in to be programmed do not work. It stinks for them because they don’t really save any money. It usually ends in the customer paying twice for programming, or buying a key from the dealer anyway. Just be cautious when dealing in non factory keys.

If you remember what “Turbonium” is, post it in the comments. I am wondering if everyone knows what it is.

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  1. Jeremy

    Mine cans with a non flip VW key that doesn’t have a remote. All I can do it open doors. My dad once used it to start my car and was freaking out because it kept dying. Lol

  2. Ken

    What is the more expensive part of the key? Cutting the key or programming it? In my case I still have the key but would need new electronic bits inside. They stopped working for some reason. The guy I was speaking to at the dealership was telling me they would need to re-cut the key?? I don’t really understand why since I still have that portion.

    1. Charles

      @Ken, the key with cutting is the more expensive part. We charge about $50 for programming the key.

      If it needs the part that allows the car to start, then you would need a new key. My dealer doesn’t cut keys, they will only order a pre-cut key. We have a key cutting machine, but none of the parts guys want to cut keys.

      1. ismael sanchez

        What is your email address or phone # please i need my key programed n i can’t afford to pay the dealer which they charge $300+ my number is 8134096128 text or call me please, father of 3

        1. Paul

          I have the same problem I have a valet key and no remote or fob that came with my car. Charles can u contact me also I don’t feel like spending 300 either on a stupid key 631-384-2836 thank you

  3. the Rested Traveler

    Are there alternatives to this? I have a 2010 Jetta and it came with two key fobs and a valet key … all of the keys work fine to unlock the doors and start the car the old fashioned way. Both of the fobs have quit working to unlock the doors, pop the trunk, or set off the panic alarm remotely though. I’ve replaced the batteries in both and still no remote love. Do I really have to replace the entire unit and have it re-programmed?

      1. billy47

        Don’t feel alone, both of my remote keys for Jetta quit working…the usual, replaced the batteries at the dealership…problem fixed, hell no…remotes still don’t work! I’m having the fob replaced on one set and it’s costing me $200+ to have this done…time to change auto brands!

          1. Ron

            I have a 1999 tdi bug I bought it from a wrecking company. They had a mechanics lean tittle on the car
            I did a tittle transfer and the tittle is in my name now. It also has a bad engine i am swaping the engine out of my wrecked 2001 bug But I don’t have any keys for the 1999 bug. How can I get a key do I have to go to the dealer

    1. Steven Spencer


      Great site. I have one 2004 VW Jetta key working fine, in Bayside, NY, with VIN, access to lots of dealers and key places. So I want the least expensive way to have two (or even better, three) total, as the car is only 60K and runs really, really good. Although I am always listening for a little turbocharger push that is not there :). Have owned it 1 1/2 years and very impressed, especially for city and suburban driving, tight, maneuverable, reliable and small for parking. While I don’t care about remote entry, I gather there is little benefit in bypassing any features. wants me to have two, if only one I need to take it to a shop after receiving (I will call those guys tomorrow).

      I know there are a few options here. Can you recommend one or two as the best? Absolute cheapness is not the only factor, I would like a one-pass solution that is likely to work, and I don’t mind stopping here or there for programming.



  4. Anthony

    Locksmiths can also cut and program these keys or make duplicates for you . We get our keys from strattec who actually manufactures the factory key blanks for most automotive companies including vw . Since we deal directly with this company our costs on the key are lower and we can cut them immediately with our own machines . We carry both factory with the logo and “aftermarket” or the same exact key without the logo which costs less. We can program these to the vehicle also if you break a part of the vw fob it is repairable since the key is actually three seperate pieces which consist of the key blade, the remote or fob and the transponder piece . The other alternative is the valet key which we can cut to work the same as the other key but still contains the transponder so it can be programed to start the vehicle also. Locksmiths prices go between $95 to $200 for the keys depending on which key you want . And as far as repairing the key we can do that for $15 to $100 depending on which part of the fob is broken

    1. Joey

      I need to fabricate 1 2002 passat 2.8 car key with remote control.I have a spare that only open/close and start but engine will not stay much it cost and what i need to do to get it a new key. Please advice.
      Thanks Joey

  5. David Zierk

    I am looking for a spare key to just open the drivers door in an emergency and have a second set of spare keys hidden inside. I own a 2013 VW Beetle with standard flip key ignition. Any help will be appreciated.


  6. Tom Chapman

    I just need a spare key for my 2010 jetta and do not want to pay the dealer 300 bucks any ideas I have a key that works fine just would hate to loose it , which I am very capable of doing.

  7. Tim

    The keys for VW’s and Audi’s seem expensive until you compare them to some of the other european makes.. BMW wants an arm and a leg, Mercedes wants both arms and a leg.. So the VAG group isn’t all that bad… A good locksmith can duplicate and program a flat key or a flip key to most 2000-2005 VW’s with no problems.. After 2005 VAG went to a little different immobilizer system. 2000-2001 cars had a chip in the key that the car would accept when you introduced it to the car, 2002- 2005 cars would accept the key chip, but also mark the chip with info so you can’t reuse the chip on another car. 2005-2009 cars need to have the chip in the key preprogrammed with the component protection data from the car before you can ask the car to accept it. 2009-2013 use the same system but with a different controller chip in the cars immobilizer box. The keys have come down in price, but you are still looking at a higher price than a Ford or GM key and remote.. Sorry, that’s just the way it is.. If you call a locksmith and they tell you only the dealer can do that, find another locksmith…
    Take care,
    PS, we sell a plastic or metal copy of 1998-2013 that you can put into a key hider for as little as $15.00 and the stick on velcro key hider for $5.00.. It will open the door, but not start the car. We have a lot of outdoor enthusiasts here in the great northwest and they love these..

