Someone Keyed Your Car? The Repair Cost and Other FAQs

One of the worst things that can happen to your car is that it gets scratched. It’s already bad enough if you do it by mistake, but the feeling gets worse when you find out that someone else has scratched your car. And when those scratches are intentionally made with a key, it’s completely heartbreaking.

Apart from feeling upset, having your car keyed can also prove to be expensive. Your insurance will probably cover the damage, but it may not always be worth claiming. That’s why it’s important that you find the most economical way to deal with the situation. Follow my tips and repair key scratches at home for a fraction of the cost compared to a pro job.

Key Scratches on a Car Door

What to Do When Someone Has Keyed Your Car

If someone has keyed your car, the first thing you should do is document the damage. That is the basic procedure if you face any kind of vandalism. Start by taking pictures and inspecting the scene carefully. Try to find out if there were any witnesses to the incident or if there are any security cameras in the area to help you identify the perpetrator.

The next thing you need to do is call the police and file a complaint. Report the date, time, and location to help the police track down the wrongdoer. It could save you a lot of money if they got caught. In addition, you should also immediately contact your insurance company to start a claim process. You can decide it later whether you want to go ahead with the claims or not. But the sooner you file them, the better.

After everything is done, you should take your vehicle to a repair shop so that they can give you an estimate for the damage. From there, you would be able to decide whether taking money from your insurer is worth your while or not.

How Much Does It Cost to Fix a Keyed Car?

The cost of paint scratch repair depends on the type of damage involved. Even though the size and the length of the scratch is an important factor in determining the cost, it also depends on the layers of the car affected.

For those who don’t know, all cars have three layers that make up a paint job. The first layer is a clear coat, the second is the paint, and the third layer is the primer. If the scratch has simply affected the first layer, it shouldn’t cost you more than $150.

However, if the scratch has penetrated the second or the third layer, the repair price will also increase. It can go as high as $1500 if the damages are too severe and require repainting the car. That’s why the fewer layers the scratch passes through, the better, as it will lower the expense.

Depending on how many layers the marks passed through, there are four types of paint scratches. Here’s how to tell the difference between them and how much it will cost you to repair each type of paint scratch.


Scuffs are a collection of light surface scratches. If the scratches have just affected the protective clear coat of your car, then you might be able to polish it out. To check the level of damage, rub your spit over it and see if the scratches disappear.

You can remove these scuffs yourself by rubbing some compound over it. The good news is that you can find compound at any auto part shop. Furthermore, you can ask any mechanic — they will advise you which one to use. And if you want, you can also have a professional do it for you. They will reduce the scuffs to a nearly unnoticeable level. However, that might cost you, on average, around $40 to $60.

TriNova Scratch Swirl Remover - Best Abrasive Compound car...
Carfidant Scratch and Swirl Remover - Car Scratch Remover...
Includes buffer pad & removal polish
Includes buffer pad & removal polish
TriNova Scratch Swirl Remover - Best Abrasive Compound car...
Includes buffer pad & removal polish
Carfidant Scratch and Swirl Remover - Car Scratch Remover...
Includes buffer pad & removal polish

Clear-Coat Scratches

Just like scuffs, clear-coat scratches also affect only the protective coat of the paint job just like scuffs. However, the only difference is that they are a bit deeper and longer scratches than scuffs. But the good news is that they still do not require any painting job.

Of course, you can fix this scratches yourself. I will explain more on how to do it later in this article. But if you decide to go to a repair shop, they may charge you somewhere near $200 to $300 to do their job. The choice is yours.

Paint Scratches

If the scratch has reached into the paint layer, then it requires some painting to fix it.

However, it is advisable to have a professional do it, unless you are an expert yourself. That is because no matter how small the scratch is, once it touches the paint layer, the entire part needs to be repainted. And that will cost you between $500 and $1000.

Deep Scratches

Deep scratch level is where the scratch has penetrated the clear coat and paint level and has reached the primer. The metal part is clearly visible, and it will again require a painting job to fix it.

Just like with paint scratches, you can do the touch-up paint. However, if you want a proper paint finish, take the car to the mechanic to get it fixed. This will cost you around $1000 to $1500, depending on the damage done.

Clearly, the scratches may put a huge dent into your budget, and I understand that not everyone will be willing to pay from their own pocket. So what do you do? You have insurance, sure, but will they cover the cost of for the repairs?

Will the Insurance Company Cover Your Keyed Car?

Well, it depends on the type of insurance coverage you carry. In order for your insurance company to cover the cost of fixing a keyed car, you will need to have a comprehensive policy. Comprehensive insurance pays for damages that didn’t result from an accident but are related to vandalism, damages from falling objects, fire, etc.

If you have comprehensive auto insurance, you can contact your insurer to file a claim. They will examine the damage first. And only after you pay the deductible on your policy, they will pay the remaining cost of the repair. Let’s say the repair cost is a total of $1000, and your deductible is $150. Basically, the insurance company will cover $850 for you after you have paid your deductibles.

However, most of the time, claiming the damages isn’t advised, especially if the damage cost is not too high. Let me tell you why.

How Does a Keyed Car Claim Affect Your Insurance?

If someone has keyed your car and you file a claim, it’s obvious that the premium on your coverage will increase just like with any other type of insurance. Truth be told, it will not affect the rates as much as it would for an accident you’ve caused. But it will still raise your premium amount. And if you have made another claim within the past year, it could have a far worse effect because consecutive claims have a bigger impact.

