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Car vandalism – can motor insurance help?

Drivers should check their car insurance cover as new figures show almost 3,000 vehicles are vandalised each week in England and Wales.

The research by Churchill Motor Insurance found Devon and Cornwall had the highest number of cases, while train stations were also hotspots for criminals.

With repairs often costing hundreds, it’s worth double checking your policy wording to see what cover is included for malicious damage and if it’s worth making a claim.

Here, Which? explains what to do if your car is vandalised and what it means for your insurance.

What counts as vandalism?

When you leave your car parked in a public place, whether it’s the high street or outside your home, you expect to find it in the same condition when you return. Sadly, some drivers find their vehicle has been deliberately damaged while they were gone. 

The most common types of ‘malicious damage’ include slashing of tyres, smashing windows, mirrors or lights, and scratching of paintwork.

Where is car vandalism on the rise?

Vandalism is a criminal offence and it’s happening more often than you think. 

New analysis of police force data by Churchill Motor Insurance revealed that forces received 76,889 reports of criminal damage to vehicles between April and September last year – that’s equivalent to 2,957 each week.

Car vandalism reports increased in 17 areas of England and Wales during that period. Devon and Cornwall saw the sharpest rise, with cases jumping 26% compared to the previous six months – from 1,692 to 2,134. Leaving your car unattended at a train station also appears to be risky, with British Transport Police seeing reports climb from 375 to 447. That’s a 19% increase.

London’s Metropolitan Police and Greater Manchester Police received the most reports of criminal damage to vehicles in the six-month period – recording 8,097 and 5,034 cases respectively. West Midlands Police came in third place with 4,962 reports. One explanation for the high number of incidences is the size of the big cities these jurisdictions cover.

The good news is that some areas in England and Wales have seen vandalism reports drop – the number of cases in a total of 25 forces fell in April to September 2023. Northumbria saw the biggest decrease of 29%. Two areas – Cambridgeshire and Norfolk – didn’t see any change in figures.

These reductions meant the overall number of car vandalism cases reported to the police actually fell by 2%, from 78,537 between October 2022 and March last year.

Will insurance pay for repairs?

Car vandalism can be particularly costly for victims. Repairing a deep scratch to a car’s paintwork could set you back an estimated £300, according to Checkatrade. The website, which helps people find professional tradespeople, also claims replacing a tyre that has been slashed can cost around £100. 

The answer to the question of whether your motor insurance will payout for these repairs will depend on the level of cover you purchased. While most comprehensive car insurance policies include criminal damage, you won’t be protected if you took out the minimum level of cover. 

So although third party, fire and theft policies does cover damage as a result of someone trying to steal your car, it won’t protect you against vandalism in general. But a basic third party only policy won’t cover you for any criminal damage, no matter the circumstances.  

  • Find out more: making a car insurance claim.

Is it always worth claiming?

Even if your policy does payout, make sure you read the small print. Vandalism damage is usually considered to be an at-fault claim and because it’s unlikely you’ll be able to identify the perpetrator, the insurer can’t recover costs from another person. 

Unless specifically stated in the policy, it means you will likely lose some or all of your no-claims discount when you make a claim. On top of that, your premium could go up when you come to renew if you’ve had to make a claim for vandalism damage. 

And remember, you still have to pay the excess – this is the amount you pay towards any claim you make. If the value of that claim doesn’t exceed the total excess, there is little point making a claim in the first place.

You should therefore weigh up these costs before making any claim. It may well be more economical to pay for any relatively cheap repairs yourself.

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What to do if your car has been vandalised

Discovering your car has been vandalised can be stressful, but don’t panic. It’s important you take the these steps to ensure any claim you make for damage is successful:

  • Report to the police: Call the police as soon as possible on the non-emergency number 101. Once your case has been filed, you will be given a crime reference number.  You can also report vandalism on the government website.
  • Get evidence: Make videos and take as many clear pictures as you can of your car. Look around for CCTV cameras that might have caught the incident and check any dashcam footage. This will help you build as much evidence as possible.
  • Call your insurer: Make sure you let your car insurance provider know what’s happened as soon as possible. You will have to answer questions about the time and date of the incident, the location of your car and your crime reference number.
  • Don’t clear up: While it may be tempting to move things around, try not to alter the crime scene as it could cost you a claim. Wait for clearance from the police before you start cleaning up.

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