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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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

UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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In a nutshell...

  • Car insurance is designed to indemnify the policyholder from loss when an auto-related loss occurs
  • If you have a damage loss to your vehicle, you must carry comprehensive or collision to file a claim against your policy
  • When your car is keyed purposely or the paint is damaged in anything other than an accident, you need comprehensive
  • When filing a comprehensive claim, you’re responsible for the deductible on your policy before your carrier pays
  • Always file a police report before filing an auto vandalism claim with your auto insurance carrier

You can park your car in a lit area, lock it, and activate your alarm, but that doesn’t stop a vandal. Cars are typically parked in easily accessible places.

Unless you always park your vehicle in a garage, there’s no way that you can protect both the inside and outside of your car at all times. Your vehicle exterior is vulnerable to both accidental and intentional damage.

If someone has it out for you, one of the easiest ways to put it you where it hurts is to key your car.

Since keying a car is a quick and easy way to cause permanent damage, it’s one of the most common types of vandalism that people choose today. If you make the wrong person mad and your car gets keyed, you better hope you have the right type of insurance.

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You Policy Doesn’t Automatically Cover You When Your Car is Keyed

It’s important to build your auto insurance policy to safeguard you in the event of a loss.

If you were in a rush when you build your insurance, there’s no guarantee that your policy is going to help you pay for the cost of a new paint job after your car is keyed.

This is why consumers should always pay attention to the coverage options that they select.

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What does a basic auto insurance policy cover?

If you purchase a basic policy, your insurance company isn’t going to jump at the opportunity to pay for any type of vehicle repair bills that you submit.

A basic car insurance policy is one that only affords you the coverage that’s required under state law.

In no state is it a requirement to carry physical damage coverage that pays for damages to your own property.

Basic insurance policies do still provide you with some protection against claims. Unfortunately, when you’re dealing with an incidence of vandalism to your car, the protection won’t help out.

It will, however, help you pay for damages that you cause to someone else’s property or injuries that you’re responsible for after an accident.

What type of coverage do you need to cover damages after your car is keyed?


If you’re reading this before you’ve been targeted by a vandal, you’re lucky. You still have time to add the coverage that you need to file a claim if your car is ever keyed.

The coverage that you must have on your policy is called comprehensive.

Comprehensive is a form of first-party physical damage coverage that you can use when your car is damaged.

What does comprehensive physical damage cover?

Comprehensive coverage doesn’t only cover keyed cars. It’s actually a non-fault type of coverage that will pay for your vehicle damage when your car is damaged by a long list of different perils.

The key is that the damage can’t have been caused by a crash with another object (unless it’s a live animal). Here are some of the perils covered:

  • Car catches fire
  • Car is stolen (recovered or not)
  • Car is vandalized
  • Object falls on the car
  • Car gets flooded in storm
  • Car is struck by flying objects (rocks, balls, hail, other missiles)
  • Car glass is damaged
  • Car is involved in an accident with a live animal

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What is covered when you file a comprehensive claim?

If you file a valid comprehensive claim, your insurer will pay to sand the scratch out and repaint the damaged area.

If the scratches are too deep and it can’t be sanded out, the entire part may have to be replaced and painted to match the original color of the car.

Is there is a limit to how much the insurer will pay?

If you have an older vehicle or your vehicle has a salvage title, it might not hold much value.

Cars that don’t carry a lot of value can easily be totaled after they are keyed. The insurer will only pay up to the car’s current fair market value to repair the car.

If the scrapes are deep and a lot of bodywork needs to be done, it’s possible that the car could be totaled.

Do you have to pay for anything when you file your claim?


Your insurance company does have a basic requirement when you’re filing a physical damage claim.

You’re obligated to pay your deductible before the company is obligated to pay anything. If you have a $0 deductible, you’re in luck.

If you’ve selected a high deductible to save money, you might not even be able to collect depending on how much the repairs will cost.

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How much does it cost to repair a keyed car?

There’s no telling how much you’ll have to pay to repair your car if it’s vandalized.

It all depends on where the car is keyed, how many areas are keyed, how deep the marks are, and what type of exterior paint you had before the loss.

Body shops charge between $100 and $2000 per part to sand, rebuff, and then paint the part.

Should you add comprehensive to your policy?

Not everyone needs coverage for their own car. If your car is paid off and it’s not worth much, it’s probably not sensible to pay premiums for comprehensive when you won’t receive much after filing a claim.

You should always look at your car’s value and compare it to the premium cost before deciding if it makes financial sense.

Your loss will be investigated. Most of the time, there’s no delay in processing the claims payment.

If you experience a delay and you’re not happy with the way that the claim was handled, you should consider buying a policy from a new carrier.

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