Thursday, May 25, 2023


What’s that smell? Pot smoke an increasing RV traveler issue

By James Raia
RV travelers who rent cars or trucks may have increasingly noticed an unusual odor in their vehicles – pot smoke. They could also be providing the odor with their own smoking preferences.

Rental agencies around the country have reported an increase in the pot smoke smell in their fleets. Since marijuana is legal or decriminalized and allowed for medicinal purposes in all but eight states, many drivers believe it’s OK to smoke it in rental vehicles. It’s not.

A new warning sticker on rental vehicles prohibiting smoking pot.
A new warning sticker on rental vehicles prohibiting smoking pot.

Rental agency representatives are increasingly having to explain the policy prohibiting smoking in rental vehicles includes tobacco, vaping and pot. The smell of pot is particularly difficult to eradicate.

Many dealers require customers to sign a contract agreeing to not smoke or vape in a loaner car or face a $150 to $250 cleaning fee. Reminders on the dashboards on rental vehicles have become prominent.

The marijuana smell in vehicles has also affected dealerships offering loaner vehicles. Customers often return cars and trucks with vaping and pot odor. Mechanics who work on vehicles sometimes have difficulty entering them because the smell is too strong.

Nasty smells in vehicles have also prompted more work for The Odor Doctor, a Houston-based car detailing company. It specializes in removing putrid odors from cars and trucks. The company also has mobile services in California, Florida, Atlanta, Nevada, and Illinois.

Frank Simmons, CEO of The Odor Doctors, told The Detroit Free Press more than half of the calls his company receives are to remove the smell of smoke from cigarettes, marijuana or vaping.

“If you smoke marijuana, cigarettes or vape, it’s all in that same general idea,” Simmons told the newspaper. “A vapor type product does omit an inorganic odor. An inorganic smell would be perfume and sometimes people will spray that to mask another odor and it’s really hard to get it out.”

The process for eliminating smoke from vehicles sometimes involves an oxidation machine. It’s left on inside a vehicle for several hours to overnight to lift odors and clean the car. It’s not always successful. The Odor Doctors company uses steam and it has treated more than 70,000 vehicles in the past 15 years.

Vehicles with a smoke smell that can’t be eliminated can lose 10 percent of their resale values, according to industry experts.

James Raia, a syndicated columnist in Sacramento, California, publishes a free weekly automotive podcast and electronic newsletter. Sign-ups are available on his website, He can be reached via email:


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2 years ago

Even though it’s legal here in Michigan, marijuana is not allowed in state parks. Even though I voted for legalization here, I’m glad. Now if cigarettes were banned too, we’d be all set! 🙂 (Tired of seeing cig butts EVERYWHERE in the parks and beaches.)

2 years ago
Reply to  Gary

So…you voted for marijuana but are against cigarettes???

2 years ago
Reply to  Wally

I believe Gary is referring to smoking in parks.

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