Annoying rodents - marten damage to cars

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Last year, AXA Switzerland received 15,500 claims for marten damage, around 1,500 fewer than in 2021. The amount paid out in claims is still around CHF 8 million p.a., rising to more than CHF 40 million throughout Switzerland. The risk of marten damage in the cantons of Jura, Glarus, Neuchâtel and Schaffhausen is particularly high.

Cars parked outdoors overnight are a favorite target for martens. In May and June when their territorial behavior is especially strong, they gnaw on cables and tubing or nestle in the engine compartment of vehicles. Nevertheless, the number of reported claims for marten damage at AXA was much lower in 2022 at around 15,500 cases compared to previous years when the figure was around 17,000. It's unclear whether the reduction is due to more electric vehicles being on the roads, as they are built differently and their cables are much less accessible or due to more cars parked in underground garages or whether there were generally fewer martens around that were attacking vehicles. Patrick Villiger, Head of Motor Vehicle Claims at AXA Switzerland, suspects that the answer is a combination of all three. 

Marten damage to electric cars particularly costly

At AXA Switzerland, an average claim for marten damage now stands at CHF 480. This means that the claim amount is manageable, but it is rising all the time. This is partly due to the fact that inflation has made car replacement parts much more expensive. Repairs to newer vehicle models are generally most costly due to their built-in electronics. Repairing a gnawed high-voltage cable in an electric car is simply not possible for safety reasons, making a replacement of the damaged cable correspondingly difficult and expensive. "In the worst case scenario, marten damage in an electric car can have additional consequential damages for the drive battery, increasing the costs even more", says Patrick Villiger.  This explains why the total amount paid out in claims has not fallen despite fewer claims. The figure is still around CHF 8 million, with AXA estimating the extent of marten damage throughout Switzerland to be around CHF 40 million per year.

Martens love recreational vehicles (RVs)

Martens like attacking RVs in particular. "Our figures show that RVs are twice as often affected by marten damage compared to passenger cars. This is due to the fact that they're parked in the same place over a long period, making it easier for the animals to nest. They're also often parked in areas that are accessible for martens", continues Patrick Villiger. In the past three years, more than 500 RVs reported marten damage compared to 378 cases in 2017. The reason for this increase is likely to be the continuing boom in RVs. 

Data source and chart: AXA. The map shows the incidence of damage (number of reported claims for marten damage / number of insured vehicles in the canton) for marten damage relative to the incidence of damage in Switzerland (2018–2022).

Low-lying cantons affected more 

A survey for the last five years shows which regions are particularly badly affected: in the canton of Jura, the likelihood of marten damage is almost 90 percent higher than the Swiss average, almost 50 percent higher in the canton of Glarus and still close on 40 percent higher in the cantons of Neuchâtel and Schaffhausen. As the most common type of marten in Central Europe, stone martens only appear in Switzerland up to medium elevations. This means significantly fewer animals live in a mountainous canton compared to lower lying areas.

Underground garages offer the best protection

Whenever possible, car drivers should avoid parking their cars outdoors. "The best protection against marten damage is still a closed-off garage", says Patrick Villiger. Blocking access to the engine compartment or securing particularly at-risk car parts can also help alleviate this situation. However, if marten damage does occur, it is covered by comprehensive or partial accidental damage insurance. This specifically includes damage from bites and any consequential loss.

Protection against marten damage

  • Some vehicle manufacturers offer a marten trap as an accessory. Marten alarms emit an ultrasonic sound that doesn't harm the animals. 
  • Special tubing made of flexible hard plastic can protect wiring and tubes. 
  • Where possible, the car should be parked in a protected area. If there's no garage, it's always worth parking the car in the same place. This minimizes the risk of rival animals biting around the engine compartment in a fight which can damage wiring. 
  • Wire netting on the floor under the engine compartment offers good protection, as martens do not like uneven subfloors.
  • It's worth having the engine regularly cleaned to remove the scent of invasive animals so that territorial fights can be avoided.

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