Buying a used car can be a great way to save some cash. And these days saving money is at the top of just about everybody’s list. But buying second hand can have its pitfalls. The car might turn out to be a lemon. There might be hidden problems with the engine or the electrics. Maybe the water pump’s about to go or the alternator’s on its last leg. That’s why you should always have a mechanic check out any used car before you hand over the money.

By now you’re probably wondering why I’m blathering on about used cars and mechanics. Fair enough. I’ll get to the point. When you purchase a used car you could have more than mechanical issues to worry about. That second hand car you’re looking at might have some hidden passengers. You just might be buying into a pest control nightmare.

In short – you’re second hand car just might be infested with bed bugs. And that could lead to big problems down the road.

​Going Mobile

Bed bugs aren’t particularly mobile creatures. They can’t fly and they don’t jump. Sure, they can be pretty fast when they need to be – like when they’re scurrying back to their hiding places after biting you in the middle of the night. But they’re sprinters, not marathoners. So they need help getting from one place to another.

That help comes from us. Bed bugs will gladly hitch a ride on our clothes, bags, and coats. They’ll get into luggage and backpacks, and use the opportunity to hitch a lift home with an unsuspecting new host. They’re also know for hiding in second hand furniture, books and clothing.

The same holds true for second hand cars. While automobiles aren’t a bed bug’s preferred habitat it’s not uncommon to find them lurking in the odd car or bus. Carpeting, upholstery, and an abundance of cracks and crevices make for ample hiding spots for bed bugs on the move.

If you’re new second hand car is harboring bed bugs there’s a good chance you’ll end up tracking them into your home and workplace. That’s how infestations start. So, how can you protect yourself from bed bugs hiding in second hand cars?

​Hiding in Cars with Bed Bugs

First of all we need to talk about where bed bugs typically hide when they infest a car. Seats and floor mats are prime contenders for bed bug hiding places. Any upholstered or carpeted areas are also likely hot spots, as are cloth seats and seat covers.

When buying a second hand car it’s worth taking some time to inspect the interior for any signs of bed bug activity. Light colored seats and floorboards will make it fairly easy to spot fecal stains, blood trails or eggs. Darker interiors can make it difficult to spot either live bed bugs or signs of their activity. But if you take a flashlight and give the inside of the car a close inspection you should be able to spot any signs of these blood sucking pests.

Here are some quick tips to help you successfully inspect a second hand car:

  • Visual Inspection – Look along the seams of the car’s upholstery. Look under the seats and along the edge of the carpeting. Check the door bins and recesses in the console.
  • Tell Tale Signs – Watch for tell tale signs of infestation including blood stains, rust colored fecal stains, and shed exoskeletons.
  • Tools – Double sided tape can be used to pick up material from hard to access areas like seams and carpet edges. A high powered flashlight will help to see under seats and in darkened recesses.

​Why Should You Inspect Your Used Car…

…after all, used cars are cleaned and inspected before they go on sale, right? Well, not always. If you’re buying from a dealership there’s a good chance the car has had a cursory clean. Enough to make it presentable but nothing more. If you’re buying from an individual chances are slim they’ve given the car a thorough cleaning. So it pays to inspect the car before you hand over your money.

It’s also worth remembering that the majority of over-the-counter cleaners don’t have much of an impact on bed bugs or their behavior. They don’t find the cleaners toxic and they’re more than willing to hide in a crevice until the annoying human is done messing with their habitat.

​What to Do if You Find Evidence of Bed Bug Activity

If you find the car of your dreams and it shows signs of bed bug activity don’t throw in the towel just yet. There are some steps you can take to eliminate the infestation. The first step is to thoroughly clean out the car, and we’re talking a really deep clean here. The following check list will help:

  • Remove trash and clutter from all areas of the car including the trunk.
  • Vacuum the car thoroughly paying close attention to cracks and crevices where any bed bugs might be hiding. Carefully dispose of the contents of your vacuum. Use in outside trash receptacle far removed from your home or vehicle.
  • Steam clean the carpeting and upholstery. Remove floor mats and seat covers and clean them thoroughly.

Once you have thoroughly cleaned out the car perform a second inspection to determine if there are still any signs of bed bug activity. If you still see signs of bed bugs contact a local pest control service to schedule professional treatments.

​Seal the Deal

Once you’re satisfied the car is free of bed bugs go ahead and finalize the deal. The good news is bed bugs rarely infest clean cars, so if you maintain a tidy vehicle you should be able to prevent another infestation. Just to be safe, though, make a point to periodically inspect your vehicle. Half the battle against bed bugs is prevention, and the steps you take today can ward off a serious infestation of your home or workplace tomorrow.