How to remove car scratches to preserve your vehicle’s value

    Car scratches, no matter how minor, can be unsightly and frustrating. 

    Whether you’ve found surface scratches or a deeper gouge into your paintwork, knowing how to effectively remove these imperfections can restore your vehicle’s appearance, as well as protecting against more costly issues like rust. Find out some DIY and professional methods for tackling scratches.

    Key info:

    DIY scratch removal – You can often remove minor scratches yourself with the right tools and products, widely available with home goods retailers. 

    Dealing with deep scratches – These require more attention in order to prevent rust and further damage. 

    Cost considerations – Get an idea of the potential costs for removing scratches from your car’s paint, so you can budget accordingly.

    Insurance coverage – Find out whether your insurance policy covers the removal of scratches and how to navigate the process.

    What to do if you get a scratch on your car?

    an audi dented and scratched

    Not only can car scratches be unsightly, they also make it more likely for your car bodywork to start to rust. It’s best to nip scratches in the bud and keep your exterior in good condition.

    When dealing with a car scratch, swift action is key to prevent further damage. A car scratch can result from minor scrapes and accidents, typically caused by you or a fellow driver getting too close while parking or manoeuvring in tight spaces. In such cases, identifying the responsible party in order to get repair work covered by insurance can be challenging.

    On the other hand, a scratch can also be the result of deliberate criminal damage, such as someone intentionally using a key to mar the car’s surface. In these instances, it’s crucial to report the vandalism to the authorities and contact your insurance company. 

    Can I fix a car scratch myself?

    Yes, it’s possible to fix a car scratch yourself without car professionals, depending on the scratch’s depth and severity. DIY methods, including polishing compounds and touch-up paint, can effectively address light scratches. 

    First, assess the scratch’s depth. For superficial scratches (that often look like white streaks), use a polishing compound and microfiber cloth. Deeper scratches may require touch-up paint and clear coat. Regular waxing helps maintain your car’s shine. 

    However, for more extensive damage, consulting a car professional is advisable to ensure a seamless repair and prevent further harm to your vehicle’s finish.

    How to remove a scratch from your car?

    a car being cleaned with soap and water
    Start by thoroughly washing your paintwork, so the scratched area is clean and prepped for repair.

    You can typically get all the tools, products, and materials you need to fix your car’s scratched paintwork at a DIY or home goods shop. You may already have some of them at home, if you regularly take care of your car yourself.

    Tools & equipment to fix scratched paintwork

    Regardless of how superficial the scratch is, you’ll need car polish (or wax) to shine the surface back up. 

    If your scratch is superficial, all you’ll need to have handy is a clean microfibre cloth and touch-up paint. For deeper scratches you may also need sandpaper and clear coat.

    Step-by-step guide

    It’s easy to remove a scratch on a car yourself, if that’s your preference:

    1. Assessment

    Begin by closely examining the scratch’s depth and length. This evaluation will help you determine the appropriate method to address it.

    2. Clean the area

    Using soapy water and a sponge, thoroughly clean the scratched portion, ensuring you remove any dirt or debris that might affect the repair.

    3. Dry thoroughly

    After cleaning, ensure the affected area is completely dry before proceeding to the next steps. This prevents water from interfering with the repair process.

    4. Apply polishing compound

    With a clean cloth, generously apply a quality polishing compound to the scratch. Use a circular motion and apply light pressure to work it into the damaged area.

    5. Buff it

    Once the polishing compound has been applied to the car, take a clean and dry microfiber towel and carefully buff the area. This action should reveal improvements in the scratch’s appearance.

    6. Assess again

    Reevaluate the scratch to determine if it’s still visible on the car or if further repair is necessary. Sometimes, this initial treatment is sufficient to resolve superficial scratches.

    7. Apply touch-up paint

    For a deep car scratch, use a matching touch-up paint. Apply it in thin layers, allowing each layer to dry before adding another. This gradual approach ensures a seamless result.

    8. Sand gently (if needed)

    If the paint has created an uneven surface, gently use fine-grit sandpaper to level it. Be cautious and avoid over-sanding, as this may worsen the damage.

    9. Clear coat application

    Finish the repair process by applying a clear coat that is evenly distributed. This protective layer safeguards the repair and the surrounding area. Make sure to let it dry completely.

