The Independent’s journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission. Why trust us?

What do I do if someone has keyed my car?

Want cheap car insurance? Compare quotes from over 160 providers
In partnership with

Whether it’s mindless vandalism or a targeted attack, it’s infuriating to discover your car has been keyed. The damage caused to your car by vandals scraping a key (or any other sharp object) against it is unsightly and can be expensive to repair.

Read our guide to find out what to do if your car gets keyed, including reporting the crime, claiming on your car insurance and getting the scratch fixed.

Should I tell the police if my car gets keyed?

Car keying is an act of vandalism, so your first port of call should be the police.

It’s not an emergency, so you shouldn’t call 999, but you can report the incident by calling 101 (the non-emergency number) or going to a police station.

The police may not be able to take any immediate action, but it’s still important to report the crime, as the police will be able to give you a crime reference number, which you’ll need if you end up claiming on your car insurance.

Make sure you give the police information about when and where the incident happened. It might also be helpful to take photos of the damage.

Will my car insurance cover me if my car gets keyed?

Whether you can claim for keyed car repairs will depend on the specific insurance policy you hold.

If you only have third party insurance, it won’t cover a key scratch, as these policies only pay out for damage to other cars, not your own.

However, if you have comprehensive car insurance that covers repairs to your car, you should check the exact terms of your policy. Plenty of policies will cover scratch damage, but not all will, especially cheaper and more basic deals.

You might also find that scratches must meet certain criteria for you to be able to claim. For example, they may have to be a certain length.

Compare Car Insurance Quotes
Compare quotes from over 160 providers to find the best deal
In partnership with MoneySuperMarket

Should I claim on car insurance if someone keys my car?

Even if you can claim on your insurance for keyed car repairs, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should.

First, you need to get an idea of how much the scratch will cost to repair. Next, you have to check what the excess is on your car insurance. If the cost of the excess is greater than the repair bill, there’s no point in claiming.

If the repair cost is higher than the excess, you might still want to think twice if it’s only a small claim. If you claim, the cost of your car insurance will likely go up next year.

You may also lose a chunk of your no-claims discount. Some car insurers include a vandalism promise that means your no-claims discount won’t be affected by vandalism claims, but that can’t be said for all providers.

Getting your car keyed can be distressing. As it’s an attack on your property, it feels much more personal than your car being scratched accidentally in a car park. While you may feel angry and resentful about having to foot the repair bill, it may cost you more in the long run if you claim on your car insurance.

Keyed car repair – what can you do?

Do it yourself

The cheapest option is to invest in a scratch repair kit and buff the damage away yourself. Make sure the scratch is clean, dry and debris-free before you start, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to get the best results. You can achieve a reasonable result this way if the scratch isn’t deep and you know what you’re doing.

However, if you want a “like-new” finish, or the scratch is deep and you can see exposed metal beneath, it makes sense to pay a professional. Forgoing a proper repair job could result in rust damage or corrosion.

Pay a professional

A professional will sand down the scratch and apply a primer and a fresh coat of paint. Afterwards, there should be no signs of damage to your car. Your car’s bodywork will also be properly protected from the elements. To keep costs down, it’s worth shopping around and getting a few quotes from reputable garages.

What’s the punishment for keying a car in the UK?

The penalty for vandalism in the UK depends on the extent of the damage and the age of the offenders. If the damage costs less than £5,000 to repair, the maximum fine is £2,500 and a three-month prison sentence. If the offender is under 17, they’re likely to receive an on-the-spot fine and community service. The main challenge is catching the offenders in the first place.

If your car was keyed on your drive, you might be able to catch the offender with a video doorbell or home security camera if you have one. Alternatively, if your car was keyed in a car park or other public area, you might be lucky enough to get hold of CCTV footage that catches the offender in the act.

How can I stop my car from getting keyed?

You can’t stop vandals targeting your car, but there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of it being keyed.

  • When you’re away from home, try to park your car in well-lit, busy and safe areas where there’s likely to be good CCTV coverage
  • If possible, park your car overnight in a garage or on a driveway and avoid parking on the street
  • Don’t park on pavements
  • Consider installing home security cameras and a dash cam (you’ll need one with a parking mode if you want to catch someone keying your car)

Keyed car FAQs

Keyed car repair costs vary according to the length and depth of the scratch and its location on your car. As a rough guide, a minor surface scratch should cost around £90 to fix professionally, but deeper, longer gouges can cost as much as £300.

DIY scratch repair products can work for minor repairs and cost around £15.

There are many ways your car can end up with a scratch – however, it’s normally possible to tell if someone has keyed your car. The telltale sign is that the mark looks deliberate. Normally, it’s a long, deep scratch running parallel to the ground. It might even follow a zigzag pattern, or the culprit may have etched words into your car.


Amy Reeves


Amy is a seasoned writer and editor with a special interest in home design, sustainable technology and green building methods.

She has interviewed hundreds of self-builders, extenders and renovators about their journeys towards individual, well-considered homes, as well as architects and industry experts during her five years working as Assistant Editor at Homebuilding & Renovating, part of Future plc.