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Can You Smoke or Vape in a Rental Car?

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Want to smoke or vape in a rental car? The major rental car companies in the United States and Canada run smoke-free rental car fleets. In fact, smoking will usually mean you’ll end up paying cleaning fees.

A small subset of renters insist on smoking in rental cars anyway, and the consequences are not pretty.

Cleaning Fee for Smoking or Vaping in a Rental Car

If the rental car company discovers that someone smoked or vaped in your rental vehicle, it will charge you a very hefty cleaning fee. Non-smokers often will not accept a rental car that smells like smoke, so companies have to go to great lengths to get smoky odors out of a car. The company will need to take the vehicle out of service to clean and deodorize it.

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If you break the rules and smoke in the car, the amount of the penalty depends on the rental car company but it is always substantial. For example, Budget assesses a cleaning fee of up to $250. Hertz and Dollar impose a penalty of $400.

How Do Rental Car Companies Know if You Smoke or Vape

When you return the vehicle, an agent will inspect the vehicle. If an agent witnesses you or a passenger smoking, or if there is physical evidence of smoking (ashes or butts in the vehicle, cigarette burns, etc.) or the scent of tobacco, you will likely receive a bill a week or more after returning the car. Vaping produces a much less powerful odor, but if you leave behind paraphernalia that suggests you were vaping in the car, be prepared to be penalized.

How to Get the Smell of Smoke Out of a Rental Car

Consider paying for a professional cleaning before returning the car. The rental car company will not look the other way if you return the car with tobacco odors. Many car washes offer interior cleaning services for under $30, often including a choice of deodorizing scent. Consider ponying up for this service, as the cost is much less than what the rental car company would charge for de-odorizing.

How to Fight a Cleaning Fee for a Rental Car

If you pick up a rental car that smells like smoke, it’s important not to accept it and drive away. When you return the car, if the agent detects the smell of tobacco, you can be on the hook for the cleaning fee.

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Anytime you pick up a rental car, it’s a smart idea to take a few precautions so that you can protect yourself from false claims when you return the car.

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