6 Best auto key programmers 2021: Never buy it before reading this guide [updated]

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If your car/truck key is lost or the key fob is broken, getting a replacement can be a hassle – and depending on what kind of vehicle you drive, it can cost a pretty penny.

A car key programmer allows you to reprogram keys, program new keys, and adjust the IMMO system to get back on the road, saving you both time and money.

Some auto scan tools have key programming features built-in. These models are often designed for experienced DIY-ers or professionals. A stand-alone key programmer is a more affordable option for drivers or locksmiths who don’t need a scan tool’s functions. 

I make sure that after reading this guide, you will find a suitable one for your car key.

Choose the type you want and go with me!!

Best universal key programmers for all cars/trucks

Top 3 universal key programmers comparison chart

vvdi
VVDI - Editor's Pick
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Autek ikey820
Autek Ikey820
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ck-100
CK-100
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Customer Rating
4
3.9
4
Pricevvdi priceautek ikey820 priceck-100 price
Transponder key programming
Key fob chip programming
Erasing key
Programming a key
when all keys lost
ConnectionWiredWiredBluetooth
Vehicle CoverageCars, SUVs, light trucks,
minivans, HD trucks
Cars, SUVs, light trucks,
minivans, HD trucks
Cars, SUVs, light trucks,
minivans, HD trucks

Best universal auto key programmer: Autek Ikey820, VVDI, or CK100?

Transponder key programming

Transponders were introduced in the late 1990s to improve car security. This involved embedding chips in the car keys, which emit signals to communicate with your car IMMO system. The car will never start if an incorrect signal sequence is received, even if you can flick the mechanical switch on the ignition.

Replacing car keys with transponders has since become a problem, requiring advanced car key programmers. Autek Ikey820, VVDI, and CK100 are all having this capability. With any of them, you can program transponder keys in just a few steps. All of them have a compact and lightweight design, making them portable.

If you need a car key programmer for personal use, a cheaper VDDI is recommended. But if you are a locksmith, go for a more advanced Autek Ikey820, even if you have to pay more for it.

VVDI

epsoak epsom salt 5 lb

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Autek Ikey820

Rating

Key fob chip programming

Key fobs are small remotes that can be used for opening car doors, trunks, and even igniting engines. If you need to pair such keyless devices to your car IMMO systems, you need a reliable universal key programmer. With the right choice of this tool, you can program a key fob to work with many car models.

Autek Ikey820, VVDI, and CK100 all have this functionality. You will only be limited by what you have on the budget. Also, the intended use of the car key fob programmer tool. For locksmiths who need more than just key fob programming, we recommend Autek ikey820. Do you need anything cheaper and portable for personal use? CK100 key fob programmer is your answer.

VVDI
VVDI All-car Key Programmer
4
VVDI key programmer is equally versatile but is more affordable. If you are limited on the budget but still desire to buy a key maker with such functionalities, this is an appropriate choice.

Erasing key

Erasing the car key involves removing its data from your car IMMO system. For this to work, the chosen car key programmer should access this information and delete it.

Autek ikey820 is a great choice if you need a more versatile key programmer with more functions
With Autek ikey820, users can easily erase a car key.

Erasing a car key is crucial when you lose all keys. It is necessary to curb unauthorized access to your car. You can perform it with any of the car key programmers on our list. However, if you need a more versatile key programmer with more functions, Autek ikey820 is the best choice.

Autel Ikey820
Autek Ikey820 Professional Auto Key Programmer
3.9
Given the versatility, Autek Ikey820 is recommended for locksmiths. However, nothing is stopping you from buying it for personal use.

Programming a key when all keys lost

Some key programmers require at least one of the keys that came with your car to duplicate it or program other keys. Such programmers will not work in a situation where all keys are lost. The only way out of this problem is to buy a car key programmer that can read the IMMO system information.

Autek Ikey820, CK100, and VVDI key programmers can all read car key information from your car memories and use it to program new keys. This can be done in about two minutes. You can choose any of these programmers depending on your other needs.

