By Tom Krisher, AP Auto Writer
DETROIT (AP) — As the little computer inside your car key becomes more sophisticated, buying a spare is a good way to save money in case your key goes missing.
Newer cars won't start unless they read a signal from the key, making it difficult for thieves to hot-wire and steal your ride. But those keys also can be expensive.
Normally you get two sets of keys with a new car. Older vehicles, mostly before the mid to late 1990s, came with simple metal keys that you could duplicate at the local hardware store for a few bucks.
After that, automakers began making the keys bigger and installing computer chips. Keys had a separate fob, that dangling plastic device, to unlock doors or the trunk.
But more automakers are starting to combine the fob and the key, putting the unlock buttons on the plastic part of the key. And as the keys get more complex to stay ahead of crooks, they are becoming more expensive to lose.
Think it can't happen to you? Dealers and locksmiths say people frequently lose one, or even two of their keys. It can cost more than $1,000 to replace both on some models. So it's a good idea to get a third as soon as you buy a new car.