There Is One Critical Mistake That You Can Make When Renting a Car

Have you ever rented a car for a family vacation or perhaps a business trip? If so, then you probably connected your phone via Bluetooth or perhaps Apple Carplay or Android Auto. But what you might not realize is that you could have made a critical mistake by doing so.

Renting a car could put your personal information at risk

A view of the Avis Rent a Car store in Hong Kong.
A view of the Avis Rent a Car store in Hong Kong. | (Photo by Yu Chun Christopher Wong/S3studio/Getty Images)

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The next time you rent a car, you might want to think twice about connecting your phone to it. According to USA Today, simply connecting your phone via Bluetooth or using the onboard navigation system could put your personal information at risk.

When you connect your phone to almost any car’s system, it typically asks you if you want to sync your contacts. Doing so will leave your contacts, most recent calls, and other pertinent information from your cell phone.  

And when you use the onboard navigation system, you end up leaving breadcrumbs to all the places that you visited during your trip or for the time that you used the rental car. These simple steps might seem innocuous during the time that you have the car, but they can end up putting your personal information at risk.

After all, you never know what unscrupulous person will end up renting the car after you.

What type of information is typically stored in the rental car?

A Hertz and Avis rental car terminal.
A Hertz and Avis rental car terminal. | (Photo by Rust/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

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Without you even realizing, the following information could end up being stored in the rental car:

  • Your device’s name
  • Phone numbers
  • Contact names
  • Contact addresses
  • Text messages or e-mails
  • Routes and destinations of all of the places you visited

Although shedding that information might seem commonplace to you — considering we leave our information all over the Internet – it’s important to remember that if that information ends up in the wrong hands, it could lead to some serious issues for you.

What should you do if you use the navigation or connect your phone?

A smartphone with the icons for the car rental apps from Hertz, Budget Rent a Car, Europcar, Avis Rent a Car, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Dollar Rent A Car, Alamo Rent a Car, and Thrifty Car Rental.
A smartphone with the icons for the car rental apps from Hertz, Budget Rent a Car, Europcar, Avis Rent a Car, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Dollar Rent A Car, Alamo Rent a Car, and Thrifty Car Rental. | (Photo by Yu Chun Christopher Wong/S3studio/Getty Images)

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If you do end up connecting your phone and syncing personal information with the car, then it’s suggested that you wipe the car’s system of all of your information before returning it. While every car has a different way of deleting information from its system, the car that you rent should have an owner’s manual, which will tell you what the procedure is to do so.

If you typically find yourself in a hurry to the airport and rushing to return the rental car, then it could be a good idea to leave yourself 10 extra minutes to delete your information beforehand. If there is no owner’s manual in the car, then ask the car rental associate and they should be able to help you.

Here are some tips for protecting your personal information

A customer rents a car at an Enterprise rental counter.
A customer rents a car at an Enterprise rental counter. | (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

If you’re wondering what you should do the next time you rent a car and want to connect your phone to it, here are some helpful tips:

  • If you need to charge your phone, use the old-school cigarette lighter outlet and charger instead of using the infotainment system
  • In case you connect your phone, then you can deny syncing your contacts to the system
  • If you want to listen to music from your phone, then you can connect it via the auxiliary input jack instead of Bluetooth
  • But if you can’t connect to the aux jack, then you can always purchase a third-party Bluetooth connector and connect to the car that way
  • Never set your home address in the navigation system. Instead, set a destination that’s near it
  • Remember to delete all of the data before returning the car to the rental company