A complicated insurance case hit my desk the other week. Sadly (or possibly thankfully) they were not insured with Brentacre at this time but rather a friend of a friend asking for advice about their own insurer.

Vans are popular with surfers and outdoors enthusiasts, you can throw your boards and bikes in the back without worrying about roof racks and straps, and if you staying out late you can even smuggle in a couple of beers, camping stove and a rock ‘n’ roll bed. Brentacre’s modified van insurance policies allow for all manner of modifications so we have all sorts of private vans with a myriad of uses.

Back to the case above, this particular van was owned by Bob (that’s not his real name) and Bob is is an avid surfer, he bought his van on finance and was having a great time with it. Bob wasn’t keen on taking his electronic key into the water, and there was nowhere safe to store it outside his van.

To solve this problem, Bob invested in a key safe similar to the one on the right (actual brand and model unknown). It locks securely to the van’s tow ball and is openable only with the combination… or so Bob thought.

As it turns out, some boxes like those pictured can be opened by repeated hard blows with a blunt heavy object. Angle grinders can also be effective. Bob is in the water, the thief had plenty of time and didn’t need to worry about the noise. If anyone asks, it’s his own van.

Bob finished his session, came back to the beach car park with nothing but his board and wetsuit… but there was no van. Not only was the van gone, but so were his clothes, phone, wallet and other belongings. Bob’s van was found a couple of days later burnt out and unsalvagable, it was a total loss case.

But there was worse news to come. Bob’s insurance policy clearly states that the key must not be kept in or on the vehicle and as such the insurance company are not going to pay him a penny!

Your key is an integral part of your van’s security, if insurance companies allowed this type of storage, they would open themselves up to endless avoidable claims, and this would put van premiums up across the board. The rule is there to protect both the insurers and the owners.

So how can I keep my car or van key safe and insured when I’m in the sea?

The only safe way is to keep your key on your person at all times. For electronic remote-locking keys, this is rarely possible. You can purchase waterproof pouches, although one very effective alternative used by our own staff here is a waterproof key without the electronics. There’s no remote locking or unlocking function so it is just a standard key and immobiliser chip with nothing to damage. Simply tie on a lanyard or boot lace, wear it under your wetsuit and you know it’s safe. It doesn’t matter when it gets wet, knocked or tugged (unlike a plastic bag). You’ll then always have your key about your person protecting your van, investment, assets and insurance.

As day and camper vans become more popular, thefts are on the rise. Surfing unfortunately vans make great targets and more get stolen every week.

Always read your policy documents in full, even if after you’ve taken the policy out. Make sure you understand what is and isn’t covered. If you want to try something new whether key safes, modifications etc. check your policy wording to make sure they are covered properly. This way you can avoid potential pitfalls and make sure you never end up out of pocket.