Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

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Written by Rachael Brennan
Licensed Insurance Agent Rachael Brennan

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jun 29, 2022

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In a nutshell...

  • If someone keyed your car, most basic car insurance policies do not automatically cover it
  • Your insurance only covers intentional vandalism if you have comprehensive coverage
  • For your insurance company to cover your keyed car, the cost of the damage must exceed your comprehensive deductible

Like many responsible drivers, you might park your car in a well-lit area every day. You always lock your vehicle and have an activated anti-theft alarm installed. Even with these precautions in place, it won’t stop a vandal from potentially damaging the outside of your car. But will insurance cover your car being keyed? 

Most basic car insurance policies that meet the state minimum required levels of coverage will not protect your car if someone keys it. For your insurance company to help cover this type of intentional vandalism, you need comprehensive coverage, also known as parked car insurance.

But if your vehicle is not worth much, or you’ve recently filed a claim, it may not be worth making another claim for this type of cosmetic damage. Keep reading to learn more about deductibles, auto insurance coverage limits, and what steps to take if your car gets keyed. 

Does insurance cover my car being keyed?

It’s essential to build an auto insurance policy that safeguards you in the event of a loss. If you carry basic policy limits, your insurance company will not cover someone keying your car. For that, you need to invest in comprehensive insurance. 

The exterior of your vehicle is vulnerable to both accidental and intentional damage, so comprehensive coverage is a recommended policy add-on that benefits most drivers. Unless you park your vehicle in a private garage, there’s no way to protect the outside of your car at all times.

According to data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), 79% of drivers add comprehensive coverage to their policies in addition to liability insurance.

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What does comprehensive insurance cover? 

Comprehensive insurance is a first-party, no-fault physical damage coverage that you can use to repair destruction to your car while not in motion. It protects your vehicle from more than just acts of vandalism. 

Comprehensive insurance also applies to the following:

  • Auto theft
  • Fires
  • Flooding
  • Acts of nature 
  • Animal damage
  • Some glass damage

There is a car insurance deductible associated with this coverage. If you file a comprehensive claim for a keyed car, you must pay that deductible out of pocket before the insurance company steps in. 

Standard deductible levels range from $0, $250, $500, to $1,000 or more, depending on what company you use. 

If you’re reading this before being targeted by a vandal, consider adding comprehensive insurance to your policy. That way, you’ll be protected before there’s a chance of anything happening to your car.

However, if you own your vehicle outright and it is low in value, you might consider skipping this coverage altogether. Look at your car’s value and compare it to the premium cost to decide if adding this coverage makes financial sense.

How much does comprehensive coverage cost on average?

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), the national average cost of comprehensive coverage is $171.87 annually. But rates vary by state and ZIP code. For example, if you live in a region with higher than average auto theft statistics, the cost of your comprehensive insurance may be higher than average. 

For your convenience, the table below shows the average annual comprehensive insurance expenditures by state, with data from the III.

Average Annual Comprehensive Insurance Rates by State
StateAverage Annual Comprehensive Insurance Rates
District of Columbia$221.94
New Hampshire$120.48
New Jersey$129.97
New Mexico$222.43
New York$172.85
North Carolina$138.40
North Dakota$264.98
Rhode Island$141.03
South Carolina$211.29
South Dakota$347.61
West Virginia$225.50
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The make and model of your vehicle also impact your costs. Sources suggest that thieves are more likely to steal certain cars than others. 

But all insurance companies use unique formulas to calculate your car insurance rates. We recommend comparing quotes online from multiple top auto insurance companies to secure your cheapest possible comprehensive insurance prices.  

How will filing a claim for my keyed car affect my auto insurance costs?

Before filing a comprehensive claim for your keyed car, consider how it may affect your annual rates. Filing claims almost always leads to a policy increase at renewal. 

No-fault claims for incidents like vandalism usually do not impact rates as much as at-fault claims. But it also depends on how many you’ve filed recently with your insurance company. Sources suggest that an auto insurance claim impacts your rates the most if you file it when you already have one on your record from the last two years. 

