Annoying rodents - marten damage to cars

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Martens actually look really sweet, but when these small predators are chewing our cars, they're suddenly not cute at all. Every year AXA Switzerland receives around 17,000 claims for marten damage. The claims amount is CHF 8 million p.a., rising to around CHF 40 million for Switzerland as a whole.

Cars parked outdoors overnight are a favorite target for martens, particularly in May and June when their territorial behavior is especially strong. Unfortunately for vehicle owners, it's characteristic of the animals to gnaw on wiring and tubing, and a car's engine compartment is also an ideal place for martens to hide. At AXA Switzerland, the average claim for marten damage is around CHF 460. Although this is a manageable amount, it is still annoying if a car doesn’t start or is at risk of an accident because a brake cable has been chewed. A total of 17,000 claims for marten damage are reported to AXA Switzerland every year, representing a claims amount of CHF 8 million. AXA estimates the extent of marten damage throughout Switzerland to be around CHF 40 million per year.

Heavy vehicle - easy prey

Martens like making a nuisance of themselves in RVs in particular. "Our figures show that RVs suffer twice as much marten damage as 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. RVs are also often parked in accessible areas for martens", says Fredy Egg, Head of Claims at AXA Switzerland. 378 RVs were damaged by martens in 2017, but this had already risen to 532 cases last year. The reason for this increase is the boom in RVs which was boosted by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Mountainous regions are less affected

A survey for the last five years shows which regions are particularly badly affected: the likelihood of marten damage is up to 80 percent higher in the cantons of Jura, Glarus, Thurgau or Schaffhausen compared to the Swiss average.  “As the most common type of marten in Central Europe, stone martens only appear in Switzerland at medium elevations. This means significantly fewer animals live in a mountainous canton compared to lower lying areas", explains Fredy Egg.

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 (2017–2021).

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 Fredy Egg. 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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