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What to Do If You Lose Your Car Keys

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Last updated: 26/04/2022 | Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Losing your car keys can be a nuisance, especially if you need to get somewhere fast. Whether they were misplaced or stolen, you need to act quickly as you don't want thieves getting their hands on your vehicle. This guide explains what to do if you find yourself in the unfortunate event of not being able to find your keys. We will also give you some advice and tips on how to avoid losing your car keys in the first place.

In This Guide:

When you realise you have lost your keys

According to the RAC, around 16 million drivers regularly misplace their keys. If you lose your keys or they are stolen, you may be covered by your insurer, but if a family member or friend loses them, it’s unlikely that your insurer will pay the costs.

If they have been stolen, you must report the crime to the police and get a crime reference number in order to make a claim with your insurer. If you leave your keys in the ignition and your car is stolen, your insurer will not cover you. Lying to your insurer and saying that they have been stolen is fraud.

Making a claim on your car insurance policy

If your car key is lost or stolen, you may be able to claim for the cost of a replacement on your insurance policy. Some car insurance deals include key cover as standard in their insurance policies, so check whether this cover is part of your policy. Third-party, fire and theft insurance policies do not normally include this cover.

A comprehensive car insurance policy usually includes altering the engine control unit and alarms (which will need to be reprogrammed if your keys are stolen). Some pay over £1,500 to cover these costs. Depending on the policy, some providers even organise taxis to retrieve your spare set of keys and/or provide a car until a new set is made which can take up to 10 days. Some insurers may honour your no claims bonus, meaning you can save money on your premium. However, if it does affect your no claims bonus, it may be more cost-effective to replace them yourself in the long run. You can compare car insurance deals with key cover on our website. If your insurer refuses to pay, you can challenge the decision for free with the Financial Ombudsman.

Make sure to check your policy as some insurers only cover for lost and stolen keys with an upgraded policy or as an add-on. In some cases, there is no excess to pay. Car key cover, as part of your policy or as an add-on, covers the cost of replacing and reprogramming your keys, and can also pay for replacing the locks and immobiliser which is necessary if you suspect your keys have been stolen.

Claim on a ‘key cover’ policy separate from your insurance

Key cover exists as a stand-alone policy from companies such as KeyCare. Like insurance, the cover can range from key replacement to car hire in case you are stranded and cannot drive your car as you have lost your keys. Check the policy carefully, as some state that keys must be lost for a certain period of time before you can use the cover.

What to do if you’ve locked your keys in the car

If you’ve managed to lock your keys inside the car, most breakdown services (as long as you have a policy with them) will get you back in your car at no extra cost. If the team cannot open the car, they can arrange for a locksmith to assist, which you may need to pay for. If these options don’t work, they’ll take your car to a garage for further help and sort out transport for you and your passengers.

You may be covered for the cost of recovering your spare key, depending on the policy. Some premium breakdown packages cover retrieving a spare key from your home and getting it to you, which saves damaging the lock.

Buying a new set of keys

Buying a new set of keys usually costs between £200 and £500, mainly because of the programming and re-coding needed to enable the keys to work with your car. This can involve controlling the alarms, keyless entry and remote locking. Due to technological advancements, car keys can be fitted with immobilisers, programming chips and ignition software. While this improves the car security, it can also increase the problems when issues arise. These factors determine how much replacement keys will cost, as well as the vehicle make, model, year of registration and edition, and even geographic location of the dealer.

According to KeyCare (2018), the average price for replacing Audi A3 keys are £263.20, Ford Fiesta is £249.97, and Range Rover is £277.88. You may have to wait 5-10 days to collect a replacement, depending on the car model, type of key needed and the outlet. If you are getting replacement keys, you’ll need to take your vehicle registration document and driving licence as proof that you are the owner of the car.

5 tips to avoid losing your keys

Here are our top tips to help you avoid losing your keys, and thus protect your car from theft.

1. Get a spare car key cut on the high street – you could save money by getting your keys cut at high street cutters instead of buying directly from the dealer. There are also online locksmith companies that you could use. This means that you’ll have a spare key if you lose it. It’s often a cheaper option because locksmiths purchase blank car keys in bulk at a much lower rate and have lower operating costs than dealer franchises.

2. Don’t leave your keys unattended when out and about and keep them out of sight in your home (to avoid them being stolen in a potential burglary).

3. When you buy a car from a dealership or private seller, ask for two sets of keys.

4. If you need to give them to a mechanic, only give them the necessary keys.

5. It’s quite obvious but don’t put all your keys on the same keyring – if you lose one, you lose them all!

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