How much does a smoking owner impact vehicle resale value?

I hate riding around inside smoked up cars and would have to pretty much be given one in order to consider owning it. My computer/electronics work shows this is a nightmare for this type of equipment too. IT gums up mechanical parts, blocks up fans and cooling components, and I just all around see more problems with computers owned by smokers. There is also the 1/2 inch of tar cemented dirt you find inside!

I figure certain parts of cars like the radio, climate control, and other electronics are likely impacted. Since modern cars are more electronic than ever with integrated navigation and entertainment systems, I figure some of the issues I see with computers would also apply here.

Is there a general rule of thumb on how much resale is impacted? I am sure there is a certain percentage of the population that won’t buy them.

I’ve never found a general “rule” for how much smoking affects resale. I’d say zero if the buyer is a smoker to “you can’t pay me enough to take this stinky thing”. Far less on basic transportation and far more on a 3 year old luxury car.

I sold my mom’s smoke-laden (tar-dripping) Prizm to the dad of a kid needing reliable cheap transportation. It had been wrecked several times (and he knew that) so all that was factored in to a very reasonable price.

Bottom line is since not everyone smokes you are alienating 1/2 to 2/3rds of the pool of buyers for the car. Supply stays the same but the demand drops considerably as must the price.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 17% of U.S. citizens over 18 years of age smoke (2014 data).
That means that smoking in your car eliminates perhaps 83% of potential buyers.

I’m A Non-Smoker And Don’t Like Being Around Folks While They Light Up, But I’ve Bought 2 Used “Rolling Ash Trays.” I’ve Owned One Of Them For 8 Years And One For A Couple Of Months (photo).

I have my own system for getting the smell out and I don’t mind detailing the car myself (I’d do it anyways.) if the price was right. I have not experienced and electrical or electronics issues with either car. You’d never know anybody has smoked one cigarette in either car.

Would I prefer a non-smoker car? No doubt I would, but perhaps that is what has made my great deals available. Who knows?


I believe there is an impact but I don’t have any formula available for figuring it out. I do know that I usually send most smoker vehicles straight to the detailer to get that funky haze removed from the interior windows. Trying to clean it with regular window cleaner is just a lesson in futility. I also repair/rebuild computers and I can identify a smoking owner by the buildup of that “tobacco brown” color on everything inside the unit. It’s nearly impossible to clean. The smoky smell that comes out when the computer is fired up also is a dead giveaway. If I wind up buying them…I never give more than about half price.

I have my own system for getting the smell out and I don't mind detailing the car myself (I'd do it anyways.)

Would you care to share, or will you have to kill any one you tell? :wink:

I bought a low mileage car (21,000 miles) from a smoker for $1700, and after soaping out the interior I parked it in my garage with the windows open and Bounce towels under the seats.

It took a few months for all the smell to disappear, and my wife, a non smoker, happily drove the car for 10 years.

“Trying to clean it with regular window cleaner is just a lesson in futility. I also repair/rebuild computers and I can identify a smoking owner by the buildup of that “tobacco brown” color on everything inside the unit.”

Just imagine what the lungs and the arteries of the person who drove that car (or used that computer) must look like!

Yes, I know that smoking is an addiction, but after 4 decades (or more) of studies linking smoking to lung cancer, emphysema, COPD, and heart disease, I just can’t fathom why some people persist in their smoking habits.

You said it, @VDCdriver. They are addicted and can’t give up. People start when they are so young that the consequences 40 years down the road don’t matter to them.

Their bodies crave it. As a former smoker who finally quit for the final time many years ago, I can testify that it takes years for the craving to wear off… and getting there is an unbelievable struggle. Fortunately, I managed to achieve it after more than one try, but many cannot.

An addition is way beyond a habit. A habit is psychological. An addition is physiological as well as psychological.

I quit because I didn’t want my kids to grow up thinking that smoking was a natural part of being an adult. Fortunately, both of them grew up never connecting the two, and neither smokes. We learn a great deal about what’s normal from our parents. Somewhere along the line of succession, someone has to “break the chain”. I felt it was my responsibility to do so.

