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A surprising number of car dealerships install tracking devices in their cars. Most of them will tell you the device is there, and many will even ask you to pay extra for it. But there are rare stories of sneakier dealerships using these devices to track the new drivers.

Many companies that make aftermarket car trackers–such as LoJack–advertise them to dealerships as “inventory management solutions.” And this makes some sense: A dealership spends a lot of money to purchase new cars from automakers. If those cars get stolen, there goes its investment. But the question is, what do those dealerships say when you are buying the car?

A common complaint car buyers share online is bing charged extra for a tracker. Dealerships may tag as much as $1,500 onto the total for a LoJack. A common scam is telling the customer the device cannot be uninstalled, so they’re forced to pay.

First of all, these devices can absolutely be uninstalled. So if you don’t want one, you can insist the dealer return the car to stock. Secondly, a dealership that charges you for said device, should give you all the login codes. This way you can create your own account to track your car–and delete the dealer’s account.

Product photo of a black car tracker GPS device and cellphone app.
Livewire “Volt” GPS Tracker | Brickhouse

Why would a dealership want to continue to track your car? And is there any reason they’d hide an aftermarket tracker from you?

From what I’ve found, this is a rare situation. But it has happened. The first potential reason is fairly innocent: tracking your car’s mileage helps the dealer offer oil changes and other maintenance at the perfect time. Many trackers are also wired into your car’s onboard diagnostics system, so they can ping you if it is malfunctioning.

The second reason a dealership may leave a tracker on your car is a bit more nefarious–but not always illegal. Some trackers are equipped with a “kill switch” that can shut down your car remotely. This could be very handy if your car is stolen. And in the dealer’s case, they might want this option if you stop making payments.

But here’s the deal: you must disclose a car has a tracker if you aren’t the “sole” owner of it. So a rental company can throw a tracker on a car. But a lien-holder can’t, because you also have some equity in the vehicle. In this case, the dealer would at least need to bury a disclosure about the tracker in the fine print you sign while buying it.

Can you tell if your car has a tracker? Usually but not always. The most common ones are the size of a deck of cards and you’ll find them spliced into the car’s wiring harness beneath the driver’s side dashboard. But other models are designed to be hard to find.

Next, find out why to avoid buying a car with tape on its dashboard, or see some ways to find a GPS tracker in the video below: