Last Updated on December 26, 2022 by Laura

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As technology has progressed, so has the debate over Americans’ privacy. From cell phone data to financial information, our society is constantly balancing how much information should be available to third parties. Is your rental car company tracking you? These days, you can assume it has the ability to track your location.

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While many people are wary of being tracked, rental car companies must protect their assets should a car go missing. The reality is that many rental cars do have trackers in them. The truth is, most companies install GPS devices that can pinpoint the location of their cars.

A brief history of rental car trackers

The truth is that rental car companies have been tracking their fleets for many years. Back in 2004, the Los Angeles Times ran a story that provided some backstory on the legality and widespread existence of trackers nearly two decades ago.

“A flurry of lawsuits two years ago accused a Budget Rent a Car licensee in Tucson of using such a system to covertly track renters who took cars out of state and to fine them thousands of dollars,” according to the article. “Earlier, another rental company in New Haven, Conn., allegedly tracked renters who drove faster than 79 mph and fined them.”

Why rental car companies might use trackers

The primary reason is to track down cars that are late to be returned or never returned at all. In a nutshell, it’s a way for rental car companies to secure their property. In some cases, trackers might alert companies when crossing state lines or international borders. Some rental companies may assess penalties when the vehicle’s GPS system reports that the renter violated the terms of the rental contract.

How do you know if your rental car has a tracker?

Due to privacy laws, car rental companies should disclose if there is a tracker in their car. They likely won’t tell you verbally, but it is likely mentioned in your contract. Read through the contract carefully if you want details on any tracking devices.

You should also note that privacy laws vary from state to state. In California, for example, it is illegal for rental companies to track a customer’s location until the vehicle has been missing at least five days past its return date.

Why might a rental car not have a tracker?

Not all rental cars will have trackers in them. Strict privacy laws, company policy, or exorbitant costs might prevent trackers from being installed. With a large fleet of cars, the costs add up quickly.

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For larger rental companies, trackers are simply an unnecessary cost since they can track you, if necessary, using the personal information they collect in your rental agreement. Credit card details, addresses, and a driver’s license make it fairly easy to find customers if the car goes missing.

If this is an issue that concerns you, read the fine print of your car rental contract or speak with a customer service representative directly to find out if your specific rental car company installs trackers in its cars and for what purposes.