I have a good ladyfriend who I’ve allowed to light up in my car a few times. But she’s the only one. If you saw her you’d understand… :wink: :smile: :smile: :smile: :smile: :smile:

You dog, you!

The fellow I bought my truck from smoked cigars, so the whole thing had the aroma of cigars when I first got it. But it quickly dissipated by driving with the windows open for a couple months. It didn’t remove the ash burns on the seat cushions though.

Oh you guys. I dated a girl who smoked and I didn’t mind it at all, in fact . . . That was before I started. I remember I’d be walking to school and our high school principal used to drive by in his Chrysler with the windows closed and the ole pipe going full blast till he got to school. He only had about 5 miles to get the whole thing finished so the cloud of smoke would be thick. I declined a ride though. My friend had to work at his dad’s Ford dealership after school and he complained bitterly about having to clean up a doctor’s car that had been traded in. Another pipe smoker and the tar was thick all over the car. Me, I clean up my own before trading and if you don’t want it, tough.

Hmmm, Barky and Janis Joplin and now TSM? Waiting to hear more. Confession is good.

When I was growing up in the '50s and '60s everybody smoked. Mine is hardly a confession.

I had a brother in law who was a very addicted smoker. My sister could not get him to quit. He finally had a religious conversion and was able to kick the habit with the help of the " Laaahd".

As smoking is now banned nearly everywhere (here you can’t even smoke at an outdoor café or train stop) fewer take it up.

Legal pot will kill more people in the future though since there is no accurate test like the Breathalizer to detect when a driver is too stoned to be behind the wheel. Colorado and Washington will tell how it will turn out.

" They are addicted and can't give up"

It is definitely an addiction, but I believe that a person’s willpower, his/her strength of character, and his/her mature recognition of the dangers of smoking all play a role in whether or not somebody can quit the habit readily.

Why do I say that?
Simply because–at different times–my father, my mother, and my brother all quit “cold turkey” and none of them ever went back to their habit. All of them stated that the first 24 hours was difficult, the next day was slightly less difficult, and so on–until they had no cravings at all w/in 5 days or so.

Admittedly, both Mom & Dad were relatively light smokers (less than 10 smokes per day), but my brother was a 2.5 to 3 pack a day smoker. All 3 of these family members kicked their habits w/in just a few days without the use of drugs or patches.

If they did it without extreme distress, why can’t others?

My son bought a used car last year…we passed on a couple cars because even though you could see it was thoroughly cleaned inside and out…you could also tell people who owned it were smokers. I HATE the smell. I won’t go to our neighbors Christmas party because they’re smokers.

If they did it without extreme distress, why can't others?

Because not everyone is the same…this includes the chemical makeup of their brain. That’s been proven with numerous studies of cigarette addiction and drug addiction. For some the cravings can be 100 times worse then others.

@VDCdriver I actually started smoking at age 11 (I had very tolerant parents), and even smoked cigars in college. However, I never got addicted since I was sensitive to smoke and did not inhale (a la Bill Clinton).

I quit New Year’s Eve 1969; the only resolution I ever kept.

A friend was the maintenance manager for a local airline. Their 737s had an exhaust valve for the cabin air. When smoking was permitted this valve would gunk up with tar in about 3 months and had to be cleaned . After smoking was prohibited, the valve only needed cleaning every 1 1/2 year or so. I can’t make a better case for not smoking or the fact that second hand smoke is bad for you as well.

Just because you smoke doesn’t mean your car has to smell like it. None of my cars smell like cigarettes. People who have known me for years are often surprised to learn I smoke.

I come from a long line of smokers. Both my parents (85 and 70) have been smokers since their early teens. When I was a kid it wasn’t unusual to have both parents in the front seat smoking with the windows rolled up because the A/C was on.

As for giving it up, if you want to quit just quit. No one is forcing a smoker to light up.