CK-100
CK-100 Cheap Universal Auto Key Programmer
4
CK100 auto key programmer is the most affordable product on this list. This does not mean it is less effective since it can perform all programming functions as other products here. It is compact and portable, appropriate for both car owners and locksmiths.

Vehicle Coverage

Autek Ikey820 can program car keys from different manufacturers from America, Europe, and Asia. It covers car models up to those manufactured in 2017. CK 100 key programmer also supports a wide range of vehicles but is limited to vehicles manufactured in 2014 and below. VVDI can support some car models made in 2019, but you should check with your supplier before purchasing.

For a locksmith dealing with newer car models, Autek Ikey820 is a preferred choice. But if you have to deal with cars made after 2017, you can consider the VVDI key programmer to be the best option.

Autek Ikey820

epsoak epsom salt 5 lb

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VVDI

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Best OBD2 scanners with key programming

Some key programmers do more than just what their names suggest. This category of products has OBD2 diagnostic functions that can help you read your car’s engine status and operating conditions. You can also detect errors, clear error codes, and reset the data.  

Top 3 OBD2 scanners with key programming tool comparison chart

launch crp429c
Launch CRP429C - Editor's Pick
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autel mk808
Autel MK808
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launch crp909e
Launch CRP909E
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Customer Rating
4.5
4.6
4.3
Price range$250-$350$450-$550$450-$550
Full OBD2 functions
Key programming abilities
Advanced system DiagnosticsAll systemsAll systemsAll systems
No. of advanced
service functions
112516
Vehicle coverage
Cars, light trucks,
SUVs, HD trucks
Cars, light trucks,
SUVs, HD trucks
Cars, light trucks,
SUVs, HD trucks

Best OBD2 scanner with key programming: MK808, CRP909E, or CRP429C?

Key programming ability

All these key programmers are at par when it comes to car key programming capability. You can use them to deactivate lost keys and duplicate car keys when all keys are lost. They are a complete tool for car key programming. Whether you are a car/truck owner, dealer, or locksmith, these tools are essential.

Launch CRP909E key programmer offers you the most affordable option. Therefore, recommended to those that do not have to deal with many different models. However, you need to inquire and confirm that your vehicle is supported before buying.

launch crp429c
Launch CRP429C Auto Scan Tool with Key Programming
4.7
Launch CRP429C is a pocket-friendly scan tool you can use for performing the most crucial car diagnostic functions and key programming. You can choose this if you are low on budget.

OBD-II diagnostic functions

Apart from reading and clearing fault codes, these devices can perform other OBD-II diagnostic functions. They can display live data, freeze data frames, perform IMMO functions, and monitor other car systems.

Fortunately, Autel MK808, Launch CRP909E, and Launch CRP429C can perform all the mentioned OBD-II diagnostic functions. Launch CRP909E is preferred if you are a professional mechanic dealing with car system diagnostics and key programming on a regular basis. If you just need an affordable product for personal use, then we recommend buying Launch CRP429C.

autel mk808
Autel MK808 vehicle diagnostic tool with key programming
4.6
Autel MK808 is one of the most versatile car diagnostic tool with key programming functions in the market. It has all the features you would expect of a product within this price range, making it ideal for every car owner or mechanic

Advanced system diagnostics

System diagnostics should be done accurately for the smooth operation of the car. These vehicle diagnostic tools can help you monitor the fuel system, engine light, communication and entertainment system, transmission system, etc.

If you need a versatile car key programmer that will allow you to perform all these functions, go for Launch CRP429C. This is a complete tool designed to meet your every need.  

launch crp429c
Launch CRP429C Auto Scan Tool with Key Programming
4.7
Launch CRP429C is a pocket-friendly scan tool you can use for performing the most crucial car diagnostic functions and key programming. You can choose this if you are low on budget.

