Reader Question: Avoiding Tattletale Cars?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

MJ asks: Eric, heard you on the Tom Woods show. Would love to see or hear a segment on privacy and newer vehicles. Seems like your article about Ram trucks, there is some value in the older stuff. Ford currently has commercials running stating quite simply: “If you don’t want all this technology, don’t buy a Ford.” Roger that. GM is out as well due to Onstar. What options are left that aren’t 4G connected?

My reply: Unfortunately, there aren’t any. Not in a new car, at any rate. They all have  some degree of recording/monitoring/busybody’ing technology in them. This includes Event Data Recorders – i.e., the “black boxes” which record things like seatbelt usage, speed and acceleration/braking metrics, all of which can be accessed and used against you – and also the “concierge” tech (e.g., GM’s OnStar) which can remotely access/control various vehicle functions. These systems also have the capability to listen in to conversations because there are microphones in the car that can be turned on remotely, by the “service” – without your knowledge or consent.

The very latest cars – many 2019 and 2020 models – will “nudge” you to drive a certain way via annoying buzzers/lights and in some cases will actively intervene and steer/brake for you – or rather, contrary to the way you’d rather steer/brake (or not). The next step is tech that will prevent you from exceeding the posted speed limit – and also probably from accelerating (and braking and cornering)  too “aggressively.”

Yes, really.

Your best bet is to buy an older car or one of the few new cars (like the Ram 1500 Classic) that is basically an old/new car – one still being sold new but designed several years back.

The pincers are closing. Bu now, everyone who cares to see  them can. Assuming they are willing to look.

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. My rule of thumb is this:

    If a cars old enough to get a non provisional drivers license, it’s a good start and if it can legally drink, even better

    Of course, just avoid Government Motors unless it remember’s the 80s one way or another

  2. Eric, I’d like to see you write an article comparing the cost of a new model to the cost of a fully restored classic model, with the pros/cons listed. I think it would open some eyes.

    • My #1 son and I continue to make progress on that ’66 Plymouth Fury…bought a 360 4bbl out of Pick-N-Pull and it looks good, so we’ll use it to move that old sled around while we dicker around with the original “Poly” engine.

      Once we deem it “road worthy”, the trick will be getting this heap duly registered, which, since it’s a rebuilder, it has to at least pass a brake and “lamp” inspection. Of course, judging by the slew of bureaucratic hurdles we’ve already encountered in just procuring parts, I expect some nasty surprises at the DMV…even without Selma and Patty Bouvier from “The Simpsons”! Then I’ll be able to tell you if de facto CA is outlawing old iron on its highways and byways.

      • About 3 years ago, I decided to buy a fully restored 71 Charger instead of buying a new car. The 71 was actually cheaper than most low end new cars today. In the meantime, I am keeping my payment free ’05 Stratus as my daily driver. If I take care of the 71, it will appreciate in value over time unlike a new car. Next, I’d like to buy a 70’s beater to drive daily!


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