How Much Does It Cost to Fix a Keyed Car?


Written by:  Howmuchisit.org Staff
Last Updated:  August 7, 2018

Having a car keyed is, sadly, an act of vandalism that will leave permanent marks if it is not fixed.  Leaving a key mark on a car for too long without getting it fixed can develop rust, making the situation even worse.

While car insurance policies can cover an event such as this, the price of fixing key marks on a car are going to depend upon the size of the mark, the amount of damage that was done and the professional fixing the car.

Key scratch/dent on boot by janetmck, on Flickr
Key scratch/dent on boot” (CC BY 2.0) by janetmck

How much does it cost to fix a keyed car?

Professionals are going to charge depending upon the depth and length of the scratch, how deep the scratch is and the type of process the body shop uses.  On average, a typical key repair can cost anywhere from $100 to as much as $1,500 per keyed area.  The deeper the scratch is, the more it’s going to cost.

First of all, you have to understand a car has three layers of paint:  the clear coat, which is the first layer, the paint, which is the second layer, and the primer, which is the third layer.  As the scratch penetrates these layers, the job can take more time, hence, highering the price.  Refer to our subheading below to learn more about each scratch.

A simple scuff, for example, that barely scratches the surface will cost about $75 to $150 to have done.  These scuffs can often be removed at home with a simple rubbing compound from a local auto parts store for as little as $10.  For example, the highly rated Quixx Paint Scratch Remover and scratch fix all-in-1 retails for $10 to $20.  If you were to choose a professional body shop, the costs would be in the $75 to $110 range.

A clear coat scratch, which penetrates the second layer, will be deeper, but no paint will be required to fix the scratch.  These types of scratches will be deeper, but like the scuffs, it can either be removed by using a simple compound or an auto repair shop can get rid of it for about $150 to $400.  If the scratch is deeper, a wet/dry sandpaper will be required to reach the paint layer to get rid of it.  Once sanded, a rubbing compound can be applied to get rid of the scratches, followed by a polish to create a shine.

A paint scratch, which gets into the paint layer exposing metal, can be the most expensive option, especially if the scratch is deep.  Since this repair will require paint, body shops may charge anywhere from $450 to more than $1,100, depending on the factors mentioned above.

One forum member on Club Lexus said he was quoted $1,600 for a keyed scratch on his driver side door panel.

Types of car scratches

Clear coat scratches

The clear coat is the thin layer on the top of the car’s surface, protecting the car’s paint job from environmental elements such as the sun, rain and snow.  If the clear coat were to become scratched, the paint won’t be ruined, which means the area won’t have to be repainted, saving you a few bucks.  These types of scratches will be the cheapest and can often be repaired by simply washing away with some soapy water.

Primer scratches

If the scratch goes through the clear coat, it will expose the primer, and while this may sound scary, it shouldn’t be devastating since the paint hasn’t be exposed yet.  This type of scratch means the car is still protected from rust and the keyed scratch can still be repaired without painting it.

Paint scratches

These are the worse type of scratches your car can get, exposing the metal underneath the paint.  If this type of scratch isn’t taken care of, rust can quickly form, spreading throughout.  As noted above, this type of scratch will be the most expensive type since the area will have to be repainted.

What are the extra costs?

If the scratch is deep and too large, exposing metal, the body shop may recommend replacing the entire car part as this option may be cheaper.

Doing the job on your own can be cheaper; however, if you need touch up paint, it can cost about $50 to $300 per two ounces, according to Cars Direct.

Tips to know

If bringing the car to a body shop or even doing it on your own, you may need to order the paint via the dealership.  In order to receive the exact paint color, all the dealer will need is the VIN.  With this number, they will be able to order the original color to help match the color to your vehicle.

Popular DIY options

How can I save money?

It is best to consult with at least three body shops to get quotes.  Most legitimate body shops will be more than happy to give a quote for free as long as you bring the car in for a visual inspection.

For smaller key scratches, it may be ideal to try a scratch remover kit at home.  These kits will cost no more than $20 and will only take a few minutes of your time. Many have great reviews and can prevent the car from getting rust in the future. Even if it doesn’t work, you can always use the body shop as your last resort.  Most jobs, as long as it’s done properly, will cost about $15 to $30.

Key scratches can be easy to fix if you follow guides online.  For example, this PopularMechanics.com guide shows a step-by-step guide on how to get rid of the scratches for good.

If the job costs more than $500, it may be wise to contact your insurance company to file a claim.


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