Advanced service functions

Beside key programming, vehicle diagnostic devices can reset many system parameters. On the list, we have oil count reset, battery registration and reset, service mileage reset, steering angle reset, etc. Autel MK808, Launch CRP909E, and Launch CRP429C have all these capabilities. This means your choice will be limited by your budget and other features you need.

Launch CRP909E performs all the functions you can think of as a car diagnostic tool with key programmer, which is for all experienced car DIY-ers or mechanics.
With the complete package, Launch CRP909E is a useful key programmer for every car owner or mechanic who can benefit from its many features. 

Launch CRP909E is a complete package that we recommend to every car owner or mechanic who can benefit from its many features. 

launch crp909e
Launch CRP909E Car Scan Tool with Key Programming
4.5
Launch CRP909E performs all the functions you can think of as a car diagnostic tool with key programmer. It is a complete product for all experienced car DIY-ers or mechanics.

Vehicle coverage

All the products listed here have support for wide vehicle brands and models. What you buy will depend on the intended use. As an auto mechanic/technician who interacts with many different models, both new and old, we recommend Launch CRP909E. 

Autel MK808Launch CRP909ELaunch CRP429C
Acura, Audi, Benz, BMW, Bugatti, Bentley, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Euroford, Ford, Gm, Holden, Honda, HyundaiAbarth, Acura, Alfa Romeo, Audi, BMW, Bugatti, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Citroen, Dacia, Daewoo, Daihatsu, Dodge, Euroford, Fiat, Ford, GM, Gmsa, Honda, HyundaiACURA, Alfa Romeo, Audi, BMW, BUGATTI, Chrysler, Citroen, DACIA, Daewoo, Euroford, Fiat, Ford, GM, Gmsa, Honda, Hyundai
Infiniti, Isuzu, Jaguar, Kia, Land Rover, Lexus, Maybach, Mazda, Mini, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Opel, PorscheInfiniti, Isuzu, Jaguar, Jeep, Kia, Lancia, Landrover, Lexus, Lincoln, Mahindra(Indian), Maruti(Indian), Maserati, Mazda, Mercedes, Mini, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Nissan, Opel, Peugeot, PorscheInfiniti, Isuzu, Jaguar, Kia, Lancia, Landrover, Lexus, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercedes, Mini, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Opel, Peugeot, Porsche
Seat, Skoda, Saab, Scion, Smart, Sprinter, Subaru, Suzuki, Toyota, Vauxhall, Volkswagen, Volvo, etc.Renault, Renault Samsung, Saab, Seat, Skoda, Smart, Sprinter, Ssangyong, Subaru, Suzuki, Tata(Indian), Tlisuzu, Toyota, Vauxhall, Volvo, VW, VAZ, etc.Renault, SAAB, SAMSUNG, Seat, Skoda, Smart, Sprinter, Suballu, Suzuki, Tlisuzu,SAAB, Toyota,Vauxhall,Volvo, VW, etc.

Final Thoughts

Finding the most reliable car key programmers in the market is an overwhelming task. We presented all the features that you should be looking for and offered our recommendations. If looking for a vehicle diagnostic tool with OBD2 functions, we would recommend Launch CRP429C. It is compatible with many vehicle models manufactured between the year 1996 and 2020.

Locksmiths, however, need a key programmer that is not overly complicated. VVDI is the recommended choice because of its affordability yet can perform as many key programming functions as other devices.

Key programmer guide

What can I do with a key programmer?

Most key programmers will offer various features, from merely programming new keys to replacing all the keys and resetting the vehicle’s security systems. The most common features include:

