What's the first thing you do when you step foot in a rental car? If you're like most people, you probably hook up your phone. Connected cars offer plenty of features that make your drive more convenient, safer and more entertaining. You can connect your phone for hands-free calling and text messaging, navigation and to play your favorite songs. However, connected cars may also be able to take your phone data and store your private information. Understanding what information your rental car stores and how to get rid of it are essential for keeping your information safe.
When you connect your phone to a rental car, whether that's via Bluetooth or a USB cable, the car may store your phone number, contacts, text messages, web browsing history, and logs of your calls and text messages. It's also common for connected cars to store locations entered in the GPS, so if you enter addresses for your work, home or other personal locations, those could remain in the car's memory. Once the car has this information, future drivers, rental company employees and possibly even hackers may be able to access it. Fortunately, going through a few simple steps can prevent this.
The most important thing you can do is thoroughly delete your data before you return the rental car. Check the settings menu of the car's infotainment system and look for paired devices. Find your phone and delete it. Deleting your phone typically deletes any saved data as well, but check the owner's manual of the car or ask an employee at the rental car company for more information. Another option is checking the settings menu for either a "Clear All User Data" or a factory reset option. If you use GPS at all while driving, check the car's list of saved locations and its location history. If any addresses you visited are saved, delete them.
If all you need is to boost your phone's battery, plugging it in to the cigarette lighter adapter is preferable to plugging it into the USB port. USB connections may automatically transfer your data, while data can't transfer if you use the cigarette lighter adapter. Whenever you connect your phone to the USB port, look for a permissions screen on the infotainment system. This screen is where you determine what the car's system can access on your phone. While you may not see this screen with every car, if you do, only let the car access what's necessary. If you only want to play music but don't need hands-free calling and texting, set your permissions so the car can't access your messages, call logs or contacts. You can also skip the USB port entirely when playing music by opting for an auxiliary cable.
Don't let your information get into the wrong hands. Take preventive measures and spend a couple extra minutes deleting data before returning your rental car. It's well worth the peace of mind.