Should You Worry About Bed Bugs In Rental Cars?

The answer probably won’t surprise you. But it will creep you out.

Karl Gehring/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Bed bugs: Two otherwise innocuous words that,when  pushed together, send shivers up the spine. It’s not that there are tiny vampiric arthropods hiding in the nooks and crannies of the world. It’s the fact that people can carry them from one place to another, like lice. Which means a rental car is fertile ground: Bed bugs are just as happy hiding in a two-year-old beige Malibu as they are in the mattress at a cheap motel.

And why not? A car is a comfortable, dark place filled with a rotating cast of human butts. All it takes is one guy who doesn’t realize he left his hotel room with more than a free roll of toilet paper to spend an hour behind the wheel, and that car winds up with a raging case of Cimex lectularius. Fortunately, as they say in sexual health infomercials, there is hope. If you’re feeling next time you have to snag a rental, basic steps to keep yourself bed bug free:

• Do some online research before you go. Check out reviews for the rental car agencies in the city you’re headed to. If there are any reports of bed bugs in cars—even old ones—choose another company.

• When you get in the car, look carefully for any signs of bed bugs, especially along the seams of the seats and in the trunk. (Note: A flashlight comes in handy for this.) That means checking for eggs, blood stains and, yes, fecal stains. Or, y’know, actual bed bugs. If you see something suspicious, tell the rental car clerk you want a new car.

• If you’re feeling paranoid, keep your clothes in a bed bug-proof bag.

• If the worst happens and you wind up in a car with bed bugs, park that sucker somewhere hot, roll the windows up, and cook ‘em. Temperatures from 117-122 degrees Fahrenheit will kill bed bugs; a parked car can reach those temperatures in half an hour on an 85 degree day.

And whatever you do, don’t be like this Long Island guy, who tried to rid his rental car of bed bugs by dousing the seat with alcohol...then decided to celebrate his work with a in-car cigarette.