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There’s almost nothing worse than having your car stolen, especially if you just bought it. This is why many dealers nationwide sell a theft deterrent called DataDots, which is a unique way to track your car. But what exactly are DataDots and are they worth the money?

What are DataDots?

Cop in pursuit of a thief.
Cop in pursuit of a thief. | Joseph Prezioso / AFP

According to the DataDots website, “DataDots are unique identification numbers encoded on a polyester substrate to form microdots that act much like DNA. Each microdot measures approximately one millimeter and can be sprayed or brushed onto an asset.” Are you confused yet?

Don’t worry, the idea of DataDots is confusing until you actually see the “polyester substrate” itself. It’s basically a clear glue-like substance with thousands of tiny “dots” in it. When you buy a car from a dealership, the finance manager may try to sell you on it. And if you purchase it, a salesperson or service tech will then apply this clear substance to the door jambs, hood, trunk lid, and other body panels of the car you just bought.

What’s the point? Great question

The point of DataDots is that the tiny microscopic dots each hold your contact information, which is registered with the DataDot International Database. If and when your precious car is stolen, law enforcement can then access said database and identify you as the registered owner and then return your property to you. Ideally in one piece.

How does law enforcement identify the DataDots?

The DataDot substrate must be read with a 50x magnifier so that your information can be pulled and your car returned to you. You can also apply the DataDot technology to items in your home in case a break-in ever happens.

Are DataDots effective when it comes to preventing car theft?

Thief breaking into car.
Thief breaking into car. | Andia/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Not really. We say that because the DataDots company provides you with a sticker that says your car is equipped with DataDots, which in turn “should” deter thieves. But, we know how that goes. If anyone really wants your car, then not even an aftermarket alarm or steering wheel lock will stop them.

Ideally, the DataDots technology kind of works like LoJack in the sense that they help identify your property after it’s stolen. So they are effective in a passive way, not so much in an active way.

Are DataDots really worth it?

Not at the price that dealerships sell them for. There are some posts on car forums from owners that were sold DataDots when they bought their car. Many of the posts say that the dealers are charging around $350 for the DataDots, which is a considerable amount of money for such a simple identification item.

Ultimately, we can’t call DataDots a scam, since they are actually effective in their intended purpose. Also, according to the DataDots website, “more than 80% of the time, thieves move on after realizing that the vehicle is identified by DataDots.”

 In that case, it’s up to you if want to purchase DataDots the next time you purchase a car. They could work, but just remember to ask for a discount.


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