We like to keep a tally in our workshop, on the causes of minor car body damage. Supermarket carparks score pretty high up on the list, as does reversing into your own gatepost! But we’ve seen a concerning increase in key damage in recent months – that is damage caused by a deliberate act on vandalism or revenge. This increase reflects the national jump in car vandalism by 10% – with approximately 200,000 vehicles suffering every year.
“Keying” is not always done with a key – sometimes a knife or screwdriver is used. It often leaves a car with long single scratches across several panels of bodywork, often the doors, wings and quarter panels that are closest to the pavement as the perpetrator walks past. Key damage generally fits into three categories:
- Stranger vandalism. The perpetrator was not known to the victim or vice versa. Often several cars can be damaged in one attack. Perpetrators are often under the influence or alcohol or loners with mental or social issues. Some have been known to vandalise their own vehicles at the same time.
- In response to you as a driver. Did you park across someone’s driveway? Cut across someone when overtaking? Or park in a disabled space when you didn’t need it? Minor mistakes can lead to costly repairs if you ruffle the feathers of someone with a taste for criminal damage.
- In response to you as a person. You may suspect ex-partners or people close to you that you may have upset. Your car might be something you are seen to value – and the perpetrator may be attempting to cause distress or inconvenience or both. The keyer may also be jealous or angry about your car ownership.
CONTACTING THE POLICE
Unless you are afraid for your safety and/or witnessing the crime taking place, don’t call 999. You can report most crimes like this online. If you suspect stranger vandalism and the police are made aware, they might spot a pattern. Last year we received a high number of key repair enquiries from three neighbouring streets in Stroud. We encouraged everyone to contact the police, and they eventually got involved and the vandalism appears to have stopped in this area.
MAKING AN INSURANCE CLAIM
Some insurance companies have specific vandalism clauses, which means making a claim does not lose you a no-claims-bonus. Keying damage across several panels rarely comes in under your insurance excess, so insurance might be a good route to explore. Some insurance companies, however, do not cover vandalism at all. Try and find out first whether making a claim is worth it, before filing the claim itself.
In most cases this kind of vandalism is carried out by strangers. But if you feel you are being targeted personally for any reason – don’t suffer in silence – try and get support from local community groups. Talk to friends and family about it. The police may also be able to offer advice. Taking revenge rarely leads to the problem going away – in fact it can escalate the matter.
GETTING IT REPAIRED
See my article on Is It REALLY worth have the scratch on my car fixed? This will help you to assess whether it is worth getting the vehicle repaired. There are a few considerations – if it is a lease car, or if you are about to sell the car, and what the car is worth will help you to decide. My article should help. With key damage, it is very unlikely that the scratch will be “polished” out or disguised with coloured wax (despite claims by some companies). But if you decide to go ahead with a full repair, you might not need to go to a body shop. “Smart” repairers, like ChipsAway can often fix the damage at a fraction of the cost. When you are comparing quotes, make sure you check if the repairs are guaranteed, how long the repair will take and whether there are other factors, such as if a courtesy car is on offer.
As spring arrives and our spirits rise, we are hoping to see a decline in stranger vandalism – but we remain vigilant to spot patterns and will continue to support and advise our customers when needed. If you would like any advice about your damaged car, please feel free to drop me a line here on LinkedIn on our Facebook group.