My car has been keyed – what should I do?

‘Keying’ is when someone deliberately damages your car’s paintwork, using a key or sharp object. If you’re unlucky enough to have this happen to you, here’s the best way to deal with it.

‘Keying’ is when someone deliberately damages your car’s paintwork, using a key or sharp object. If you’re unlucky enough to have this happen to you, here’s the best way to deal with it.

Julie Daniels
Insurance expert
minute read
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Help, someone keyed my car! 

Realising that your car’s been keyed – that’s to say, deliberately scratched – is horrible. Not only is there the damage to think about, it can be hard knowing that someone’s done such a thing on purpose.

If you return to your car to find it keyed, don’t despair. Although upsetting, it’s not an emergency. And remember, you’re not alone – car-keying is common. In fact, scratched bodywork is the most common type of deliberate car damage, accounting for 41% of offences.

Who to tell when your car is keyed 

Keying is an act of vandalism, which you can report to your local police on the 101 non-emergency number. Even if they can’t take immediate action, it’s helpful to have the incident on record. The police can give you a crime reference number, which you’ll need to make an insurance claim.

You’ll need to check if your car insurance policy covers vandalism – some include it as standard, but not all. If you’re not sure, give your insurance provider a call.

Assuming you have cover in place, whether you want to claim on your insurance will depend on a few factors. Namely how bad the damage is, how much you value your car’s appearance and how much excess you’ll have to pay. If your excess (the amount you pay towards a claim on your insurance) is higher than the repair cost, it won’t be worth making a claim. 

Paintwork repair options

If the scratches aren’t deep, you may be able to buff them out or reduce their appearance using a DIY scratch-repair kit. But bear in mind that this won’t give you a professional finish, and if you want good-as-new paintwork, you’re unlikely to be satisfied with the results. And there’s always a risk you’ll make things worse, so only try this if you know you can do a good job.

It’s only worth going down the DIY route if the scratches haven’t gone too deep. If you can see metal beneath the paint, it’s probably going to need a professional touch. Deep scratches down to the metalwork will expose the panel to rust and corrosion, so it’s important to get this fixed even if you’re not bothered how it looks. 

Hiring a professional to sand down the scratches, re-prime the panels and apply a fresh coat of paint can be pricey. But you may find that some – if not all – of that cost is covered by your insurance.  

How to prevent your car being keyed

If you’re worried about your car being vandalised again, there are some ways to prevent it: 

  • Use an enclosed garage if you can 
  • Park somewhere busy and well-lit  
  • Make sure you have an effective car alarm 
  • Leave space between your car and other parked vehicles – this gives potential vandals less cover 
  • If your car is parked at home, consider installing CCTV or a smart home-security system you can control from your phone 

Some car dash cams can be used when your car is parked. Although a dash cam might not prevent your car from being keyed, if it happens, it might help catch the person who did it. 

Someone keyed my car – can I press charges? 

Vandalism is a crime so, in theory, someone could be prosecuted for it. The hard part is finding out who did it. This is why it’s useful to protect your home with security cameras.

If your car was keyed in a public place, it’s worth checking the area for CCTV. There’s usually an ID number near the camera. You can then call the council or business owner to see if they have footage of the crime.

Some local councils have online maps that show you which parts of the borough are covered by CCTV. Check your council’s website for details of how to get hold of footage.

Frequently asked questions

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

Some insurance providers will recognise that it isn’t your fault if your car is vandalised, and protect your no-claims discount. But not all providers do this, so you’ll need to call yours and check.

How much does it cost to repair a keyed car?

If your car’s been keyed, the first thing you’ll want to know is how much it’s going to cost to fix.

This is going to depend on a few things, including:

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

Either way, it’s worth getting a few quotes before you commit.

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