Many locksmiths are focused on commercial and residential locksmithing. That is all well and good but to ignore the automotive sector doesn't make sense.
The demand for automotive locksmiths is ever increasing. More and more cars use transponder keys today. In addition, remote head keys, smart and prox key remotes are slowly becoming the norm. Cutting and programming are very lucrative for practicing locksmiths.
We asked a local locksmith about their business. 40% residential, 35% commercial, 25% automotive. One-fourth of their business comes from the automotive sector. It breaks down like this: 60% Mobile (mostly lockouts but also an auto auction one day per week,) 60% in shop. If they were to ignore the 25% of their business that came from automotive work they would be making significantly less money. Now imagine how much money you are losing by not doing automotive work.
The clever argument against branching into automotive would seem to be the cost of equipment and the time to learn new methods. While it is true that there is a lot of expensive equipment out there, the truth is that you don't need most of it unless you are doing a ton of automotive work. You can handle most applications with low-end equipment. Most keys can be cut with a standard duplicator. Only about 15% of keys are high security (though that number is slowly increasing.) That leaves you with the ability to cut most keys. All GM keys are onboard programmable and many others too. Also, 80% of keyless remotes can be programmed without equipment.
Depending on the number of keys and remotes you find yourself programming it may pay to get an MVP or Tcode scan tool to handle those models which require scan tool programming. The MVP is needed if you program 5 or fewer times per week. The Tcode is needed if you program 5 or more times per week. When I say needed I mean justified by the cost of the equipment. You can charge whatever you want for programming. It seems like $40 to $50 is average. At $50 you can pay for an MVP after only 30 cars.
Before jumping into automotive fully with an MVP or Tcode, you may want to just get a key cloner like the quickcode or RW4 to ease your way into automotive. The cloning keys cost more but you can handle most applications fairly easily with a low equipment cost.
The number one reason locksmiths who do automotive don't do as much as they can is because they don't try. The local locksmith I mentioned above (who has 25% of business from automotive and 60% was in the shop) does not actively upsell at all. I've been working with them to improve this. I spent 6 hours in their shop recently. There were 3 customers during that time who came in to get their car keys duplicated.
The first had a non-transponder key. They charged $10 for the key and cutting. They were about to let the customer leave when I asked if the customer needs an additional keyless entry remote. I sold the shop the remote for $30 and the shop sold the remote to the customer for $45 plus $40 for programming. They were about to let the customer leave without making an easy $55.
The second customer had no keyless entry on his vehicle (he had power door locks and no remote to compare to but a quick call to the dealer parts department with the VIN let me know the vehicle was not rke equipped.) The third customer has a regular transponder key on his camry but the customer didn't even know he should have a remote head key. The customer just came in for a new regular transponder key. I suggested they go with the remote head key and the customer agreed but still wanted the regular transponder key too. I sold the shop the rhk for $90. They sold the part to the customer for $180 programmed. The shop already had the chipkey. Total profit on this customer was $87. The customer still saved about $60 from going to the dealer.
So in the 6 hours I was there I personally showed them that just asking the customer to add a remote or additional key to their order will generate added profits. Try it. You'll be surprised how easy it is to make more money.