Myths and Facts about Smoking in a Leased Vehicle

diving a car while smoking a cigarette

With one in four new vehicles now leased and a third of Millennials preferring leasing to purchasing, the question often comes up, “can I smoke in my leased vehicle?” or better yet, “can I vape in a leased vehicle?”

In most cases, there are no restrictions to smoking in a leased vehicle, unlike a rental car where smoking of any sort is strictly forbidden.

Can you smoke in a Leased Car?

We will go out on a limb here and say yes you can. Although, you will want to closely read your lease agreement and not just take our word for it. 

BMW does not charge any fees for smoking in a vehicle, as it is an odor. We agree with this, because where do you draw the line? If someone returns a car that smells like body odor should they be charged? What if someone wears an excessive amount of perfume?

There are obvious charges you can incur by smoking such as burns in the seats or roof liner. 

Some dealers charge a cleaning fee for cigarette smoke residue

looking over leased car


Some dealers MAY charge a cleaning and maintenance fee if the car shows any signs of smoking, but this is not likely. 

If you are considering a lease, just signed a lease, or are planning on turning in a lease vehicle, you should take a close look at the details in the lease agreement. 

What companies will ding you for are any burns, holes or blemishes in the upholstery or interior caused by a cigarette butt, which is logical.

For example, Ford considers interior burn holes up to two per panel with a diameter of less than 1/8 inch to be “normal wear and tear.” Three or more pushes you into the “excessive wear and tear” category.

Jamie Page Deaton, managing editor of U.S. News and World Report Cars, advises people to carefully read the fine print in a lease agreement before signing on the dotted line.

“It’s such a different process than buying a new car,” says Deaton. “It’s easy to get taken advantage of because many people don’t understand what they’re agreeing to.”

Deaton says many consumers are surprised with hidden costs in their lease agreements.

Deaton also mentions that many dealerships can be lenient and won’t go overboard for reasonable wear and tear on a vehicle.

“If you frequently transport your dog without putting mats down, or if you consistently spill coffee or smoke, you’re likely going to incur damage,” says Deaton.

The charges all rely on what bank is lending on your lease. BMW Financial may have different requirements or restrictions than VW credit, so it is always important to read your lease agreement prior to signing for your new vehicle. 

You smoked in your leased car, now what?


So, what if you do smoke in your leased vehicle and it’s time to turn it in. What do you do? 

Well, it really depends on how many times you smoked in the car and whether you had the windows up or down. There are ways to minimize the cigarette smell, but it may never go away completely. 

Here is the best way to minimize or eliminate the smoky smell in your car. 

Go with a pro or DIY to clean the car


cleaning seats with a vacuum


The simplest solution is the professional cleaning option, where industrial strength solutions come into play.

If you go the professional route, they sometimes use ozone generators to knock out stubborn odors. These are not the same thing as air purifiers or ionizers.

Car air filters and purifiers can filter out some bad smells, if the molecules are big enough and the filter medium is fine enough, but ozone generators are on a totally different level than plug-in ionizers.

For those who want to take the Do-It-Yourself option, here’s some tips:


  • Thoroughly vacuum the car to remove any residual tar and ash that may have settled into the upholstery and mats.
  • Cleaning the roof liner is extremely important.
  • Yes, you should throw out the cigarette butts you left in the cupholder.
  • Use baking soda to absorb odors on the dash, steering wheel, console, door panels and other nooks and crannies. 
  • Shoot, if you went crazy and smoked packs of cigarettes in your car and the ozone generator isn’t working, you’re most likely not going to get anything to work, but why not try some additional methods that have apparently worked for other people like cat litter, coffee grounds, white vinegar and products with active charcoal.
  • Clean the windows with a strong window cleaner. Tobacco odors can cling to glass.

If those measures don’t do the job, consider a steam cleaner to drive out lingering odors. Unless you have one, you can rent one at several places around town, but be careful as older cars roof liners can come unglued from the high temperature steam pressures. 

Since smoke odors can get into the ducts and filters, change out your cabin air filter as well. This is one of, if not the most important thing you need to do. 

A final step would be to locate the fresh air intake for your HVAC system and spray a deodorizer into the fresh air intake with the fan and air conditioning on. For safety, park the car in a well-ventilated area.

Determining “excessive” wear and tear


The process of determining whether your leased vehicle has “excessive” wear and tear is determined during a turn-in inspection.

Different auto leasing companies have different ways of determining what is “excessive” when it comes to wear and tear.

For example, Ford Motor Credit uses a Wear and Team Evaluator card; Honda Finance Corporation has a Self-Inspection Reference Card; Chrysler Financial tells customers to use a credit card to measure damaged areas; and BMW Financial Services has a measuring tool device that helps consumers assess damage to one of its vehicles.

How to Determine if a Car has been smoked in?


According to Edmunds, 4.3 million consumers have car leases that end this year and getting into a new car will cost an estimated $1,600 more than three years ago. Over the life of a three-year lease, that would add up to an additional $44 each month in payments.

“If people are looking at those higher payments, we’d expect there to be more used cars sold,” said Matt Jones, senior consumer advice editor for Edmunds.

Jones said excessive wear and tear fees will sting some consumers. He said someone with a history of mistreating a vehicle would probably not be the best candidate for a lease.

When consumers end a lease, the Disposition Fee, which covers the cost of cleaning and selling the car, usually runs about $350.

Other fees include the Mileage Fee, charged for excessive miles driven during the lease; and a Purchase Option Fee if you decide to purchase the car at the end of the lease.

I am buying my car after my lease, does the smoke damage matter?


Absolutely. It is important to remember that in most cases, buying a lease out does not make sense, which is due to the residual being higher than the market value of the car causing what they say in the automotive industry as negative equity.

A car that has been smoked in will be worth on average $2,000-$3,500 less than a comparable vehicle that was not smoked in. 

It is important to evaluate and take into consideration what the car will potentially resell for with the smoke damage, then you can make the most educated decision if purchasing the vehicle after the lease is right for you, which in most cases, it will not be. 

In Conclusion


In conclusion, even though smoking in a leased car may not be against your lease agreement, it does devalue the vehicle’s worth if you were considering purchasing it after the lease, or trying to get out of the vehicle early. 

If you must smoke in your vehicle, consider buying an ozone generator to remove some of the smell, and make sure you roll the windows down to air out your vehicle after smoking. 


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