If budget is one of your concerns and you’ve filed more than one other claim in the past two years, it might not be worth submitting another one, especially for cosmetic damage. 

It’s also important to weigh your out-of-pocket expenses since you’re responsible for paying your comprehensive insurance deductible. It may not be advisable to file a claim if your vehicle is worth $3,000 and your deductible level is $1,000. However, if your car is worth $35,000, paying the $1,000 deductible may make more sense. Similarly, if the total cost of damage is less than your deductible amount, you cannot file a claim. 

If filing a claim isn’t worthwhile for you, you can always try to repair the scratches yourself. It may not look perfect, but deep scratches with exposed metal may lead to rust or other problems later on, so it’s a good idea to fix it promptly if you’re able. 

But if you have comprehensive insurance and the scratch bothers you, repairs fit your budget, or you’re planning on re-selling the vehicle, it’s worth filing a claim. 

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How much does it cost to repair a keyed car?

The price of repairing a keyed car varies widely depending on the following: 

  • How deep the scratch is
  • What parts of the vehicle are damaged
  • The type of exterior paint you had before the loss

Cars usually have three layers of coating – a white primer, a color coat, and a protective clear coat. Deeper scratches that penetrate more of these layers cost more to fix than if the key only breaks through the top protective layer. 

Body shops may charge between $100 and $2,000 per part for sanding, rebuffing, and repainting. 

If the scratch only penetrates the protective clear coat, an auto shop will likely charge $150 to $300 to fix your vehicle’s exterior. It’s also possible for you to repair this type of damage yourself.  

But if it penetrates the clear coat and color coat, it may cost between $400 to $1,000 for an auto shop to fix your car. It is trickier to restore this type of scratch on your own, but still possible. Say the scratch exposes the primer or metal. In this case, an auto shop may charge between $800 to $1,500.

These costs only represent fixing a single panel. The bill increases significantly if more than one part of your car is keyed, like the front doors and the hood. Plus, if the mechanics cannot sand out deep scratches, the entire part may have to be replaced and painted to match the car’s original color, further increasing costs.

What should you do if someone keys your car? 

If someone keys your car and you want to file a claim, the steps are straightforward. The process is almost identical to filing any other type of claim:

  • First, document the damage as best as you can. Check for witnesses or security footage if possible. 
  • Next, inform your insurance company and begin the claims process.
  • Be sure you also file a police report, especially if you can identify the culprit. If possible, your insurance company may help you take the offender to court, so they pay for the damages. But unfortunately, many vandals who key cars remain anonymous.  
  • Finally, make sure an auto shop inspects your vehicle and provides you with an estimate. The auto shop can also check for additional hidden defacement, like a cracked bumper.  

If you choose to file a claim, the insurance company either reimburses you after you pay the mechanic yourself, or the company might pay the auto shop directly on your behalf. Either way, you’re still responsible for covering the cost of your comprehensive insurance deductible out of pocket. 

What does a basic auto insurance policy cover? 

If you come across the term basic car insurance policy, it usually refers to policies that meet the legally required car insurance limits in a given state. Most states require liability insurance. But this type of coverage only pays for damage you cause to another party if you’re at fault for a car accident

If you only carry liability insurance, it will not pay to fix your car if someone keys it.

Some states also require additional bodily injury protections like personal injury protection (PIP) insurance and medical payments (MedPay) coverage. Regional laws might also include underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage. 

But no state requires drivers to carry physical damage coverage that pays for repairs to their own property. In other words, no state laws require drivers to carry comprehensive insurance.

However, there may be an exception if you lease or finance a vehicle. The dealership or lender may require you to purchase comprehensive and collision coverage as part of your loan agreement.

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The Bottom Line

No matter what car insurance company you use, you need comprehensive coverage if you want your car protected from someone keying it. Only comprehensive insurance pays for damage caused by acts of vandalism. But be prepared to pay your deductible out of pocket if you ever file a comprehensive claim. Fortunately, this coverage is widespread.

You should have no problem securing it from most car insurance companies. Before someone has the chance to key your car, compare rates online from multiple companies to find your best possible rates.