Does car insurance cover lost car keys?

If you're prone to misplacing your car keys, or want peace of mind in case they're stolen, car key cover could be a good bet.

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Losing your car keys can be stressful and frustrating, not to mention surprisingly expensive. Modern electronic key fobs are a whole lot more pricey to replace than traditional keys, so a simple bout of forgetfulness could cost more than you think. This guide explains when car insurance does and doesn’t cover lost car keys and what to do in order to get them replaced as soon as possible.

What is car key cover?

Also known as key insurance or key protection, car key cover can help with the cost of replacing your keys if they’re lost or stolen. It’s often sold alongside car insurance policies. Some comprehensive policies include it as standard. With others, it’s an optional extra.

Do I need car key cover?

As with all cover that’s sold as an optional extra, it’s really up to you. Often, it’s a case of weighing up the cost of cover against the likelihood of your key going AWOL and needing to shell out for a new one. If you’re especially absent-minded or butter-fingered (particularly around unhelpful drains), you may choose to play it safe and take out cover. Plus, no one can control for a fast-fingered thief lifting your set of keys.

The other thing to bear in mind is that modern car keys can be pretty sophisticated, offering fancy features such as hands-free entry to your car. This means that they can be a bit more complicated and time-consuming to replace. If you have key cover, it might include provision of a courtesy car until your new keys are ready.

How much does it cost to get a replacement car key if I don’t have key cover?

A whole lot more than it used to. Replacing old-school car keys was relatively cheap and easy. It was a simple matter of getting new keys cut to match the locks on your doors and ignition.

However, because modern keyless entry remotes are coded to match your car’s computer and anti-theft immobiliser, they’re much more difficult and therefore expensive to replace.

On average, the cost of replacing a single key fob and programming it is about £250. It can be lower or (much) higher, depending on your car’s make and model.

And, if your key was stolen, you may need additional work to your car to ensure that the stolen key no longer works with your security system. This can add to the cost.

Do all car insurance policies include key cover?

Sometimes key replacement is included if you have comprehensive car insurance. It’s unlikely to be included as standard if you only have more basic third party or third party, fire and theft cover.

But not even all comprehensive policies will cover lost car keys. Some will offer it as an optional extra and others won’t cover it at all.

If your policy does cover lost keys, you’ll be covered up to a specified limit for the cost of replacing the keys and, if necessary, recoding the locks on your vehicle.

How do I know if my car insurance policy includes key cover?

The quickest option if your filing system is in good order is to check your policy documents to find out whether your insurer provides any coverage.

If you can’t easily lay your hands on your policy documents, or it’s not clear from the small print, get in touch with your insurer to check.

Can I get key cover separately from my car insurance?

You can indeed. If the cost of adding key cover to your car insurance seems a bit steep, or your insurer simply doesn’t offer it (or enough cover), there are a couple of alternatives. These include the following:

  • Standalone key cover policies. A number of insurers offer dedicated policies designed to cover loss and theft of keys. You may also be able to wrap in cover for your house keys. Some policies require your keys to be attached to a fob they will send you. This may include an identification number in case someone finds your keys and lets the provider know.
  • Car breakdown cover. Some car breakdown policies – including those offered as a car insurance add-on – provide protection for lost car keys (or for locking your keys inside your car). Check the level of cover though. Some policies may cover the cost of getting your car back home (where hopefully you have a spare) or to a garage that can help but may not cover replacement costs.

What’s usually included in key cover policies?

Car insurance policies that cover lost or stolen keys will usually provide coverage for the cost of the following:

  • Replacing the keys
  • Recoding or replacing the car’s locks
  • Locksmith charges
  • If necessary, altering the car’s security systems (such as the engine control unit, alarm and immobiliser)

Bear in mind that while pretty much all car insurance with key cover will include stolen keys, not all will pay out if you simply lose your keys. Always check the details.

On a more positive note, some policies also cover the cost of public transport you need to take or even a courtesy car while the work is being done. They may also pay for the cost of getting your car home or to a garage if your keys go missing while you’re out and about.

It’s important to remember that cover limits apply to lost or stolen car key benefits. For example, many insurers will pay a maximum benefit. This may be enough to cover the cost of 1 replacement key but may not provide enough protection if you’ve lost both your electronic keys. And some won’t pay out for more than 1 replacement of a specific key per policy term.