    10. Final inspection

    After all the steps are completed, inspect the scratch and affected area on the car carefully. Ensure that the scratch is no longer visible on the car and that the finish looks smooth and polished.

    Do scratch repair pens work on light scratches?

    Scratch repair pens are products designed to address superficial scratches. They usually consist of a clear coat and the colour of the car’s paint. These pens are marketed as a DIY solution for light scratches and chips but don’t work so well on a slightly deeper scratch.

    Scratch repair pens can be effective for very small scratches and chips, offering a quick and relatively easy fix. However, they may not work well for deep or extensive damage. The results may vary depending on the quality of the scratch removal product and the user’s skill.

    How do I repair deeper scratches?

    A deep scratch is more challenging to repair by yourself because it extends through the clear coat and may reach the base paint. Repairing them typically involves additional steps, such as sanding and applying multiple layers of touch-up paint to match the car’s colour. 

    The key difference from fixing a regular scratch is the need for more involved surface preparation and careful layering of paint to ensure the repair blends seamlessly with the surrounding area. Due to the complexity, professional assistance is often recommended to achieve a flawless result with no risk of rust and further damage.

    How much does it cost to remove scratches from car paint?

    a vehicle in a garage
    You can remove surface scratches from your paintwork yourself, but it may be worth going to a professional if the scratches are particularly deep.

    The cost of removing scratches from the car paintwork in the UK can vary widely depending on several factors:

    • Scratch severity – Superficial scratches that only affect the clear coat may cost less to repair, starting at around £50-£100 per scratch.
    • Deep scratches – Repairing these scratches that reach the base paint layer on a car can be more expensive, with costs ranging from £200 to £300 or more per scratch.
    • Professional vs. DIY – Professional services from auto body shops or detailers come at a higher cost due to their expertise and equipment. DIY repair kits can be a more budget-friendly option, with prices starting at around £20-£50.
    • Number of scratches – The total cost depends on how many shallow scratches need repair. Many professionals offer discounts for multiple repairs.
    • Location – Prices may vary by location in the UK.
    • Type of repair – Depending on the technique used on the car, such as wet sanding, polishing, or touch-up paint, the cost can differ.

    Will my insurance pay for the removal of deep scratches?

    Car insurance typically does not cover the removal of minor car scratches, minor dents or cosmetic damage. Insurance is primarily designed to address significant damage from accidents, theft, or other covered incidents. 

    Removing small scratches falls under regular car maintenance, which is generally the vehicle owner’s responsibility. It’s advisable to consult your insurance policy and discuss coverage options with your provider to confirm if any exceptions or optional add-ons apply. However, for lighter scratches, using DIY methods or seeking professional repairs may be more cost-effective than involving your insurance.


    Can a car scratch fail my MOT?

    Yes, deep or extensive car scratches that affect safety, such as impairing visibility, can lead to an MOT failure. Superficial scratches, however, are highly unlikely to cause a failure.

    Can you spray paint car scratches?

    Yes, you can use spray paint to repair scratches, but it’s essential to get an exact match of the paint colour and follow the correct priming and finishing procedures for the best results.

    Does WD-40 remove scratches from cars?

    Yes, WD-40 can be used to remove scratches from cars, but it should not be the main scratch remover. It can help with scuff marks and light scratch marks. 

    Can toothpaste remove a car scratch?

    Yes, toothpaste can remove clear coat scratches which are superficial scratches. It’s worth noting that whitening toothpaste works well but it may not be effective for deep scratches or extensive damage.

    Choose the best time to sell your car

    If you’re not sure what your car’s value is to begin with, it’s hard to know what influence scratches to the paintwork will have on the value increasing or decreasing.

    All vehicles depreciate at varying rates, with no rule of averages accurately describing any one car’s changing value. However, the visible condition has a big influence on what you can fetch for your car. 

    Motorway’s Car Value Tracker provides a free, reliable monthly price alert for up to six vehicles at once, so you can track your ongoing car value and gauge whether the cost to fix your scratches will be worth it for a healthy sale. 

    Follow the changes to your car’s value each month and choose the best time to sell your car, and make informed choices about investments in your car’s maintenance.

    Need to sell your car?

    Want to learn more about owning, maintaining, and selling your car? Check out more of our guides here, covering everything from Clean Air Zones to car tax, and plate changes to part exchange.