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What should I do if someone has keyed my car?

‘Keying’ is when someone deliberately damages your car’s paintwork using a key or sharp object. If you’re unlucky and someone has keyed your car, here’s how to deal with it.

‘Keying’ is when someone deliberately damages your car’s paintwork using a key or sharp object. If you’re unlucky and someone has keyed your car, here’s how to deal with it.

Written by
Julie Daniels
Motor insurance expert
Last Updated
5 JUNE 2024
4 min read
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What should I do if my car has been keyed?

If you return to your car to find it keyed, you can call the police on 101 and report it as an act of vandalism. Even if they’re unable to track down who did it, you’ll still get a crime reference number – which you’ll need if you want to make an insurance claim.

Car keying is common. In fact, according to government crime statistics, deliberate car damage is the third most common car crime in the UK.

Who else to tell when your car is keyed

After the police, you’ll want to get in touch with your insurance provider to check if your car insurance policy covers vandalism. Some comprehensive policies include it as standard, others don’t.

If you only have third-party insurance, it’s unlikely you’ll be covered if your car has been keyed.

Assuming you do have cover in place, whether you want to claim on your insurance will depend on a few factors. Namely how bad the damage is and whether it’s worth paying the excess to have it repaired.

How to repair a keyed car

How you repair a keyed car will depend on how bad the damage is – superficial scratches might be a DIY job, whereas deeper ones might need a professional touch.

If the scratches aren’t too bad, you may be able to buff them out or reduce their appearance using a scratch-repair kit. You can find these online or in a car accessories store. However, there’s a risk you could make matters worse.

If you want good-as-new paintwork, it might be worth seeking the help of professionals. Especially in cases where you can see metal beneath the paintwork.

Deep scratches could leave panels exposed to rust and corrosion, so it’s important to get these fixed – even if you’re not bothered by how they look.

A professional will sand down, reprime and repaint any damaged panels. This can be pricey, though, so it’s worth shopping around.

It may be that some – if not all – of the repair cost is covered by your insurance provider, particularly if you have a comprehensive policy. Check your policy to see if you’re covered.

How to prevent your car being keyed

If you’re worried about your car being vandalised again, there are a few things you can do to help prevent it:

  • Leave your car in a garage when you’re not using it
  • Park somewhere busy and well-lit
  • Leave space between your car and other parked vehicles – this gives potential vandals less cover
  • Consider installing CCTV or a smart home security system if your car is parked at home.

It’s also worth thinking about installing a car dash cam that can be used when your car is parked. Although a dash cam might not prevent your car from being keyed, it could help catch the culprit.

Can I press charges if my car has been keyed?

If you can find out who vandalised your car, you should be able to prosecute them for it. Without evidence, though, you’ll find it hard to press charges. That’s where home security cameras and dash cams come in handy.

If your car was keyed in a public place, it may have been caught on CCTV. If you spot a CCTV camera in the area, there should be an ID number written on a sign attached to it, showing whether it’s operated by the council or private owner.

You could then approach the local council or business owner to see if they have footage of the crime. Councils require a victim’s lawyer or insurance provider to submit a request for footage by providing them with:

  • Your name and identification
  • The date, time and place of the incident
  • The details of the incident
  • The make, model and registration of the keyed car.

Some local councils have online maps that show you which parts of the borough are covered by CCTV. If you’re not sure which council operates in the area your car was vandalised, you can find out here.

You can then check the council’s website for details of how to get hold of footage.

What’s the punishment for keying a car?

The penalty for keying a car depends on the age of the offender and the extent of the damage.

If repairing the keyed car costs less than £5,000, there’s a maximum fine of £2,500 and, possibly, a three-month prison sentence.

If the damage costs more than £5,000 to put right, the fine could be as much as £5,000 with a potential three months in prison – longer if the crime is racially or religiously aggravated.

A young offender – under the age of 17 – will likely get an on-the-spot fine and community service.

Frequently asked questions

Will claiming for a keyed car affect my no-claims discount?

Not always. Some insurance providers will recognise that a keyed car isn’t your fault and protect your no-claims discount. But this isn’t always the case, so you’ll need to call your insurance provider to check.

How much does it cost to repair a keyed car?

Prices vary from £90 for a light scratch to up to £300 for deeper damage. The cost of repairing a keyed car depends on:

  • The extent and location of the damage
  • What kind of car you drive
  • Where you live.

It’s certainly worth getting a few quotes before you commit.

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