Modern car keys are no longer just pieces of stamped metal which unlock doors and start the ignition. They now contain programmed chips which remotely unlock the doors and operate the alarm, immobiliser and ignition. As a consequence, replacing, reprogramming and recoding keys and locks can be lengthy and expensive.

 A review of 237 comprehensive car insurance policies by Gocompare.com found that:

Policies covering lost or stolen keys generally cover the costs (up to the sum insured) of locksmith charges, new locks and replacement keys. Some policies also cover car hire charges and transportation of your car to the nearest repairer. Policies also differed in their approach to whether claims impacted on a driver’s no claims discount and whether an excess would be applied.

Lost keys – Half of policies provide cover for lost keys as standard, 28% only provide cover as an optional extra for which an additional fee is charged, while 22% don’t provide any cover at all. Of those covering lost keys, pay-outs varied widely (£100 to unlimited) but most provide between £500 and £1,500 of cover.

Theft of keys – most (87%) policies provide cover as standard but 10% only provide cover as a policy add-on while 3% don’t provide any cover. There is also a wide variation in the level of cover on offer with some policies only paying-out £100, but most offer cover of £500 or above

Where lost/stolen key cover was available as a policy add-on costs ranged from between £12 and £26.50.

Theft of an unattended car where keys were left in or on the vehicle – the majority (97%) of policies exclude cover for theft of a car where the keys were either left in or on an unoccupied vehicle. For example, most insurers would refuse to pay a theft claim if you had parked your car on a garage forecourt and left it unlocked with the keys in the ignition, while you went into the kiosk to pay for your fuel. Only seven policies don’t have a ‘keys in the car’ exclusion.

Gocompare.com’s motor insurance spokesman, Matt Oliver, said: “Today, losing your car keys tends to require a great deal more than a quick trip to a local locksmith. The use of smart technology in keys and other keyless devices means that for some vehicles, the only way to get a replacement is through the manufacturer – which can be both time-consuming and expensive.”

Research by Gocompare.com found costs for replacement keys for the top ten best selling cars in September 2014**

Ford Fiesta Range between around £200 to £150

Ford Focus Range Between around £220 to £150

VW Golf Around £180

Vauxhall Corsa Around £150

VW Polo Around £180

Fiat 500 Around £180

Vauxhall Astra Around £175

Audi A3 Range between £220 and £250

Peugeot 208 Around £180

Nissan Qashqai Range between £150 and £220

Matt Oliver continued: “When it comes to key cover on your car insurance the devil really is in the detail. Many key cover policies are an added extra on your car insurance, and some may charge you an excess, as they do with a damaged windscreen, while others may not. Also if you do claim for a lost or stolen key, it is unlikely to affect your no claims bonus, but as always it is worth checking your policy details for full peace of mind.

“Check your policy documents to see what the excess is for a lost car key, check with your car manufacturer how much a replacement would cost, and make a judgement call on which is best for you and your circumstances.

“Key insurance is often included in comprehensive car insurance policies or is available as a top-up for an additional premium. But, cover varies considerably between policies – so it’s important that you read the terms and conditions to see what you are and aren’t covered for – and generally speaking, policies won’t cover claims that exceed the market value of your car.

“So take good care of your car keys and protect them from accidental loss and opportunistic thieves. Treat them like you would any other valuable – don’t put your name, address or registration details on the key fob; when out and about, don’t leave them unattended in your bag or jacket pocket and, make sure your keep your spare key in a safe place indoors – don’t leave it in the glove-box.”