How good does your car smell?

tlongtlong Member Posts: 5,194
edited March 2014 in Toyota
I've noticed some interesting trends over the years.

Old cars smell much worse than new cars.

Leather tends to smell better than cloth.

Any car where smokers have been really stinks.

Some makes smell better than others.

For over 20 years, we've known people who drive Toyotas. They're usually great cars. But my wife and I have noticed that they often have a strong plasticy smell that can get nauseating. It is so bad that my wife won't buy a Toyota for this reason alone. We recently drove the new RAV4 - it's a nice car. But the smell is still there.

I had a VW jetta with cloth in the late 80's and it had a nice "German" smell.

We had a Honda Accord (cloth) in the 90's and although Japanese, it didn't smell bad like the Toyotas.

I had a 1998 Audi A4(leather) and it smelled really good.

I now have a 2005 Acura TL (leather). After one year it smells just OK, but it sometimes (in the heat) takes on a bit more of that "American" plastic smell that I don't like.

I recently rode in a new Mercedes of a coworker. That car smelled excellent!

I've concluded the following about car smells, based upon my experience:

Toyotas smell the worst (don't know if this is true for Lexus).
Hondas are pretty good.
Most American cars are somewhere in the middle, unless they're older rentals.
European cars smell the best.

What are your thoughts?


  • socala4socala4 Member Posts: 2,427
    Several months after buying it, the car still smells great. The combination of leather and high-quality plastics seem to make the difference.
  • andys120andys120 Member Posts: 23,019
    Same here, when I had my '98 A4 passengers often commented on how nice the leather smelled. Oddly I replaced it with a BMW 528iA, also w leather but it doesn't have as nice a smell even though a 5er is theoretically "upmarket". from the A4.

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

  • tlongtlong Member Posts: 5,194
    My brother in law has an early-90's Camry (Cloth). Its got such a bad case of caritosis that you want to vomit when you get in. They don't smoke, have pets, or eat in the car, and it is basically clean. I don't know where that smell comes from as the car ages.
  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,454
    Don't you just love the smell of formaldehyde out-gassing in the morning when you hop into a new car?

    My Toyota was pretty ripe for a while until I finally found the pile of spilled grits under the back seat. They had fermented nicely.

    My Outback gets pretty musty if I forget to lower the windows in the garage this time of year from hauling all the wet ski gear around.

    I like to toss some fresh ground coffee on my carpets now and then - makes any car smell great.

    Steve, Host
  • socala4socala4 Member Posts: 2,427
    Same here, when I had my '98 A4 passengers often commented on how nice the leather smelled. Oddly I replaced it with a BMW 528iA, also w leather but it doesn't have as nice a smell even though a 5er is theoretically "upmarket". from the A4.

    We can debate the driving manners and virtues of Audis versus BMW's all day long (and to be honest, I'd probably vote for the BMW when it comes to sheer performance), but in my opinion, it's hard to argue that Audi interiors beat those of BMW, hands down. The A4 may be midpack when it comes to specific features and specs, i.e. 0-60 times, but in terms of cabin quality, I have yet to see a car in its class that can beat it.
  • fintailfintail Member Posts: 55,979
    Both my MB smell pretty good, and so did my old 126. There's something about that leather and probably the high grade plastics. The fintail has an old sweet smell, likely due to the natural finish wood that I treat yearly with lemon oil. The laminated straw seat cushions add to it as well I am sure. The newer cars smell good probably due to the leather conditioner I use.

    The brand new MB I have sat in at auto shows and such usually smell amazing, almost intoxicating.
  • lemkolemko Member Posts: 15,261
    ...still retains its new car smell after 156K miles and 17 years. This is probably due to the fact I kept the car meticulously clean, garaged, and covered.

    My 2002 Seville still has a bit of the new car smell, but it has faded due to the fact that it is used just about every day and sits outside a lot. Using Meguire's Gold leather conditioner and a good interior detailing with a touch of lemon oil to the wood trim brings it back.

