Storage key combination lockbox for a big key?
August 20, 2012 7:13 PM   Subscribe

What's a good storage key combination lockbox (the kind realtors/landlords sometimes attached to the front door of properties) that can accommodate a big rental car key fob?

I'm going on a car camping trip with some friends. We'd like to make it possible to generally keep the car locked, but allow everyone access when needed. Since we're renting the car, I'm not counting on being able to get a copy of the key for each person.

One suggestion I really like has been to keep the key in a combination lockbox that we could hang from, say, the car door. I'm thinking of something along the lines of this. Reading through the reviews of this and similar products, however, it seems like most of them aren't big enough to accommodate one of the gigantic remote/fob-style keys that all new vehicles seem to have. Additionally, it seems like all of them have a few reviews in the customer claims the lockbox simply wouldn't open after being used a certain number of times.

If anyone out there has had some experience with this style of lockbox, I'd really appreciate any insights or suggestions as to what might be a reliable option that could hold a big rental car key fob. Thanks!
posted by treepour to Shopping (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Put the fob in the ash tray and just put the key in the box.

We use one for our spare keys for when I lock myself out of the house. I use it all the time and it still works. I have no idea what brand it is, but it's made of metal. I recommend one in plastic if you don't want to scrape up the side of the car.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:25 PM on August 20, 2012

Best answer: I assume you're expecting that you'd hang this from the car door's handles. Car door handles aren't particularly sturdy -- a few good yanks would likely rip the box and the handle off. Hence, I'd think twice about hanging something like this to the door, because it's odd-looking enough to easily attract the attention of two sorts of undesirable folks:

1.) hooligans that will steal it for the sake thereof, and
2.) thieves that will steal it, take the lock box elsewhere to be broken into, then return to take the car.

Further, the sort of lock-box that you posted (the Master Lock 5400D) wouldn't stand a chance against even a mediocre pair of bolt cutters. No matter how you look at it, it's simply not a secure solution.

In my opinion, ou'd probably be better off attaining security through obscurity: use a magnetic box to hide the key on the chassis, under the car, or inside a wheel well. Alternatively, hide your locking box somewhere near the car, but not on the car.

@TooFewShoes: In my experience, rental car keys and fobs come on metal cord loops that are sealed closed. You cannot add or remove members from this loop, though you can thread a conventional keychain loop around it. Hence, ditching the fob probably isn't a possible solution, unless one wants to risk some sort of a fee associated with replacing the single-use metal loop.
posted by BrandonW at 7:41 PM on August 20, 2012

There are "hide a key" things that hid a key in the gas cap.
posted by oceano at 8:18 PM on August 20, 2012

We used the non-hanging version of the Master lock after we'd first bought our house and were renovating. Multiple contractors in and out for a period of a few months and the combination always worked. Now we use it for a spare key. It's pretty heavy duty and someone would have to spend quite a bit of time working on it to get it open (or steal it which we would notice). Unfortunately, I can personally attest to its sturdiness- a few months ago I forgot both my keys and the combination and I tried for a really long time to get into that sucker (with no luck).

As for size, I can fit a key, keyring, and small garage door opener in ours (with room to spare), but whether your future fob would fit would really depend on its thickness- a large portion of the inside of the box is taken up by the mechanics of the lock. I bought mine at Home Depot so if you live close to a store you can always check out their selection in person.
posted by eunoia at 8:49 PM on August 20, 2012

Response by poster: Not too worried about someone trying bolt cutters, but I can see the flaw in hanging from the door handles. If I were to lock it around something more solid and permanent than the door handle, is there one could accommodate the big key and be relatively reliable?

Also, regarding hiding via magnetic boxes, wouldn't most thieves know where to check for this sort of thing?
posted by treepour at 11:54 PM on August 20, 2012

Best answer: Also, regarding hiding via magnetic boxes, wouldn't most thieves know where to check for this sort of thing?

I think the chances of encountering a car thief in a campground are vanishingly small. You could probably leave the key sitting on the car's roof in plain sight and have no problems at all.

The only situation in which the key needs to be available to everyone is while the car is sitting at the campsite, right? Otherwise it's in the ignition as the car is being driven, or in someone's pocket while they are in the checkout line at a beer store. So just find some inconspicuous place in camp to keep it -- just inside the door of a tent, or in a cooler or a box of cooking utensils. You don't need to buy special equipment for this.
posted by jon1270 at 3:19 AM on August 21, 2012

Best answer: I have the exact same box that you've linked to, treepour, and it would definitely hold my entire keyring with carfob; it's surprisingly large inside.

As others have mentioned, it's not the most secure way of storing a key. But, really, this isn't about Fort Knox security, and just discouraging an opportunistic thief who sees an unlocked car and has thirty seconds to take off. Someone with five minutes wouldn't even bother with breaking into the lock-box; they could just steal the car itself. If you crawl under the front or back end of the vehicle, you'll probably see metal loops that are used for tying down or towing the vehicle, just inside of the bumper. You could hang the lockbox off one of those, which would also have the benefit of being more hidden than hanging from something on the outside of the car. If you have something larger than a car, like a minivan or SUV, there's probably a hitch-connector on the back, which would also be a sturdy place to hang the lock-box.

Or, if the campsite is the place that the car will be parked, so if somebody needs the key they'll need it until the vehicle is returned to the campsite, find someplace at the campsite to lock the key to -- a sturdy branch, a barbecue embedded in a concrete base, a bike-chain wrapped around a tree, etc.
posted by AzraelBrown at 5:55 AM on August 21, 2012

Best answer: Another vote for just hiding the key somewhere and saving yourself the trouble / cost. I thing security is the same, or even arguably higher, with obscurity as compared with a lockbox that will be easy enough to see and to break (with hammer or rock or bolt cutters).

ALso, regarding the annoying wire loop that keeps the key together with the fob with the rental car agency tag? A pair of pliers will cut this (if you bring a leatherman camping), or you can just twist the wire repeatedly at the point where it is clasped, and eventually one end of the wire will be torn out. I've done this many times, and I've never even been warned that it is a problem (though I do feel bad causing hassle for the car rental employee who has to put them back together). Re-collect on a ziptie or a standard key ring before returning the car if you want to be considerate.
posted by genug at 9:14 AM on August 21, 2012

Response by poster: This is all good advice. We ended up getting 2 keys, attached with that horrible rental-car-key wire.

A good pair of wire cutters took care of the wire problem, and we ended up stashing one key in a tent and the other in a magnetic box in the wheel well. There was no way anyone would have discovered either without a lot of diligence -- the tent key was in a specific piece of clothing in a relatively messy tent, and the box was difficult to find even when you knew approximately where to look.

As for cost, the landlord lock thing was nearly $50 at the local hardware store, but the magnetic box was just a few bucks -- which made the magnetic box option an easy choice.

Thanks for the great suggestions!
posted by treepour at 11:31 PM on September 21, 2012

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