      1. Linda

        I have an ’02 Jetta too.

        You don’t need a special key hider – you can make your own by buying an extra strong magnet at a hardware store and putting in a tin – an Altoids tin or whatever is big enough to hold your key.

  8. Ross

    Just bought a 2011 Tiguan which came with just one key. Yep $300 for a spare at the local VW dealer… “bollocks to that.” What if I just take the chip out of my one good key fob and glue it to the ring containing the reader coil… then just get a bunch of cheap dumb keys cut … would that work? I’d still have the good fob for remote access for the Mrs and the kids would all have dumb keys.
    Just asking ???

    1. Charles

      You can do that. That is how aftermarket remote start systems bypass the immob system. The issue is, it bypasses the immob system.

      I would NOT recommend doing this if you have KESSY. That will most likely kill the battery and prevent you from locking the car.

        1. David L-C

          Sorry, never mind, a quick search told me the answer.
          P.S I have a 2002 Eurovan and only 1 key left so I ordered 2 (non remote as they are unavailable) off ebay only cost 5$ to get them cut and locksmith told me to take chip out and tape to steering column.

  9. Annie Post

    HELP! My son lost the last key to my 2001 VW Cabrio. Paid for two VIN keys. Neither one worked but did open trunk. Told it was the ignition so $850. Worked before key was lost, so towed to another dealer, called VW USA to help. Now, $1800 because they claim I rekeyed the entire car which is insane!!! I bought it brand new. Can’t find a locksmith here (Boston) to help. So now I have to throw my car away???
    I’m about to cry.

    1. Keith McCombs

      Annie —
      Before junking your car, I suggest you phone Commonwealth Volkswagen in Lawerence, Mass. Tell them your VIN and find out what they can do for you. I think that their prices may be more reasonable than those in Boston.
      — Keith

    2. Keith McCombs

      Annie —
      A second thought. Use Google Maps to find Auto Electric in Boston. Talk to them about your problem before taking car to them. They might even be able to replace immobilizer and keys from an ” auto grave yard”.
      — Keith

  10. ivan

    I have a 2000 jetta the last owner loose the. Keys she brought a key from vw dealer can some one help me find some one that can come a and reprogram the car the car is immobilized mode I m located mmoncure nc like 15 min from apex tors

      1. Everret

        Thanks for your suggestion Charles, but of the thirty odd dealerships he owns… I shall be very careful to NOT buy anything else from them.
        Do you have any other suggestions?
        Thank you… from New Mexico

  11. Kim Salazar

    I have a question, I have a 2003 VW Jetta and I only a 1 key. Unfounately on the remote the silver hook broke so it cannot catch on any rings. I just bought another key off of Ebay and would like to try and get it keyed and programmed. I live in Illinois, do you now by chance know where there is a reasonable place to go or could I send it to you and could you do it for me.
    Thank you.

  12. Jennifer Reno

    I have a 2001 New Beetle and lost the key to the trunk. It is different from the key to the ignition. What is the cost to get a new key made? I live on an island where there are no VW dealerships.

  13. kendall Lentz

    Just bought 2011 VW jetta from dealership. After all paperwork is signed and cash paid for entire vehicle we go to leave and theu claim cant find 2nd key but will search it down and call. Now since they cant find it they ate trying to force be to buy one
    On principle alone now after being lied to (by the way car stopped running after less than 3 weeks ownership and is in their shop cause under warranty) I now really refuse to get 2nd key from them. So how much to get one And a valet key from you?
    Any hehp is greatly appreciated! You are right they definitely have us over a barrel.
    Kendall Lentz
    Baltimore, MD

    1. Steven Spencer

      I wrote above about my looking for one for a 2004 Jetta. All the internet possibilities led to very little that was helpful.

      Some of the local lock shops could not do it, but I found two that are excellent. The I had used before on stuff in Nassau, Able, was about $110 and the one in Queens, ABC was even better at $90. This is programmed, without the remote, and looks nice. Little or no discount for doing two.

      So I would say just call around and try to find a reputable shop that is around $100. However, I don’t know if 2011 is any different than 2004.


  14. Tim

    Saw this video again and it made me laugh… There is one more way these remote keys fail.. Too much junk hung on the end of them… I don’t like to group people together, but I have had 4 or 5 customers wanting me to warranty a flip key.. The hinge or chrome loop had broken off… All of these were teenage girls in 00-04. Beetles… ALL of these had about 5 pounds of stuff on the key ring… When you have a flat key, the distance from the ignition cylinder to where the key ring attaches is about an inch.. On a flip key it is double that.. If you want to keep your expensive flip key from breaking, don’t load up the key ring..

  15. Todd

    Charles, are you saying that if I need an additional key for my 2012 VW Beetle that I should suck it up and purchase it through the dealer? They want to charge $225 for the key and $120 to program the key. I found “VW” keys on Ebay for $50.00. From what you’re saying, “Good Luck” with those keys and having them function properly. Any suggestions for having a functional key purchased and made for less?

    Thank you.

  16. Dana

    Hi @Charles, been reading the string of comments above. You’ve been so helpful to so many people. Hoping you can help me too. I have a 2002 beetle, bought used with only one key. The car won’t start – mechanic says the code reads engine start blocked by immobilizer. If I buy a key fob, how much do you charge for cutting and programming? I live in CA and weighing my cost options.


  17. Tim

    Hey Charles,I’m glad I found you. I just bought a 2005 vw jetta with one key, no remote. The car starts and run, but I cannot lock the door with the key. I will like a new set of keys with a remote.Can you help? Thanks.

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