Are there any car key cover exclusions?

Danny Butler

Finder insurance expert Danny Butler answers

We’re afraid so. The main one is usually that “reasonable care” clause that applies to theft claims across all types of insurance. So don’t leave your keys on a restaurant table while you nip to the loo. Or, worse still, in your car’s ignition while you pay for petrol.

And if your keys are stolen, you’ll need to report the theft to the police and get a crime reference number in order to make a successful claim.

Finally, gradual deterioration, or “wear and tear”, is typically excluded. If your key fob breaks apart because it’s just a bit old, for example, it won’t usually be covered.

How much does key cover cost?

If it’s not included in your car insurance policy as standard, you’re probably looking at around £20-30 a year to buy key cover as an add-on to your car insurance. A basic standalone policy is likely to be a similar amount. Some (pricier) policies also offer “smart fobs” to attach your keys to. These can help you locate your keys from your phone and, potentially, make it easier to recover them.

How can I get cheaper car key insurance?

  • Consider whether you really need it. If you drive an older car with a more basic set of keys, the cost of replacing them may not justify taking out key cover.
  • Get a car insurance policy that includes it. When you’re comparing car insurance quotes, check the details to see if they include key cover. But don’t assume policies that include cover will be the cheapest option. You may find opting for a cheaper car insurance policy and buying key cover as an add-on or standalone policy is best.
  • Check if an existing breakdown policy includes key cover. If so, check any limits or restrictions.
  • Shop around among standalone policies. If your car insurance policy doesn’t cover your keys, compare the cost and levels of cover among specialist providers. Many include house key cover too, meaning you’re essentially getting 2 for 1.

What is the excess for car key cover?

Many insurers apply no excess for car key cover, which is just as well as many standard car insurance excesses would be higher than the cost of a lost key claim. Don’t assume this is always the case though – as always, it’s best to check the small print.

What should I do if I lose my car keys?

Most new cars come with 2 electronic master keys that are programmed specifically for your vehicle. With this in mind, if you lose 1 of your keys, the safest (and most cost-effective) thing to do is to get it replaced as soon as possible.

This is because, if you have a spare, replacing a single lost key is a relatively simple and inexpensive process. Car dealers or auto locksmiths can clone your spare key to create a new one, with no need to change anything inside your car.

However, if you lose both master keys, the computer in your car that controls the locking system and immobiliser may need to be reset or replaced. This is significantly more expensive and time-consuming, so it pays to make sure that you always have a spare.

If you have key cover via your car insurer or a standalone policy, let the provider know as soon as possible. They can let you know how to go about resolving the issue (they may recommend a network of approved locksmiths, for example).

If you don’t have key cover, another important piece of advice to remember is to get several quotes for replacement key costs. While you could get it done by your local car dealer, it might be worth shopping around at a few auto locksmiths to see if they can offer a better deal.

What should I do if someone steals my car keys?

If someone has stolen your car keys, the first thing you should do is phone the police. This maximises the chances of getting your keys back and preventing your car from being stolen. It’ll also be essential if you need to make a claim with an insurer.

Before paying any claim for stolen car keys, an insurer will request proof of the theft in the form of a police report or crime number.

You should then notify your insurer as soon as possible to get the claims process started.

Whether you have insurance or not, get back to your car as soon as possible and arrange for an auto locksmith to come out (via your insurer or directly). If you have breakdown cover, you may be able to use it to get a tow home.

Pros and cons of key cover

Pros

  • Modern car keys can be expensive; key cover spares you the full cost of replacement
  • Could be well worth it if you’re prone to losing things
  • May be able to include house keys in cover too, particularly with standalone policies

Cons

  • May not be worth it if you have an older car with keys that are cheaper to replace
  • Payout limits may not cover the full replacement value of more expensive keys
  • Like most insurance, you won’t be covered if you haven’t taken “reasonable care” of your keys

Bottom line

Losing your car keys can put a damper on your plans for the day. Fortunately, you have options for getting into your car and for replacing your keys whether you’re covered through your insurance policy or need to find and pay for a locksmith or key replacement service yourself. If you frequently misplace your keys or want some extra protection in case it happens to you, compare car insurance providers who offer key replacement when you get quotes.

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