Skip to main content

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.

It is your choice whether to submit a comment. If you do, you must create a user name, or we will not post your comment. The Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes this information collection for purposes of managing online comments. Comments and user names are part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public records system, and user names also are part of the FTC’s computer user records system. We may routinely use these records as described in the FTC’s Privacy Act system notices. For more information on how the FTC handles information that we collect, please read our privacy policy.

The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
  • We won’t post comments that include vulgar messages, personal attacks by name, or offensive terms that target specific people or groups.
  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

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.
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.
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!
August 28, 2018
Very good advice. I would have never thought of that.
September 13, 2018
IA work in a public interests not for personal interest.
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.
August 16, 2020
this is great thanks for sharing.
July 14, 2021
Thanks For sharing your knowledge!