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What to do if someone keys your car

‘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.

Written by
Rory Reid
Car and technology expert
Last Updated
4 min read
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Help, someone keyed my car

Realising that your car’s been keyed or deliberately scratched is horrible. Not only is there the damage to think about, but knowing that someone’s done it on purpose is never fun.

If you return to your car to find it keyed, just know that 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 the police. Don’t dial 999, though, call 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 comprehensive policies include it as standard, but not all do. If you’re not sure, read your policy document or 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.

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. You could buy one online or from a car accessories store. 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. Plus there’s always a risk that you’ll make matters 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 could leave panels exposed to rust and corrosion, so it’s important to get this fixed – even if you’re not bothered by how it looks.

Hiring a professional to sand down the scratches, reprime the panels and apply a fresh coat of paint can be pricey, but shop around. In some cases you could find it’s cheaper than you expect. You might 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:

  • Park in a garage
  • Park somewhere busy and well-lit
  • 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, it may help catch a car-keying culprit.

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. That’s 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 could then call the council or business owner to see if they have footage of the crime. Councils require that the request for footage comes from a victim’s lawyer or insurance company, who must provide them with your name and identification, the date, time and place of the incident as well as the details of the incident – and the make, model and registration of the car involved in 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?

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.

Prices on average may vary from £90 for a light scratch, up to £300 for a deep scratch. Either way, it’s worth getting a few quotes before you commit.

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