Connected Cars: the manufacturers that know the most about you - Select Car Leasing
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Connected Cars: the manufacturers that know the most about you

Your shiny new connected car is just like your smartphone - it collects data about you, and your habits, in order to improve the user experience.

And here, in a comprehensive study by Select Car Leasing, we examine which car companies gather what types of data, while taking a look at what you need to do if you’re returning or selling a vehicle.

Big tech companies have been monitoring consumer engagement patterns for more than 20 years - so it should come as no surprise that all the major car manufacturers also keep an eye on their customers too.

Vehicle manufacturers go to great lengths to protect that information, investing huge sums of money in cyber security while using ‘hashing’ or sophisticated encryption to safeguard the data.

There are also some critical reasons for car manufacturers to collect your data in the first place.

Benefits of car data collection

Car companies collect data to improve the vehicles themselves, to improve road and driver safety, and to enhance your driving experience.

Data on the health of your vehicle can be used to identify potential problems and parts that may need maintenance, helping to identify issues and prevent further damage.

Accident data can also be used to notify the emergency services if you’re involved in an accident, getting help to the scene as quickly as possible.

Telemetry is used to help reduce traffic and congestion, showing drivers the best routes for peak periods.

Data collection can also improve your user experience when it comes to dealing with car companies. Manufacturers will know what you’re interested in and be able to contact you with vehicles and services that will genuinely benefit you.

However, if you’d still feel safer without data collection to such a degree, our tips below outline how you can opt out of many types.

VW gathers over £1,300 of personal data

To find out which carmaker knows the most about their drivers, we analysed the UK’s top 20 best-selling car manufacturers' connected vehicle data privacy and protection policies.

German motoring giant Volkswagen is at the top of our list with the data they track.

Select Car Leasing revealed the manufacturer famous for the iconic Beetle is capable of tracking 18 out of a potential 22 categories of information about its drivers.

The 18 categories include not only basic customer details like name and address but also the vehicle’s location, voice recordings from voice commands and even social media profiles. Volkswagen is also able to track your interest as part of their marketing.

While the risk of having your data stolen by hackers is extremely low, your information is worth money to unscrupulous individuals when it is sold on the so-called ‘Dark Web’, which is encrypted online content that isn’t managed by conventional search engines.

The data tracked by VW is worth a potential £1,304.83 on the dark web.

Tesla knows what their drivers look like

Hot on the heels of VW in our list is the iconic EV maker headed up by Elon Musk, Tesla, which is tied with Japanese manufacturer Nissan in terms of how much customer information is tracked.

Both companies keep tabs on 17 different data types, which could be worth £1,275.32 to a hacker were it to ever fall into the wrong hands.

EV goliath Tesla is renowned for the data its vehicles collect using external sensors and cameras, but did you know they can also record the drivers inside too? They’re able to take photos and videos of drivers through a camera in the rearview mirror, something that’s done in the event of an accident. Images and recordings can be used in court or given to the police if requested. Furthermore, they also record autopilot data.

Nissan can track large amounts of their drivers’ data like Tesla. Categories available to them include information about where you work, your job title and general company details as well as info on your car insurance.

Where do car companies access your data?

Many cars now require apps to access their features, essentially turning them into data gatherers, akin to a giant mobile phone or computer.

And it’s not just your car – data can also be collected when you visit a company website, interact with them on social media, correspond with a company through phone calls and live chat as well as through third parties like finance companies, auto services and more.

With all this in mind, it’s never been more important that you keep your data safe.

How to protect your data in your vehicle

There are a few extra steps you can take to safeguard your information – including not sharing it in the first place. Follow our five tips to help keep you, and your data, safe:

1. Opt-out of data collection where possible

You can opt out of many different types of data collection by not giving your permission when you first get your vehicle. If you already own your vehicle, update your marketing and data preferences directly with the car manufacturer and through associated mobile apps.

2. Delete all data when selling or returning a vehicle

Cars can retain data, especially on infotainment systems, with the average unit selling for just £262.73 on eBay. Make sure you wipe yours if selling or returning a vehicle as they could give someone access to your data – including address, contact list and Apple Pay or Google Pay. A factory reset is the best way or removing all your information in one go.

3. Ask the dealership to wipe the vehicle

If you’re not sure what information is stored on your vehicle or how to erase it, go into your local dealership. You can request that they remove all your personal details and they should be able to do it for you there and then.

4. Read the terms and conditions

It can be time consuming, but reading the terms and conditions when you buy a new car, or download a carmaker’s app, will ensure that you know exactly what you’re agreeing to. It also means you can question something that you’re not happy with.

5. Keep your apps up to date

Security is regularly updated when it comes to mobile apps. You should ensure your apps are up to date to stay on top of the latest security releases for the best chance of stopping someone from accessing your personal info.


We analysed official car manufacturer privacy and data policies along with associated mobile apps and car policies to uncover what driver data types may be tracked.

You can see some examples below:

Associated prices were achieved through dark web 2022 price lists and data price listings. 

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Saturday, 18/05/2024