    My 1988 Buick Park Avenue smelled old when I bought it, but that new car smell is coming back with each subsequent cleaning. I believe if I shampoo the carpet and replace the original carpeted mats, it should smell quite nice. There is still a bit of that old smell when the heater is run, probably due to 18 years of collected dust. Is there a way to eliminate that smell from the HVAC aside from taking it apart and vacuuming it out?
  • tlongtlong Member Posts: 5,194
    My original post mentions my experience with many years of Toyotas. They seem to stink and have nasty smelling plastic.

    Any current Toyota owners who can agree with/dispute this?
  • iluvmysephia1iluvmysephia1 Member Posts: 7,704
    of my 2006 Seattle Seahawk Super Bowl victory football that I have acquired and keep in the Sporty. I drive my Sportsman with pride knowing that the Seahawks will make small pocket change out of Jerome Bettis and the Steelers in two weeks. I really can't wait to witness that event.

    Rock on. :)

    2021 Kia Soul LX 6-speed stick

  • explorerx4explorerx4 Member Posts: 18,230
    febreze takes care of a lot of aroma issues, no matter what the brand of car. :)
    better watch out or you might be sniffing the tailpipe of that 'bus'. ;)
    2020 Ford Explorer XLT, 91 Mustang GT vert
  • chicagodrive1chicagodrive1 Member Posts: 64
    Renting a new Hyundai Sonata with 300 miles on it this week. Smells like freshly molded plastic, don't want to inhale too much, i may just vomit and make the car smell like barf and plastic.
  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,454
    "The inside of your car may be more toxic than the air it's polluting outside, according to a new study."

    Toxic at any speed (Inside Line)

    Steve, Host
  • socala4socala4 Member Posts: 2,427
    "The inside of your car may be more toxic than the air it's polluting outside, according to a new study."

    Hey, don't rain on my parade! (And if I'm going to contract some fatal disease from outgassing, I may as well do it in style...)
  • wilcoxwilcox Member Posts: 582
    1. No smoking.
    2. No eating.
    3. Drink water.
    4. Vacuum once a month.
    5. Wash the big rubber floormats often.
    6. Don't use no Armorall type sav inside.
    7. Don't leave windows down in rain.
    8. Crack windows on hot days.
    9. Park in a garage.
    10. Wear clean cloths.
    11. Clean interior and wash windows.
    12. Keep dog out.
    13. Result = 10 year old car with a yiny hint of age smell...
  • pernaperna Member Posts: 521
    I had a VW jetta with cloth in the late 80's and it had a nice "German" smell.

    I know exactly what you're talking about. If I close my eyes, I can still smell my '96 Jetta's interior. Very, very unique smell. Of course, when I actually THINK about that car, the odor turns to :lemon: right quick!
  • pernaperna Member Posts: 521
    I was at a Hyundai dealership a couple years back, and sat in a new Elantra. It had the overpowering smell of airplane glue. NASTY.

    I've noticed that around the time I got a garage, my cars started smelling a lot better. My "outdoor" rides started to smell kind of funky after awhile; the leaky Escort smelled like baby diapers. :surprise:

    My 3 YO Maxima (garage kept its whole existance) has a really nice smell. The "new car" smell is gone, replaced by an indescribably pleasant smell. Sort of a leathery-oil fragrance, which is funny, since my car has cloth seats. It makes me what to drive fast, at any rate.
  • 210delray210delray Member Posts: 4,721
    When my '04 Camry was new, it had a pleasant smell that permeated the garage! Nice.

    This didn't happen with my '05 Camry. Could it have been that the '04 was just off the truck with only 11 miles when we test drove it and then purchased it? The '05 was driven from another dealership and had over 250 miles on it when we bought it.

    Both cars have cloth interiors.
  • rockyleerockylee Member Posts: 14,014
    Well it smells now like 2 kids. Well they get to eat in these 2 cars, something that won't happen once I buy a new ride. ;)

This discussion has been closed.