A trip to the Hunter Valley to celebrate a relative’s 90th birthday has proven to be an expensive night away for a Newcastle family, after a rat stowed away in their luxury four-wheel-drive Land Rover.
Luke Tilse took the vehicle to his family’s orchard at Moonan Flat in April for an overnight visit.
It was a week or so later, he said, when he noticed holes appearing in the car’s thick, rubber floormats.
“We were getting these holes, getting bigger and bigger and these are hardcore rubber mats, you know,” Mr Tilse said.
“We hadn’t seen any [rodents]. We just knew they were there because gradually our car was just getting nibbled away.
“All the armrests were starting to get bite marks in them, all the leather on the consoles. [There were] multiple nests apparently.”
Damage bill hits $20,000
Mr Tilse said he could not believe the damage bill when he took the car to the mechanic.
“We took it to the dealership and they said that, even to look into the car and take it apart to that level, [would be] about $10,000,” he said.
“I think at last count [the total cost] was $19,600.
“There was heaps of damage under the dashboard. We were worried about airbags blowing up in our faces just from the electrics being so tampered with.
“All up, l think it’s going to be two months without the car while they get all the different specialist parts they need to replace.
“A lot of money and now time.”
Nesting under carpet
Garry van Dijk manages the car-repair business that worked on Mr Tilse’s vehicle.
“We had to strip the whole car apart, basically, so the whole interior is out of the vehicle – the seats, the dashboard, the air-conditioning unit, everything is apart on that car,” he said.
“You would think that there was more than one [rodent], but we only found one.
Mr van Dijk said the creature had been living under the carpet while the family had been driving around.
“It’s taken stuff underneath the carpet, chewed the door trims, the seats, armrests, the consoles, and the amount of faeces through the car is quite incredible.
“It’s chewed through everything, dragged wet-wipes into the dashboard to make nests and in the vents. You have to see it to believe it, it’s quite amazing.”
“What’s not damaged, we’ll put back in, but that will all have to be sterilised and cleaned of course.”
Mr van Dijk said it was the third car damaged by rodents he had seen in the past month.
“We had another Range Rover as well. I expect we’ll see more.”
Insurance covered costs
Mr Tilse said he was relieved that his insurance covered the cost of repairs, after talking to others in a similar position who had not been so lucky.
The Insurance Council of Australia said most car insurance policies did not cover damage caused by vermin or insect plagues.
“There are some car insurance policies available that may cover subsequent damage like a fire caused by [rodents] chewing through electrical wiring,” a spokesperson said.
“The Insurance Council of Australia suggests policyholders who have suffered vermin damage to their car contact their insurer to have their individual situations assessed.”