Home Exchange

Car Exchange Provides Free Transportation, But With Risks

car exchange

A car exchange is a common option when you’re doing a home exchange. You and your swap partner can agree to use each others’ cars while you’re staying in each others’ homes.

Cars can be super useful when traveling. Especially if you’re visiting somewhere without good public transit. But it’s not cheap to rent a car. For some car exchanges are a great free solution. For others, the risks aren’t worth the savings.

How to set up a car exchange

If you want to swap cars, start planning when you’re planning a home exchange. Some home swap networks have filters you can use to find people who are willing to do a car swap. If a car swap is a requirement, be sure to include that information in your home exchange requests. Once you find a swap partner who agrees to a car swap, make sure to talk about how the exchange will work.

Here’s a list of questions I’d suggest covering:

  1. How will you handle tolls in the case where a toll tag is on one of the cars?
  2. Is there a limit to the miles you will drive on these cars?
  3. Who to contact in case of an accident?
  4. Who to call in case of need for roadside assistance?
  5. How will you handle repairs needed during the exchange (not caused by the drivers)?
  6. What information is needed if stopped by the police (is the insurance and registration in the glove compartment)?
  7. Who will pay tickets that come after the trip is over (i.e. tickets generated by cameras)?
  8. Will the cars start out clean? Return the cars in the same condition?

Good communication and planning up front will help ensure a good experience with your car exchange.


Some Home Exchange networks offer insurance for home swaps, but this doesn’t cover car exchanges, only the homes. So it’s important that you make sure your insurance will cover other drivers. It’s also important that you ask your swap partner about their insurance. Don’t assume that you’ll be covered.

Talk about the deductible on both insurance policies. How will you handle paying that in the case of an accident? Make sure you’re comfortable with the deductible level. You don’t want to be surprised to learn that you’re stuck with a $5000 bill because of a high deductible.

Finally, keep in mind that if someone else gets in an accident under your insurance policy, it’s your rates that will go up.

Is car swapping worth the risks?

While I rarely hear stories about bad things happening on home swaps, I have heard about a number of people who used to swap cars but no longer do this after a bad experience. It’s not necessarily that they had an exchange partner do something wrong. But a lot can go wrong with a car, even with good intentions.

In my opinion, the risks are higher with a car exchange than a home exchange. I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who really values their car. But the savings and convenience of a car swap are significant. And with a careful discussion of the details in advance this might be a great addition to your next home exchange.

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