Tip of the Week - August 27, 2018 - When Selling or Donating Your Car, Be Sure to Clear Your Personal Electronic Data


If you have a newer car, you know you’re driving a computer on wheels, and that computer has a lot of your personal information.  When you’re clearing out your glove compartment, console, back seat and trunk as you prepare to give that vehicle to someone else through purchase or donation, don’t forget to clear your personal data stored in your car’s electronic system.

“Giving your car to someone without clearing your personal information is almost like handing someone your smartphone,” said CSLEA Foundation Chairman Kenny Ehrman.  “If you’re not sure how to permanently clear that information, check your manual, visit a dealership, or go to the vehicle maker’s website.”

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a good checklist regarding types of data you want to remove from the electronic system of your vehicle:

  • 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.

If you subscribe to satellite radio or any other service, transfer that service to the new vehicle you will be driving.

The FTC also recommends that you clear connections between your devices and the car as well. Some car manufacturers 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.