Delete Personal Data Before Selling Your Car
Your car is a computer that stores a lot of information about you
Today’s cars have a lot more technological bells and whistles than those of years past, and that may include personal data that the new owner can access if you don't erase it before selling.
If you trade your car in at a dealership, they will most likely take care of this before reselling it to the next individual, but you can never be too sure. If you're selling it directly to another person, it will definitely be up to you to wipe it clean before transferring ownership.
As the Federal Trade Commission puts it, "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."1
Phone contacts and other info
If you use your phone with your vehicle, there may be data from your phone within your car's computer. This may include contacts or other personal information that you wouldn't want a new owner to access.
If you have any subscription services associated with your vehicle, don't forget to cancel or transfer them. This may include things like satellite radio, music streaming services, data plans, etc.
Remove any location-related data that may be stored. This can include things like your home address, work address, and the location of places that your frequently travel to. It's just safer not to leave traces of these.
Any Bluetooth pairings that have been saved to the system should be wiped clean, since they leave a trail to your devices, which can be a data security threat.
If your car has a hard drive, delete or transfer any files that you have created over the duration of your ownership.
Garage door opener
If your garage door opener (either for home or for work) is saved onto your car's system, you'll certainly want to make sure this has been wiped. Otherwise, you may be risking theft from your home or place of business.
If your vehicle is equipped with telematics programs, such as those offered by providers like OnStar®, BlueLink®, FordPass®, etc., make sure to have your account information changed upon your vehicle's transfer of ownership. According to Consumer Reports, a button is often located on the rearview mirror of the overhead console, which will allow you to connect with a live operator, who will be able to help you to do so. If you have trouble locating this, consult your manual to learn how to do it.
"Auto dealers, banks, and insurance companies may attach such devices to vehicles when setting up financing and coverage deals," says Bree Fowler at Consumer Reports. "If buyers don’t read the fine print, they might not realize they’re there. Once the car is paid off, check with your lender or dealer about disabling them."2
Log out of everything
Make sure you're completely logged out of every application that your car provides access to -- from social media, to Google, to music streaming services. If you use music streaming services, you may also look to ensure that there aren't music files or playlists saved on the hard drive.
Make sure devices / SD cards are removed
Don't forget to ensure that you didn't leave any devices, thumb drives, USB cables, or SD cards inserted anywhere in your car.
Hit the factory reset
Chances are your car has a factory reset option. Be sure to look through the manual to help you find this if it isn't evident. This can ultimately save you the hassle of going through many of these steps individually.
The person buying your car probably has no ill intent and no desire to exploit any personal data they happen to come across in the vehicle, but you can never be too safe. Wiping your car's data before selling is just the smart thing to do.
The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC