Values go up in smoke
SOMEONE famous once said ‘‘Whatever you do, just don’t smoke.’’
It didn’t help actor Yul Brynner, who sounded the warning after contracting a fatal cancer, but it could help you at trade-in time.
Keeping tobacco smoke away from your car’s cabin is likely to add hundreds, or even thousands, to its secondhand price. And it’s almost certainly helping your health as well.
A friend of Carsguide emailed to raise the question of smoking in cars.
‘‘I saw a woman in a new BMW5 Series smoking with the windows up and pondered if this would affect resale. I reckon a nonsmoker’s car must be worth more,’’ he says.
A quick call to Glass’s
Webelieve that smoking does have a detrimental effect when it comes down to car valuation
Guide, the Australian authority on secondhand sales, reveals nothing substantial but a clear pointer.
‘‘We do not consider smoking as a criteria while predicting residual values,’’ says Rashad Parkar.
‘‘However, we believe that smoking does have a detrimental effect when it comes down to car valuation. If the car consists of cigarette marks or damaged upholstery due to smoking this will negatively impact residual values.’’
But things are more black-and-white in the USA, where research shows that even a heavy tobacco odour can put people off a car.
The only serious study we can find on the subject is from San Diego in 2008 and it says a smoker’s car would be worth up to 9 per cent less in the USA.
Surprisingly, more than 20 per cent of cars for sale were owned by smokers, or had been smoked in during the previous year, where more than 90 per cent of non-smokers banned any sort of tobacco ignition in their cars.
The study is funded by an anti-tobacco group so needs to be put into context, but lists more than 4000 chemicals in secondhand smoke and nicotine levels 30 times higher in smokers’ cars than tobacco-free cars.
‘‘When tobacco is smoked in the enclosed environments of passenger cars, air concentrations of tobacco smoke pollutants can become extremely high,’’ says Penelope Quintana, one of the study’s authors and a professor in the school of public health in San Diego.
‘‘Many of the pollutants attach to surfaces and accumulate in dust and can be released back into the air over days and weeks after smoking.’’
The American research is nasty stuff but the crackdown on smoking since then is bound to be producing an even bigger impact, as smoking becomes less and less tolerated in all areas of everyday life.
The changing attitude is also reflected in the way car companies look at smoking.
These days, many cars do not have an ashtray and the cigarette lighter has become a power socket.
It’s a huge contrast to the days when Jaguar had identical chromed ash receptacles at three points in its XJ limousine, allowing the owner — or fiery journalists — to rotate them until all three were totally choked and in need of a fullscale clean out.
If you want a cigarette lighter in a BMW you must pay extra. And it’s been that way for years.
But power sockets are spreading faster than nicotine addiction and most cars have at least three, with the highest plug-in count we’ve discovered in an American SUV with six.
Cigarettes are on the way out but now we’re plugging in phone chargers and GPS navigation systems on a daily basis, as well as backseat entertainment systems and — once again, in the USA — beverage warmers for the giant coffee containers that seem to be compulsory for commuters.
But we still have to ask if we’re swapping one danger for another in cars, stubbing out the cigarette threat but plugging in giant distractions that can lead to more trouble than a slump in the secondhand price.
This reporter is on Twitter @paulwardgover
The smell of stale smoke in a car can have a detrimental effect on the secondhand sale price and these days many cars do not have an ashtray or a cigarette lighter