My old friend Ken Waterford rang me yesterday. Ken and Lynee and their two boys, Wylie and Carl, farm wheat on an 810ha property near Come By Chance (pop: 187 when Ken rang) in northern NSW. “John, Wylie is in more trouble than a three-legged frog in a snake pit.”

“Ken,” I said, ”he’s a 24-year-old boy, they’re always in trouble. What’s he done?”

“He lost both keys to our 2013 Hilux and I had to put it on a tabletop and send it 350km to the Toyota dealer in Dubbo. Then the mechanics had to pull the locks out of the door, pull out the dashboard, put in a new computer and put a new lock on the steering column. And it cost me $2440 without the cost of getting it there.”

I told Ken that for the same price he could buy a very clean 1984 4×4 Hilux with only 320,000km on the clock.

Ken and the rest of the good folk around Coonamble, Narrabri and Walgett have been doing it tough lately. Just like the drought that’s killing 80 per cent of Queensland, three years with no meaningful rain mean it’s more than three years since local farmers have had any income. This year’s crop will be the last roll of the dice for many. “I’ve been on a farm here for 60 years and I’ve never seen it as dry,” says Ken. So forking out $2500 for a truck that spends most of it time in the paddocks away from sophisticated car thieves is pretty cruel.

Of course, Ken’s not on his Pat Malone. The son of one Mazda BT-50 owner who shall remain nameless (but writes this column) also misplaced his keys. The Mazda dealer quoted me $500 for a new one and I’d have to pay for the tow there. Lucky I found Jackson from On Time Locksmiths, who came over and replaced the key in 10 minutes for $350.

Choice magazine’s Kate Browne did a great expose on car keys last year (click here to open in a new tab). She shadow shopped for replacement keys for 11 popular models at dealerships in NSW and South Australia and found the cost of a single replacement key ranged from $267 to $740. “While the cost of a single replacement key is high, if you lose all the keys to your car the costs and time off the road will increase significantly if the car’s computer has to be reset or completely replaced to match the new replacement keys. We were quoted from $1800 to more than $5000 for work done on various models of cars, during which time the owner would have no keys to the vehicle to get it back on the road,” Browne wrote.

The bottom line is, expect to pay an average of $700 for a new key. But it’s also clear some dealers think new car owners are entitled to only one key. They expect buyers to pay for a second key. Keyless cars are just as bad. Choice reports people being locked in their car, unable to get out, and electronic keys that simply don’t work for hours until they feel like it.


Click here to read the rest at The Australian

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