Smoking harms car resale value. How to spot a smoker’s motor


Smoking isn’t just harmful to you and your passengers

We all know smoking is bad for us. But now there’s conclusive evidence that it’s harmful to our car’s health as well. Anyone who partakes in the evil weed will realise that smoking is an expensive hobby. But the impact on our pocket doesn’t stop with buying tobacco or cigarettes. It can keep on hurting us financially when we sell our cars too.

A new report by car valuation experts CAP HPI reveals that cars can lose as much as £2000 off their resale value if they’ve been smoked in.

Why does smoking in cars hit their value?

A new survey by website Carbuyer found that 87 per cent of people in the market for a used car wouldn’t touch one that had been smoked in. By smoking in a car, you’re effectively reducing the demand for that vehicle. And limited demand equals lower price.

Consumer director for CAP HPI, Fernando Garcia, added: “The first thing a car dealer will do when looking at a car being sold by a smoker is knock down the price of the part exchange. That’s simply down to the fact that a car for part-ex has to be made fit for re-sale and this becomes considerably more difficult and expensive when that car was previously driven by a smoker. Some dealers tell us they won’t even buy cars from smokers because of the time and expense of getting the car properly clean and ridding the interior of unpleasant odours.”

How does smoke damage cars?

Research has shown that even after you’ve finished a cigarette, tiny particles of smoke can linger inside a car for up to two and a half hours. What’s more, when tobacco is smoked in a confined space, pollutants are more concentrated. These are then absorbed by the fabric in the seats, door panels, roof lining and carpet.

Fernando Garcia explained: “Many of these pollutants attach to surfaces and build up inside the ventilation systems from where they can be released back into the air over days and weeks after smoking. Opening the windows to let the smoke out is not the answer.”

Can you get rid of the smell in cars?

Dealers will spend £150-£200 removing the evidence of smoke from the interior of cars. They’ll clean ventilation system filters and wash and shampoo surfaces. They’ll struggle to permanently lift the smell out of upholstery. They can, however, disguise it for short periods.

There are various cleaning products that claim they’ll get rid of the smell from seats and upholstery. Air freshener manufacturers can be equally optimistic. And there are various tips and tricks that claim to do the same. Putting fresh coffee grounds in the car is one way. However, the reality is none of them do more than mask the whiff of smoke.

How to tell if a car has been smoked in

First look at the ash tray. If it’s got burn marks in and around it, chances are the car was smoked in. But smokers don’t always use the ash trays. Try the cigarette lighter next. Does that have ash around the end? Then get your nose into the fabrics. If they smell overly of chemicals, ask yourself why. And put your nose up close to the air vents. Although it’s possible to change the filters and do a bacterial cleanse on the ventilation system, no dealer will put new pipe work in. And the smell of smoke, or at least a musty smell, will cling to this.

Isn’t it illegal to smoke in cars?


Yes and no. Since October 2015, it’s been illegal to smoke in a car whenever there’s an under 18 present, even if you do have the windows open. However, that ban doesn’t apply if you’re in a convertible with the roof down. And it doesn’t apply to the new generation of e-cigarettes.

The fine for smoking in a car with a child present is £50. But it was reported earlier this year that there had been no fines issued for smoking in vehicles with children. The only cases where drivers had been stopped by police resulted in verbal warnings.

It’s also been illegal to smoke in company-owned vehicles since July 2007. That even includes those where all employees might be smokers.

One comment on “Smoking harms car resale value. How to spot a smoker’s motor

  1. Ethan Hansen 26/05/2020 10:01 PM

    It’s scary to think cigarette smoke can have such a detrimental effect on a used car! My wife and I are looking for another car, and we were unsure whether or not we should buy it new or used. After reading your article, we’ll be sure to play it safe and search for a new car!

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