AA advises car buyers to ensure they ask for two keys to prevent additional charges
If you buy a car and it only comes with one key, make sure you get a second key as part of the deal.
That is the advice of AA motoring services network support manager Philip Collings following recent controversy over people being charged up to $1400 for remote access keys.
Remote access keys, also known as proximity entry keys, transponder keys, keyless entry or key fobs technology, started coming into New Zealand in the 1990s.
"Be sure you get two keys. Ask for a second one as part of the (purchase) negotiation because they can be expensive to replace, so look after them," Collings said.
The costs of getting a second key have come to nationwide attention recently after Honda New Zealand refunded Geraldine man Dave Doy more than $1400 for a key he bought from Armstrong Honda in Timaru about 18 months ago.
Doy had been prompted to speak out after reading about Auckland man, Damian Funnell, who went to the Disputes Tribunal and was awarded a refund of $325.62 after paying $525 to replace a lost vehicle remote for his Toyota.
They're not the only ones.
Ashburton woman Lucia Talbot paid Armstrong (Honda) in Timaru $1400 but then also had to take her Dodge Journey to Christchurch twice to get the ignition changed due to a recall and had the key programmed there.
Paul Wright got his $800 plus GST car Subaru key from Armstrong Subaru in Christchurch.
Collings said $1400 was "a bit excessive". He could not say why the keys would cost that much.
"You would have to ask the manufacturers," he said.
He suggested $300-$500 was an approximate price five years ago and that may have reduced now.
In Funnell's case the Disputes Tribunal said the upper price the key might reasonably be supplied for was $200.
"All that is in the key is a little chip. You have to have the car to programme the key. The computer is in the car, not the key," Collings said.
The computer senses the chip is near, sends a signal and opens the car door, either automatically or when a button is pressed on a remote, he said.
If the owner has a proximity key in their pocket, they can press a button to start the ignition rather than inserting a key.
Now technology has advanced so a car owner can wave their foot under the car's rear bumper to open the tail gate or boot on a hatchback or SUV.
"It senses the movement of your foot. It has already sensed the key as you walk up to the car and waits for you to wave your foot under the bumper and gives (the car) a signal," Collings said.
If the chip was damaged, the car would not start.
"They are pretty robust. I don't know how much it takes to damage. We have never tried to destroy a key.
"Most of the time we deal with people that have lost their key."
Initially chipped keys were problematic in New Zealand.
"They came in with one key or were different to what we were seeing in New Zealand," Collings said.
"There were cars showing up with technology that hadn't reached our shores."
By the late 1990s or early 2000s, New Zealand had caught up with technology and had the same keys as Japan and European countries.
The keys were introduced for added security. Previously if a person knew the key number for a car parked in a driveway, they could get a key cut to enter the car and drive it away.
Collings said people had no choice now if buying a car.
"If you like old technology, you have to buy old cars," he said.
"You have to adapt to (new technology) and make sure you have a back up system or a spare key.
"I think technology has improved dramatically since they came out," he said.
Most new cars come with two keys but some imported cars may only have one.
"We would expect the dealer would arrange to get a second key," Collings said.
"If you have any concerns, ring the vehicle manufacturer dealership and ask the questions."