  • Add a key/ new key programming. This function allows you to create a new key for the car from a blank, without deactivating the existing keys.
  • Reset/relearn keys. If your existing keys have malfunctioned, this function helps reset them back to their original operation. 
  • New remote control programming. Remote controls and key fobs can be programmed to work with your vehicle using this function. 
  • Key cloning. This feature makes a copy of an existing key by cloning its information into a blank. 
  • Read keys from IMMO memory. With this function, you can generate new keys straight from the vehicle memory. It allows you to make replacements even if you’ve lost the originals. 
  • All keys replaced. If you don’t have any of the original keys, this function allows you to generate a whole new set. Doing so will also deactivate the old ones.
  • PIN code reading. The PIN associated with your IMMO system is stored in your vehicle’s computer memory. With this feature, you can retrieve the PIN and use it to make new keys or remotes. 
  • Reset immobilizer. This function helps reset the vehicle’s security system, troubleshoot problems, or get the system to recognize new keys. 
  • Program immobilizer. IMMO programming gives you more in-depth control over the vehicle’s electronic security, allowing you to alter the parameters or even deactivate them.

What to consider before buying a key programmer?

Types of Key Programmer

Car key programmers are broadly classified into Universal key programmers (for all cars) and Key programmers with OBD2 diagnostic functions (2in1). What do they offer, and how do they differ?

Universal key programmer (for all cars/trucks)

As the name suggests, a universal key programmer can program keys for all cars. It can allow you to duplicate your car key, reset keys, clone keys, replace keys, program and reset immobilizers, among others. Compared to a car key programmer with OBD2 diagnostic functions, universal key programmers are cheaper.

Key programmer with OBD2 diagnostic functions (2in1)

Apart from the features offered by the universal key programmer, they also provide OBD2 diagnostic functions. These key programmers can read and clear error codes and can also allow you to view freeze frames, live data, and other helpful information from your car engine. Due to these additional capabilities, these auto diagnostic tools are more expensive.

How much should I pay? – $100-$500

Generally, how much you pay for a car key programming tool will be dependent on which features you need to have included. You can break the tools down into three broad price ranges:

$100-$250: These tools will only program new keys from the vehicle’s memory or deactivate old keys you no longer have. They’re a budget-friendly option for both car owners and locksmiths and are typically simple and straightforward in their operation.

Recommendation: VVDI Cheap Key Programmer for All Cars/Trucks

VVDI
VVDI All-car Key Programmer
4
VVDI key programmer is equally versatile but is more affordable. If you are limited on the budget but still desire to buy a key maker with such functionalities, this is an appropriate choice.

$250-$500: Auto key programmers in this price range tend to combine the key/key fob programming abilities with an OBD2 scan tool’s full diagnostic functions. Intermediate to advanced home mechanics may find them a good value if you plan to make other repairs. They don’t usually go beyond the functions of less expensive ones when it comes to key/key fob programming abilities, so they don’t offer any more significant value to locksmiths.

Recommendation: Launch CRP429C OBD2 Scan Tool with Key Programming

launch crp909e
Launch CRP429C Auto Scan Tool with Key Programming
4.7
Launch CRP429C is a pocket-friendly scan tool you can use for performing the most crucial car diagnostic functions and key programming. You can choose this if you are low on budget.

Types of car key and their replacement cost

Six main types of car key and their replacement cost
There are six main types of car key. Among them, replacing a master key can cost more than the vehicle is worth.

Traditional key

The traditional key is the manual metal key that cars have used since their invention. Since there are no electronic components, they don’t require any coding. A copy can be made by cutting a blank to the correct shape to fit the lock and ignition. The blanks only cost about $3-$10. Some locksmiths will also charge for labor, but even so, it’s the cheapest option to replace

Master key

You won’t see master keys often in modern vehicles. They typically came with older cars that used traditional keys and were not designed to be used. Instead, they exist as a template off of which to make additional copies. 

Replacing a master key can cost hundreds of dollars. If you’re buying an older used car, check the manual to see if it should have a master key. In some cases, the entire engine management system needs to be replaced if the master key has been lost, which can cost more than the vehicle is worth.

Transponder key

In use since the mid-’90s, transponder keys are metal but have a chip in the handle. The transponder is activated when the key is in the ignition, disabling the car’s IMMO processes and allowing it to start. 

