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. They are most active in May and June, causing a total loss amount at AXA of around CHF 8 million last year. 

A well-known annoyance for many car-drivers: marten damage. The animals hide themselves away in parked cars where they love nibbling on wiring or tubes. Every year, AXA handles on average 17,000 marten damage vehicle claims - last year, the total loss amount due to marten damage to vehicles was around CHF 8 million. Most marten claims are reported in May and June, as that's when the territorial behavior of the animals is particularly 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. Even a rival's scent in a marten's own territory can often result in the animals biting to protect their territory, causing damage to sensitive car parts. 

Heavy vehicle - easy prey

Martens particularly like recreational vehicles (RVs). Incidences of damage at AXA show that RVs suffer twice as much marten damage as passenger cars. "The increased incidence of damage is partly due to the fact that RVs are often parked in accessible areas for martens. They are frequently parked in the same place for a long time, making it easier for the animals to nest", says Fredy Egg, Chief Claims Officer at AXA. Reported claims for RVs have been continually rising over the last few years. The number of cases was 338 in 2016, but last year, the number of claims for marten damage to RVs reported to AXA rose to 500. The fact that Mr. and Mrs. Swiss have been taking their vacation at home since the coronavirus pandemic could explain this increase.

On average, a marten claim amounts to around CHF 450, regardless of the vehicle type. This means that marten damage is not only financially annoying, but also potentially dangerous if a brake cable is damaged. Damage caused to a car by a marten is covered by comprehensive or partial accidental damage insurance. This specifically includes damage from bites and any consequential loss.

Mountainous regions are less affected

A survey by AXA revealed that certain regions have been less affected over the last few years. Car owners in the cantons of Geneva, Valais or Obwalden and Nidwalden had much less to worry about when it came to the furry creatures, as the risk of marten damage in these cantons is 60 to 70 percent less than 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", says Fredy Egg. By contrast, there was relatively more damage reported in the cantons of Jura, Appenzell Innerrhoden and Thurgau.

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 (2016–2020).

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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