Why do people key cars: reasons and prevention tips

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Car keying is a form of vandalism that involves scratching the paint of other people’s cars using a key or other sharp object. This act can be expensive to repair and can cause emotional distress to the car owner.

But what is the psychology behind keying cars? Why they don’t ask themselves a question: “Is keying a car illegal?” What motivates someone to damage someone else’s property? In this article, we will explore the psychology behind car keys and tips on how to prevent it.

why do people key cars


Revenge is one of the most common motivations behind car keying. If someone feels wronged by an owner, they may key their car as a form of retaliation. For example, if a person feels that an owner parked too close to their car or took their parking spot, they may key the car as an act of revenge.


Jealousy is another common motivation behind car keying. A person may make a car keyed because they are envious of the car owner’s.

They may feel that the owner is showing off or has something that they don’t have, and car keying is a way to level the playing field.


Anger is another motivation behind car keying. If a person is feeling angry, frustrated, or upset, they may take out their emotions with a keyed car. This can be a way to release pent-up emotions and feel a sense of control over a situation.


Boredom is another motivation behind car keying. If a person is bored and looking for something to do, they may decide to key cars as a way to pass the time. This is often seen in teenagers who are looking for a thrill or something to do on a weekend night.

Peer pressure

Peer pressure is another motivation behind car keying. A person may feel pressured by their friends or social group to key cars as a way to fit in or prove their loyalty to the group. This is often seen in youth gangs or other groups where loyalty is highly valued.


Intoxication is another motivation behind the keyed car. If a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they may key cars as a way to act out or feel a sense of power.

This is often seen in college or party settings where drinking or drug use is common.

Political or social views

In some cases, people key cars, while being motivated by political or social views. For example, a person may key a car with a political bumper sticker that they disagree with or a car with a symbol or emblem that represents a group they oppose.


Thrill-seeking is another motivation when people are keying vehicles.

Some people may key a car as a way to feel a rush of adrenaline or excitement.

This is often seen in young people who are looking for a sense of adventure.

Lack of empathy

A lack of empathy is another motivation when people key cars. Some people may not consider the impact of their actions on others and may key a car without thinking about the consequences. They may not understand the emotional and financial toll on the owner.

Cultural or social norms

Cultural or social norms may also be an answer to the question: “Why do people key cars?”. In some communities or social groups, keying someone else’s vehicle may be seen as a form of expression or a way to show dominance. This can be seen in some subcultures or groups where vandalism is normalized or even celebrated.

Lack of consequences

Finally, a lack of consequences may be an answer to the question: “Why do people key cars?”. If a person feels that there is little chance of being caught or punished for keyed cars, they may be more likely to engage in this behavior.

This can be seen in areas where there is little police presence or where vandalism is not taken seriously.

Tips to avoid cars from getting keyed

Prevention is always better than cure.

Here are some tips that can help you avoid your car from being keyed:

  • Park in a safe location. One of the best ways to prevent your car from being keyed is to park in a safe location. This could be a well-lit area, a secure garage, or a parking lot with surveillance cameras. Do not consider double parking, as it is illegal and not safe.
  • Install a security system (car alarm). Installing a security system in your car can help deter potential vandals. This could include a car alarm system, a GPS tracker, or security cameras.
  • Use a car cover. Using a cover can help protect from scratches and dents, including key marks. You can also contact an auto shop if you have comprehensive coverage.
  • Avoid confrontations. If you suspect that someone is keying your car, avoid confrontations. Instead, try to get evidence of the incident, such as photographs or videos of your car, and report it to the authorities.

What if your vehicle gets keyed?

If your car has been keyed, here are some steps you can take:

Document the damage for an insurance company. Take camera footage of the damage to your car’s paintwork. This will help you file a claim to the insurance provider and report the incident to the police. Remember to answer yourself a question “Does my insurance cover keyed car?”. Be also aware of insurance-related frauds.

Contact your insurance company. Depending on your insurance coverage, you may be able to start the claim process for the damage caused by keying.

Make a police statement. Report the incident to the police, even if you don’t think anything can be done.

This can help create a record of the incident and may help the police identify patterns of vandalism in the area.

Repair the damage. Depending on the extent of the damage, you may need to repair the damage. This could include repainting the affected area or replacing the entire panel. You can also consider using spray paint, or help from the auto body shop.

Consider installing a security system. If your car has been keyed, it may be a good idea to install a security system to deter future vandalism.


We’re glad to answer some popular questions related to this topic “Why do people key cars”.

Why would someone key a car?

There are many reasons why someone may key a car. Some common motivations behind this behavior include revenge, jealousy, anger, mental health issues, or even cultural or social norms.

What happens when someone keys your car?

When someone keys your car, it can result in serious emotional and financial consequences. Key marks can be deep and difficult to repair, requiring expensive paint jobs or even panel replacements.

Car owners may feel violated and frustrated, leading to stress and anxiety.

How often do people who key cars get caught?

The chances of someone getting caught for keying a car depend on a variety of factors, including the presence of surveillance cameras, police presence, and witness accounts.

It is difficult to estimate the percentage of vandals who are caught, but it is important to report incidents of vandalism to the authorities to increase the chances of catching the perpetrator.

Why do people key BMW’s?

There is no specific reason why people key BMWs, but it could be due to jealousy or resentment towards the perceived wealth and status associated with BMW owners.

However, it is important to note that keying any car is a malicious act that can have serious consequences, regardless of the make or model.


In conclusion, there are many different motivations behind keying other cars, ranging from revenge and jealousy to mental health issues and lack of consequences. By addressing the root causes of keying cars, we can create a safer and more respectful community for everyone.

If your car has been keyed, it is important to take immediate action to document the damage, file an insurance claim and a police report, and repair the damage. With these steps, you can protect yourself and your car from future incidents of vandalism.