Copying a transponder key costs around $40 to $100. If it’s lost, you’ll pay about $150-$250 to replace it, depending on whether you go through a locksmith or a dealership. The most expensive transponder keys are rolling code keys. They’re more secure and more challenging to reproduce and can cost $500 or more to replace. 

Switchblade key

These keys have a traditional metal component that folds into a plastic fob, similar to how a switchblade knife works. Replacements usually cost between $200 and $300, though it’s less if you only need to replace the shank (usually around $75-$100).

Valet key

These keys will unlock the doors and start the car but won’t open the trunk and limit functions in other ways. The style of the car key will determine how much it costs to copy or replace. 

Smart key

The most advanced keys in use, smart keys, let you turn the car on by pushing a button as long as they’re within your vehicle’s range. These keys can be some of the most expensive to replace because you can only get them through your dealership. If it’s lost, expect to pay anywhere from $200 to $400 for a replacement. 

What is car key programming?

The chips in transponder keys and smart keys are programmed to interact with the specific vehicle they’re associated with. The car key programming process is done at the factory when your car is first sent out or at the dealership when you go in to get a key replacement or copy.

Car key programming devices allow you to sync new keys with a vehicle rather than going to a dealership to have it done. Since it uses information taken directly from the vehicle’s computer to create a unique key that will only operate that vehicle, it’s just as secure as having a new one made by a professional.  

How to use a car key programmer

how to use a car key programmer
These are four steps you should do to use a car key programmer but the first thing you’ll need to do is get a blank key that works with your vehicle

The first thing you’ll need to do is get a blank key that works with your vehicle. You can order these online from your vehicle manufacturer for much less than you’ll pay to have a key made. 

The exact process of using a key programmer varies depending on the tool and what kind of locking system your vehicle uses. Most tools you buy will walk you through the process, either with an on-screen wizard or in the repair manual.

Generally, you start by plugging the programming tool into the diagnostic port, then choosing your vehicle’s make and model from the menu. It will show you the password or pin code for the vehicle’s IMMO system to program this into the new key. Many of these tools can also remotely turn on the ignition, a beneficial feature for programming new smart keys for keyless ignition systems.

FAQs

1. Can I Program A Car Key Myself?

You absolutely can! You’ll need to have the master key on-hand with some key makers to do so, but more sophisticated models can read keys from the vehicle itself. Expect to spend a bit more generally if you need this level of functionality. 

2. Can Bluedriver program keys?

No. Bluedriver can only perform OBD2 functions and main systems diagnotics.

3. What scan tool can program keys?

A lot of OBD2 scan tools can program auto key. Autel MK808 and DS808, Launch CRP Touch PRO Elite, LAUNCH Scanner CRP909X, Autel MS906BT, Launch X431 V PRO just to name a few.

4. What do locksmiths use to program keys?

Automotive locksmiths use an array of specialized equipment to program new keys for vehicles. These include transponder programming and cloning devices and code machines that allow them to read and duplicate pin codes and passwords for vehicle security systems. 

5. How much does it cost to program a key?

That depends on your vehicle and the locksmith you go with. Generally, rekeying a car costs somewhere between $50 and $300. 

6. How long does it take to program a key fob?

Not very long at all. Using an auto key programming tool, you can typically program a key fob in 15-30 minutes. 

7. What scan tool can program keys?

There are a few different options out there. The XTool X100 is one of the most affordable scan tools with IMMO programming and reset functions and new key and remote programming. If you need more professional features, the Xtool X100 PAD also supports a range of repair functions like EPB calibration and battery reset, in addition to basic diagnostics and key programming. 

You’ll find some key/key fob programming abilities on the majority of professional-level scan tools. An excellent example of this is the Autel MaxiPRO MP808K, which includes advanced features like bi-directional control and new key programming.

Read More: Tim’s Review of the Best TPMS Programmers

2 thoughts on “6 Best auto key programmers 2021: Never buy it before reading this guide [updated]”

  1. Hi Tim. It is very helpful for me. I am planning to buy OBDII with key programming. Thank you for your professional information.

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