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Is a new car in your future? You might first have some unfinished business with your old one. While you’re cleaning out your personal items, think about the personal information stored in the car’s electronic system.

Your car is a computer that stores a lot of information about you just like your smartphone or home computer. When you sell or donate your car, that personal data might be accessible to the next owner if you don’t take steps to remove it.

Some cars have a factory reset option that will return the settings and data to their original state. But even after a factory reset, you may still have work to do. For example, your old car may still be connected to subscription services like satellite radio, mobile wi-fi hotspots, and data services. You need to cancel these services or have them transferred to your new vehicle.

Here are types of data you want to remove from the electronic system before selling or donating your car:

  • Phone contacts and an address book may have been downloaded when you synced your phone with your vehicle.
  • Mobile apps’ log-in information, or data that’s gathered and stored on mobile apps, may be stored in the car.
  • Digital content like music may be stored on a built-in hard drive.
  • Location data like addresses or the routes you take to home, work, and favorite places may be stored in your navigation system.
  • Garage door codes for your home or office may be on your system.

Besides the information stored on your vehicle, check to make sure you’ve cleared connections between your devices and the car as well. For example, car manufacturers may provide an app that lets you control the car’s functions or find the car — you should disconnect the app from the car when you sell it or trade it in.

For more information about resetting and removing your information, check your owner’s manual, contact your dealer, and visit your vehicle manufacturer’s website.

14 Comments


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Bogart0602
August 27, 2018
Selling your car? Clear your personal data first. This also goes for when you are renting a car...remove your personal data!!!!!!
DZ in TO
August 27, 2018
This applies to rental cars as well. When you rent a car, you connect it to your cell phone, and you need to clear it before you return it.
mike.donovan
August 27, 2018
Great ideas. I never would have thought of this much less remembered. These people are everywhere trying to steal our stuff. You can't be cautious enough.
Yaggart
August 27, 2018
What about plugging your cell phone into an Uber/Lyft driver's car?
Arnulfo el malo
August 27, 2018
One more thing to worry about
Safe in Seattle
August 27, 2018
I recently bought a new car with all the electronic finery, a first for me. Will definitely keep this info in mind when the time comes to sell!
Richard Lee
September 13, 2018
Thank you FTC!
RRNB
August 28, 2018
Very good advice. I would have never thought of that.
magotjim
September 13, 2018
IA work in a public interests not for personal interest.
gk
August 29, 2018
I bought a used 2015 car recently and it was unreal how many phone users were still setup on the car. I deleted them and set everything back to factory default before putting things for my taste. I rented a car a while back and the same exact thing. People should be more aware and careful! You never know when some crook will figure out how to do something nasty with that information.
HendBDon't use…
September 13, 2018
Hey Mike Donovan "......these people are everywhere trying to steal our stuff.." Actually whats everywhere is our personal information and identities and thats a whole 'nother kind of thief. They go where the goods are. And the goods are getting placed everywhere and we have no control over it. FTC wont post this comment.
Kelly2366
August 16, 2020
this is great thanks for sharing.
titus
July 14, 2021
Thanks For sharing your knowledge!