Smoking in a car or truck has a financial impact at the time of sale
Smoking in your car is harmful to you and your passengers, but it also hurts the resale value of your car.
A study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, or NCBI, estimates that smoking in a car reduces its resale value by 7.7%.
By appraising the same car two different ways (smoked and never smoked), online used car retailer Vroom’s appraisal tool reduced the company’s offer to buy by $1,000. Carvana’s discount was less for the same car, reducing its offer price by just $289.
When cars are appraised for trade-in, a number of factors affect their value, such as mechanical condition and number of miles driven. The condition of the interior is another important factor: the smell of smoke makes a vehicle harder to sell and expensive to repair.
The smoke will “permeate the entire interior of the vehicle,” says Michael Stoops, senior global product and training specialist for Meguiar’s automotive care products. The smell persists stubbornly – even in “areas you can’t see or reach, like inside the air conditioning system”.
Lighting a cigarette in a car is unhealthy, even for non-smoking passengers, and the threat persists long after the cigarette is extinguished. “Third-hand smoke” refers to gases and particles absorbed by the interior of the car and then re-emitted over time.
This secondary and tertiary smoke is particularly dangerous for young people.
“Several studies show that children, cars and cigarettes make a particularly dangerous combination,” according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation.
In fact, smoking in a car with a young person is illegal in nine states and Puerto Rico: anyone driving with a passenger under a certain age is prohibited.
Can you get rid of the tobacco smell in your car?
If you buy a used car and later smell smoke, or sell a car you smoked in and don’t want to affect its resale value, all is not lost.
There is no shortage of products to treat or eliminate smoke odors. For example, Meguiar’s Air Re-Fresher cartridge dispenses while the engine is running and the air conditioning is in high and recirculation mode. It and similar products sell for around $10 for a single cartridge.
Cleaning services have had success using ozone generators to extract cigarette odor. Mike Lightman, owner of Odor Removal Experts of OC, says the treatment costs $169 for a midsize sedan. The car is left running during the process so that the ventilation system can circulate.
Reed is an Auto Writer for NerdWallet.com.