Buying a new vehicle? Wipe the old one’s memory first!

When you toss out your old computer, you likely will remove its hard drives or storage and either keep them or destroy them. Likewise, when you give an old computer, digital camera or other digital device away, you wipe out (I hope you do, anyway) your personal information, photos, music files, etc.  In other words, you clean them up and ready them for the next person to make use of them.

I’ll bet, however, that there are two devices that most will forget about: your smartphone and your vehicle.

Many mid and high end cars and trucks made since, say, 2004, will come with some kind of infotainment system. Many of them allow you to store personal photos, music and even movies.  IF the vehicle has GPS, it records the last x number destinations, likely has your home address stored in its ‘go home’ feature and may even ‘remember’ exact routes you take often. 

In addition, if your vehicle has phone capability, then it has phone numbers and names of people you’ve called. Has information about your phone as well.

So, when you sell or trade your vehicle, do you remember to erase the various memories in the system?

Well, I can attest that many do not. I’m going to even say that MOST do not do this.  In fact, I neglected it myself. Only remembering hours after the dealer was closed.

The vehicle  we purchase has a sophisticated infotainment system. GPS, bluetooth and phone connectivity.  Sure enough, names, phone numbers and addresses were there. The phone module had a dozen or so ‘last calls’ and phone numbers with names.  The GPS had routes and a home location. It was all there. 

The vehicle I traded, a 2010 VW mini van, also had a photo album and music library.  I put a dozen photos on it and three CD’s of assorted music.  The GPS also has my information.  It never occurred to me to delete any of this until hours later.  I am hoping the dealer will let me erase this information before they sell the vehicle. 

I have wiped out the memory in my new to me car, but a person with nefarious goals, could have used it to cause problems for the former owner of my new new to me car.

Just a word of caution to you all, when trading or selling your vehicle, make sure you purge it of both digital and real world information.

UPDATE: Went to the dealer, they still had the van. Asked if I could erase the data and they said no problem. I was escorted to where the van sat and was allowed to remove our data. Took about five minutes to delete it all.  The Volkswagen software is bad, terrible interface but…it worked just fine.


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