Should you claim your damage if your car got keyed?

So should you claim your damage or not? There is no direct yes or no answer to this question. It largely depends on the extent of the damage.

If the cost of repairing the scratches doesn’t exceed more than the deductible on your comprehensive insurance, then you should reconsider filing a claim. That is because a small payout is not worth the increase in the premium amount that you will have to pay later.

So if the scratch is hardly noticeable, you can even choose to ignore it. And if the scratches are visible but are light and shallow, they may simply require a small touch up. You can either opt to do it yourself or have your mechanic do it for a reasonable price. In case of deep paint scratches where metals parts are exposed, you will need a professional repair job which might cost you $1000 or more.

Generally, the deductibles range from $0 to $1000, and in many cases, you will find the excess in your car insurance greater than the repair cost, which makes the whole claim worthless. But even if you get some money back, for instance, the damage value is $500, and your deductible is $200, it still makes sense to pay the whole amount from your own pocket. These small payouts being covered by the insurance company may make us feel good for the moment, but it will eventually outweigh the rise in the premium amount.

So if you ask me, making an insurance claim for a key scratch may not be cost-effective after all.

How to Repair Minor Key Scratches Yourself

As I’ve already mentioned, the cost of a professional scratch repair can set you back anywhere from several hundred to a couple of thousand dollars. The exact amount will depend on the severity of the scratch. If you’d like to keep that money in your pocket, try to fix the damage yourself. Luckily, anyone can get rid of minor key gouges.

What you’ll need:

  • Microfiber cloth
  • Rubbing compound
  • Buffer pad

If you are lucky enough to have only a surface scratch on your hands, you can take care of it without much effort. That is because the scratch hasn’t penetrated deep enough to damage the paint or the primer. So all you need to do is smooth out the top clear coat.

To do that, you will need a rubbing compound and a buffer pad. Clean the surface area with a damp cloth, dry it, and start buffing! Apply a drop of the compound onto the pad and start rubbing the scratched area. For best results, use circular motions and a moderate amount of pressure. The scratch will disappear in a matter of minutes, and your car will be restored to its former glory!

How to Remove Deeper Key Scratches

In case you didn’t succeed in getting rid of the groove with a compound, you are dealing with a deeper mark. The repair is still possible, but it will require more steps, time, and patience. However, considering the money you’ll save in the process, the effort is more than worth it!

What you’ll need:

  • Clean microfiber cloth
  • Soap water
  • Masking tape and newspapers
  • 1500–3000 grit sandpaper
  • Sanding block
  • Primer (only if the scratch damaged this layer, too)
  • Car scratch repair pen in a matching color
  • Clear coat spray
  • Rubbing compound
  • Hair drier or heat gun (optional)
  • Car wax (optional)
Step 1: Clean the Panel

Clean the scratched area with a damp microfiber cloth to get rid of any dirt. That will help you get a better look at how deep the scratch is — if you can see the steel, it means that the gouge has damaged both the paint and the primer. Besides, a clean surface will be much easier to buff and repaint later on.

Step 2: Protect the Surrounding Area

Use masking tape to mark the perimeter roughly 2–3 inches on either side of the scratch. That way, you will make sure you don’t buff the unaffected areas by mistake. It is also a good idea to put newspapers around the spot you will paint later. This will protect the rest of your car from the spray coat mist or any paint droplets.

Step 3: Wet Sanding

Wrap the paper around the sanding block and dip it in the soapy solution — it will act as a lubricant and ensure smooth sanding. Remember to wet the paper often throughout the process.

If the groove is particularly deep, start with 1500 grit paper. Work your way to the 3000 grit one until everything is blended perfectly. Use a light hand and avoid exerting too much pressure. Hold the sanding block at a 60-degree angle for optimal results.

Buff the area until you even out the scratch and can no longer see it. Allow the sanded surface to cool before you paint it.

Step 4: The Paint Job

If the scratch damaged the primer, you need to apply a new layer. For best results, use one thin coat and let it dry for at least ten minutes. Then spray another layer, and after it dries, buff out the excess. Skip this part, and you risk poor paint adhesion or rusting later on.

Now it is time to apply a matching color coat. Use a scratch repair pen to conceal deep gouges effectively. Seal in the pigment by applying several layers and letting each dry completely before you reapply. Then, spray a clear coat and leave it to dry overnight.

Step 5: The Final Touches

Apply the rubbing compound in the same way I described above. If you follow all the steps, the makeover will look so pristine, that the rest of the car paint will seem bland in comparison. To counteract such an impression, give your car an all-over wax to blend everything together.

Final Thoughts

Before you finally decide to plunge in and pay for the repair cost, there are a few things you should consider. You need to ask yourself a few questions to decide whether or not investing in the repair cost is absolutely necessary.

The very first question you need to ask is — how old is your car? If it’s old enough that you might replace it in a year or two, you should rethink before paying for the repair cost. Especially if it’s going to cost you as high as $500, it just might not be worth it. But if the scratches have reached into the metal, then you shouldn’t ignore the damage. If they are left untreated, the parts can begin to rust.

If, however, you are planning to resell your car in the future, you might want to fix that scratch to get a good sale value. Lastly, if you decide not to treat it, will the scratch mark really bother you?

In the end, the choice is yours. To conclude, I would like to remind you to always try and park your car in a sensible area like a well-lit street. Also, you should avoid leaving your car in an isolated location where no one is around to watch. While these are no guaranteed way to stop someone from keying your car, it’s always better to take some precautions.




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