Many travelers enjoy the availability and convenience of rental cars. But they are often concerned that rental companies may use tracking devices attached to their vehicles to illegally collect personal information.
You might start wondering how common tracking devices are and whether they are even legal. Consider how state privacy stipulations and customer relations influence their use.
Car rental companies are legally permitted to attach tracking devices to their vehicles, but often they choose not to. While the decision is at the discretion of each agency, many consumers are uncomfortable with potential privacy infringements, and some states prohibit data collection efforts.
Dedicated vehicle tracking devices can be valuable theft prevention tools for car rental companies. They can assist with law enforcement and customer service when combined with modern diagnostic instruments.
However, particular concerns prevent rental agencies from widely using tracking technology, ranging from privacy concerns to costs and legal framework complications.
How Common Are Tracking Devices In Rental Cars?
While many rental car companies may exercise their right to track their vehicles, most larger companies do not deliberately install tracking devices. Smaller rental agencies may find the risks of not monitoring vehicles unacceptable.
The likelihood of a rental car being outfitted with a dedicated tracking device is relatively small, particularly when state laws favor protecting consumers.
However, GPS tracking systems may also have a tracking function that rental companies may enable. Modern cars are often outfitted with GPS capabilities for navigation purposes. Still, while they can track a vehicle’s journey, they typically don’t.
Not all car rental companies will install tracking devices on their vehicles. The choice depends on privacy laws within their geographic locations and the relative costs accompanying the burden of tracking their fleet.
Some companies find that the staffing requirements are prohibitive or that it is more affordable to lose a handful of cars annually than to outfit many vehicles with trackers.
Many companies forego the right to track their cars to make their services more appealing to customers uncomfortable with privacy infringements. It is often more profitable to entrust customers with returning vehicles safely than attempting to track them throughout their journey.
Should a customer be suspected of stealing a car, all the required information is often recorded in the rental agreement.
How Do Tracking Devices On Rental Cars Work?
Tracking devices on vehicles can be outfitted directly with the circuitry of the rest of the car or attached with magnets or another sticking measure. Hidden hardwired trackers are often preferred, as they are harder to find and disable.
Usually, car tracking devices use GPS technology that allows for the real-time monitoring of the whereabouts of a vehicle and a traveling history. This enables rental companies to assess whether their customers have adhered to their rental agreements.
In some cases, rental companies may use additional security measures such as onboard diagnostics, dashboard cameras, and remote vehicle disabling technology. Cameras that can view the areas external to the vehicle can also be installed.
These measures allow rental agencies to monitor all aspects of their car, including whether it requires maintenance and is driven safely.
Are Tracking Devices In Rental Cars Legal?
In most states, rental car agencies have no legal prohibitions or obligations to install tracking devices on their cars. In most cases, it is up to the companies themselves to decide whether they feel it would be necessary to track their vehicles.
While many are concerned that hidden cameras may be installed in rental cars, these are illegal and rarely used.
Due to privacy laws, however, most companies have an obligation to inform users of the presence of tracking devices on their vehicles.
The duty to notify customers will differ widely depending on the state where the companies operate, so renting customers should check up on the specifics if privacy is of utmost concern.
Rental car companies will include a section on car tracking in the rental agreement for customers to inform them of the presence of a device. Customers must acknowledge a limited compromise on their privacy for security.
Many users resent the tracking of a car and the collection of their personal data. Rental companies have been known to trade out sensitive information on users at a profit, often without their consent.
Suppose a rental car has been outfitted with a tracking device without the explicit agreement of a user. In that case, a company may be liable for damages, potentially being sued in court.
Why Do Rental Companies Track Their Cars?
Rental car companies use trackers in their vehicles so that the company can keep track of where they are. In case a car is stolen, the tracker will allow the company to alert authorities of the car’s last known location after some time has elapsed.
Tracking the whereabouts of a car will also allow them to locate errant users and limit the illegal use of their vehicles. Rental vehicles are often bound to specific regions of a state or country.
Taking the car from these areas constitutes a breach of the lease agreement. It potentially exposes the rental company to additional logistic and legal risks.
Geofencing is the automatic notification from tracking devices to a rental company when a stipulated boundary is breached.
Geofencing is not a breach of customer privacy laws as long as no other vehicle location tracking information is used without justification. The rental agreement boundaries and tracking system must be clearly outlined.
Location devices also simplify emergency response services. If the company knows exactly where a user is, it can send a team to assist a stranded user. Police or ambulance services can then be directed to a precise location.
What Types Of Information Can Car Rental Companies Track?
The primary use of a tracking device in a rental vehicle is to help rental companies keep track of where their vehicles are.
Often the rental agreement stipulates that the car is only to be used within the confines of a specific area. When users breach the contract with the company, the tracking devices can automatically notify the company when a customer crosses the boundary.
Rental companies use the tracking information from their devices for more than simply being able to tell where their vehicles are located. They also alert the agencies of unsafe driving and unauthorized use.
Tracking devices can monitor at what speed a vehicle is being driven over segments of the rental duration.
In the case of an accident, a speeding user might have the reading from the speedometer used against them to hold them legally accountable should law enforcement require prosecution. A bill can be passed on to the customer if the rental vehicle is given a speeding fine.
While car rental companies may legally outfit their vehicles with tracking devices, they seldom do as consumers tend to be uncomfortable with privacy intrusions.
When a rental agency insists on tracking their cars, they have a duty to inform customers. Failure to do so may lead to legal consequences.