Used Car Buying Guide: How Many Keys Should You Expect?

February 7, 2011

A friend of mine just bought a certified used car through a Toyota dealership. She assumed that she would get more than one key with the vehicle. It wasn’t a bad assumption: manufacturers have high standards that dealers must adhere to when selecting and reconditioning cars under their certification programs. These cars had more than one key when they were sold new, and my friend made the natural assumption that she would get more than one key when she purchased her certified Camry.

Silly Her…

My friend knew that I had been Internet Manager for a major dealership. She called and said, “You must know how expensive it is to have these remote keys made?” She was obviously frustrated. I confirmed her fear that, depending on the make, they can cost $150 or even $200 or more.

“Can you believe they only gave me one key after all I paid for that car?” she complained. Finally, exasperated, my friend asked, “You used to be in the car business. Can you find out if they owe me another key, because I don’t feel comfortable having just one and I really don’t want to spend another two hundred dollars after just spending $18,000.”


Toyota has great customer service. I was only on hold for about a minute before I was connected to very helpful Toyota representative. They had to check to make sure, but quickly confirmed that Toyota dealers are only required to provide one key for a Toyota Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) vehicle.

This seemed like a less than satisfactory policy. My friend had previously purchased a certified Honda Accord and knew first-hand that Honda dealers are required to provide the same number of keys that originally came with the vehicle. This is often two remote and one valet key. Needless to say, my friend was not happy with this news.

The Moral of the Story

This brings me to the purpose of this article. When you buy a used car from a dealer, be sure to negotiate the number of keys in the deal at the same time that you negotiate the selling price. If a vehicle only has one remote entry key, and you get the dealer to throw in a second key at the very end of negotiations just to close the deal, it’s like negotiating the price down another couple of hundred dollars. Yet, it’s the rare dealer that will let a customer walk over the price of a single key, especially a customer who is that close to signing the contract.

It’s a lesson learned for my friend, and a mistake she won’t make a second time.

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