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Smoking in your car is dangerous for you and your passengers, but it also damages the value of your car.
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According to Richard Arca, director of automotive ratings and analytics for the Edmunds automotive website, smoking can reduce the value of a commercial vehicle by at least $500. Other sources put the price even higher.
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According to a study by the National Biotechnology Information Institute, or NCBI, smoking in a car reduces its resale value by 7.7%. For example, a car with a trade-in value of $20,000 may sell for $18,460, or less than $1,540.
Many online used car buying websites allow you to blindly sell a car based on a questionnaire – if not about smoking, at least ask about “persistent smell”.
By inspecting the same car in two different ways (smoking and non-smoking), Vroom’s online car inspection machine reduced the company’s costs by $1,000. Carvana’s discount was lower for one car, reducing its cost. $289.
When cars are valued for trade-in, several factors affect their value, such as mechanical condition and mileage. The condition of the interior is another big factor: the smell of smoke makes the car difficult to sell and expensive to repair.
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Smoke “will be everywhere in the car,” says Michael Stoops, global product and education specialist for Meguiar’s Car Care Products. The smell persists — even “in places you can’t see or reach, inside the air conditioning system.”
In addition to devaluing the car, trying to sell a smoking car can be dangerous, and a potential buyer can smell the smoke, Arca said. There may also be signs of damage that users can see. For example, sometimes smokers throw ash on car seats, which leaves burn marks on the roof that would be expensive to repair.
Lighting up a cigarette in a car is dangerous even for non-smoking passengers, and the danger lingers long after the cigarette is extinguished. “Third-hand smoke” refers to gases and particles that are absorbed by the interior of the vehicle and then re-emitted over time.
This second and third hand smoke can be dangerous for the new car owner, but it is especially dangerous for teenagers.
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“Several studies show that children, cars and tobacco are a particularly dangerous combination,” according to the American Tobacco Free Association.
In fact, in nine states and Puerto Rico, it’s illegal to smoke in a car: it’s illegal for anyone under a certain age to be a passenger.
The NCBI’s warning is even more dire: “Secondhand smoke (SHS) causes premature death and disease in children and adults, and scientific evidence suggests that there is no safe level of exposure to SHS.”
If you buy a used car and later smell smoke, or if you sell a used car and don’t want to drop the sale price, all is not lost.
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Cigarette odor can be almost completely eliminated, “in the worst cases, but it takes a concerted effort,” says Carvana editor-in-chief Mark Holthoff. But she says over-the-counter solutions and home remedies, like leaving coffee grounds in the car, can mask the smell temporarily.
Removing the car requires cleaning the entire car, especially soft areas, which “holds better than hard areas,” Stoops said.
There are many products available to treat or eliminate smoke odors. For example, Meguiar’s Air Re-Fresher can deliver gear while the engine is running and the air conditioner is on high and spinning. It and similar products sell for $10 a bottle.
Cleaning services have successfully used ozone generators to eliminate cigarette odors. According to Mike Lightman, owner of OS Odor Removal Specialists, the treatment for the average sedan costs $169. The air system stays on while the car is running to allow it to circulate.
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“I would never say it completely eliminates the smell, because people remember and expect the smell,” Lightman says. But it will remove the smell before you get tired of it.
Once the treatment is complete, Stoops recommends using the machine to remove all traces of ozone, as it can irritate the eyes, nose, throat and lungs.
Car deodorizers can remove a lot of smoke odors, but if you’re looking to eliminate cigarette odor yourself, Stoops says, here are some important points:
About the Author: Philip Reed is an automotive expert who writes syndicated columns for USA Today, Yahoo Finance and others. He is the author of 10 books. Read more
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