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Keyed Car VS Scratch – How to Tell if Your Car Was Keyed

If you’re like me, you cringe at the thought of your car being keyed. It’s one of the worst feelings – knowing that someone has deliberately damaged your property out of anger or spite. 

If you’re suspecting that someone has keyed your car but you’re unsure, there are a few key differences between keyed cars and scratched cars that can help you figure it out.

In this article, we’ll help you determine whether your car has been deliberately keyed or accidentally scratched. Moreover, we’ll go over the average cost to fix keyed cars vs scratched cars, so you can be prepared for the worst.


Keyed Car VS Scratch – How to Tell the Difference?

There are a few key differences between keyed cars and scratched cars – we can use them to help us determine whether a car has been keyed.

Keyed Car Differences

Deliberate key scratches are visually different from regular scratches.

keyed car
Athol Mullen, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Most people, in a fit of rage, instinctively use a key to scratch a car, therefore keyed car scratches are almost always very narrow – 1-3mm. People quickly walk alongside the car once to avoid getting caught, therefore you shouldn’t see 2 or more scratches next to each other in the same direction.

Moreover, keyed car scratches usually go across the whole width of the car door (or wherever they’re located) and oftentimes even span the whole side of the car to cause maximum damage. On the other hand, scratches caused by other objects are usually shorter.

Now, the human hand is not that steady, especially when people are angry. As a result, keyed car scratches are usually very jagged and have an irregular shape. Key scratches parallel to each other will never be identical – one will always be significantly deeper, longer, or curved more.

Another key difference between keyed car scratches and regular scratches is that keyed car scratches are very deep and usually go through the paint all the way to the primer.

Accidental Scratch Differences

accidental car scratch

On the other hand, accidental car scratches are almost the exact opposite – they’re usually shorter, have a more regular shape, and are not as deep.

A lot of the time, people would accidentally scratch their car by driving too close to a bush or a tree branch and not even realize it. These types of accidental scratches also span the whole side of the car, but the key difference (no pun intended) is that they’re usually shallow and oftentimes are accompanied by parallel scratches that closely follow the same line.

Accidental scratches are also usually wider than key scratches – around 3 to 5mm or even wider.

Keyed Car VS Scratch – Cost to Fix

The cost of fixing a keyed vs scratched car can vary significantly, mostly due to the depth of the scratch.

Unfortunately, key scratches are very deep and the only proper way to fix them is to repaint the whole door or side of the car. This can be extremely expensive, as repainting a single door will cost $600 to $800 for most cars. If the scratch spans the whole side of the car, then you can expect to pay well over $3000.

On the other hand, accidental scratches can be much cheaper to fix, since they are most often only clearcoat scratches and don’t reach the paint. You can expect to pay $200 to $400 for those.

How to Save Money on Keyed Car Repairs?

If you have comprehensive insurance, then your key scratches will be covered and you won’t have to pay anything out of pocket. However, if you don’t have insurance, or your insurance doesn’t cover key scratches, then you can try to fix them yourself.

If the scratches don’t reach the base coat, then you can sand down the paint around it and blend everything in. This will make the scratch disappear, but it will also make your clear coat much thinner.

However, if the scratch is really deep (reaches base coat, or even bare metal), then you can use matching paint to cover the scratch, but this will require some skill and knowledge.

Lastly, remember that you can also buy a whole door or side panel from a junkyard for a fraction of the price and just replace the damaged part. This is by far the cheapest option, but it will also take the most time and effort.

Final Thoughts

Keying somebody’s car is a really low thing to do and it can cause a lot of financial damage.

Hopefully, this will never happen to you, but if it already did, then we hope that this article was helpful in understanding the main differences between keyed car scratches and regular scratches.

If you need to save money on keyed car repairs, then remember that you can always try to fix the scratches yourself or replace the damaged parts with used ones from a junkyard.

Thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions!

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