Can You Smoke in a Rental Car?

Can You Smoke in a Rental Car?

For many drivers who smoke or vape, it’s just part of the drive for them. If you’re in a rental car, it might occur to you that you won’t be allowed to continue this habit for the duration of your booking. 

The Smoking Issue

The truth is that smoke, particularly tobacco product smoke, is an irritant when it comes to smoke. It can cause allergy-like symptoms in most people, and it can trigger stronger reactions and even prompt an asthma attack for some people. 

In addition to being an irritant, tobacco smoke contains harmful chemicals, and the odors imbed themselves in fabrics. The composition of tobacco products causes the smoke particles they produce to be rather oily. The oils and tar tend to get deep into materials, and it makes deodorizing difficult. 

These common issues with smoking have been the basis of many decisions to limit or ban smoking in public places. So, it makes sense that rental car companies wouldn’t want their cars to smell like smoke either.

Rental cars are available for private use, but they are still essentially shared public spaces because when you finish your rental, the vehicle will be used by another driver. 

Other drivers or passengers, particularly children and people with bad allergies or asthma, could have reactions that would make driving after a smoker unhealthy for them or, at the very least, unpleasant. 

So, it seems only fitting that you would refrain from smoking, but do you have to? Or, can you smoke in a rental car? What’s the policy? What’s the price if you go against policy? What can you do instead?

The Policy

It is the policy of most major rental car companies not to allow smoking in their vehicles. This policy is for the protection of others, but it’s also a smart choice when it comes to cost for rental car companies. 

Remember that in order to keep their inventory circulating and ready to use for the next customer, rental car companies need to be able to clean vehicles quickly. 

With the rise of COVID-19, your rental car company already pays careful attention to cleaning in more detail and more time. Adding the step of fumigating the vehicle of the smell of smoke can make the process even more time-consuming, costly, and cause delays.

Finding a new vehicle for a customer because the previous customer smoked in the rental car is also avoidable if people adhere to the smoke-free policy. When people ignore the policy, it causes delays for the next customer, and it can cost the company time, money, and their impression on other customers. 

Suppose the rental car company doesn’t take the appropriate steps to deodorize the vehicle. In that case, a non-smoker may also request that the company compensate them for any costs they incur to remove the smoke odors from their personal items. 

You can see why it’s a cost-effective, considerate policy for rental car companies not to allow smoking in their vehicles. When it comes to vape, you may want to ask your rental car company or just treat it like smoking in the car.

Clarifying the company’s policy before you travel is an excellent personal habit for any procedure that affects you. Being prepared can help you avoid paying the price for ignorance later.

The Price

According to the CDC, an estimated 34 million American adults smoke. With an adult population of 258 million in the United States, about one in eight adults smoke. It can be challenging to find a place to smoke, and many people like to smoke while they drive as stress-relievers. So, what’s the penalty if you smoke in your rental car?

Many rental car companies will charge you a fee for cleaning if they discover that you have smoked in your rental against policy. This is because the vehicle will be out of service for much longer to deodorize the car for the next driver to avoid having another customer refuse to accept the car. 

The cleaning fee can tack on to the total cost of your rental. The cleaning fee usually costs hundreds of dollars extra, depending on your rental car company. Before you smoke in your rental car against the policy, you may want to familiarize yourself with the rental agreement terms concerning the cleaning fee for smoking in the car. 

The Solution

The most obvious solution is to not smoke in your rental car. Try making additional stops to allow yourself a chance to smoke outside of the car, or explore smokeless alternatives for yourself while you’re driving. Also, ask any passengers to adhere to the policy as well.

If it’s too late and you’ve already smoked in the rental car, you may be wondering what you can do now. Remember that the cleaning fee for smoking in the vehicle could cost hundreds of dollars, so it may be a cheaper route to pay for professional cleaning before you turn the vehicle back in. 

Your rental car company is not likely to turn a blind eye to smoking in the car, and there are telltale signs of smoking that may alert the company to your disregard of their policy, such as:

  • Ashes
  • Cigarette butts
  • Burns in the upholstery
  • Tobacco odors

These signs could lead to receiving a delayed billing for the costly cleaning fee. Non-smokers should be aware of this as well because taking precautions could save you from being saddled with a bill for something you didn’t do.

If you smell or see evidence of smoking from a previous driver, refuse the vehicle and request a different one. Another good practice when you rent a vehicle, for any situation, is to follow these few simple steps:

  • Inspect the vehicle before you drive away
  • Make a note of any damages on a form you can get from the rental car company
  • Document with photos any scratches, dents, burns, etc.
  • Take additional photos and make additional notes when you return the vehicle
  • Ask an agent to walk through the inspection process with you and sign off on the assessment to avoid any discrepancies later

A little attention before you leave the lot with your rental car could save you from being held responsible for another person’s choices. 


As a general rule, good manners mean that you act in a considerate way towards others and their feelings. Even if it weren’t a commonplace policy that you aren’t allowed to smoke in your car rental, you shouldn’t smoke in the communal space of a rental car out of courtesy to other drivers. 

If good manners are not enough motivation, though, it’s worth noting that many companies will charge a cleaning fee if you smoke in the vehicle. To avoid the added cost, you may choose to have it cleaned before returning the rental car.

If you are unjustly charged a cleaning fee because of a previous driver smoking in the rental car, you can take measures to protect yourself. 

How people think about the chemicals in cigarette smoke: A systematic review | NCBI
Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults in the United States |
US Adult Population Grew Faster Than Nation’s Total Population From 2010 to 2020 |

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