Swap My Van

Swap My Van Title

Why I would never rent my van… for tokens

Our opinion about non-simultaneous van swapping

Thorough analysis of Non-Simultaneous Van Exchange

In the last few days some fellow vanswappers have been reached out by a French website, encouraging them to join their site to arrange non-simultaneous van swaps for the symbolic sum of 150 euros. We thought it was a good opportunity to put together an article explaining our opinion about this so called non-simultaneous exchange system that´s used by some websites.

From Swapmyvan we welcome every initiative that can promote van swapping, sustainability and human association. Yet, we don’t believe the non-simultaneous exchanges are the way to go, and we feel we owe you all vanswappers to share our reasons to stay and help us develop and enlarge our (free) community.

So, what is a non-simultaneous exchange? It means you use a website to rent your van to a stranger, and instead of getting paid in money, you get paid in tokens. Then, in the future you will have to find someone, in this same website, who wants to lend you their vehicle in exchange of this virtual monopoly money.

What for? There are some small advantages about the system. Namely, you don´t pay taxes, and your vehicle will probably be a little less worn down if a person who owns a van drives it, than if a total stranger to the campervan world uses it… and that’s about it.

Now with the long list of disadvantages:

First of all you get all of the risks of renting your van to a total stranger… but without the money. Then you have to add up all the problems of the token system. It’s just nuts. (We have a full article about a risk evaluation of renting versus swapping that you can read here)

Disadvantages of renting your Van for tokens:

1. No insurance. Absolutely no normal insurance company is going to cover an economical utilization of the vehicle (not even for tokens). Period. When renting your van in this kind of websites we recommend reading extremely carefully the fine print. But reality is simple, most of the times you are either not covered, or you are forced to get an additional and very expensive insurance coverage (if you are able to get one). Everything else it´s usually fairy tales. This applies also to renting your van normally. You don´t have to trust our word on this, a quick call to your insurance company will let you know if you are covered.

2. You get monopoly money, from a guy with a printer. Monopoly money is very useful to the website owners, since it potentially allows them to put as many points into their account as they want, and therefore travel for free as long as they find people who want to be given this fake money in exchange of their vans (and let´s be honest, who wouldn´t put a little bit of extra money in his own account if he could). Eventually, they will also try to sell you their monopoly money for real cash. Sadly, tokens are not so useful to the normal website users.

3. No honest way to start the system: Let´s give it some thought. Let´s say ten people join the site. Then, I am in Spain, and I want to rent someone´s van in the USA, and they agree. But since I just joined the site, I have no points, so I can´t rent their van… then I make my van available, in order to get some points, but, who has points to rent my van? Nobody, because we all started with no points. Then how do we do it? Everybody starts with 1000 points? So I lend my van to a total stranger in Germany because he just created a free account, which gave him 1000 points? Then he can go and create another account and start with 1000 points again? Or if he pays for the account, he pays to whom? The website owner? Then the website company gets money for giving away tokens, and I rent my van for free?

If anyone figures out a fair way to start this system, please let us know. Maybe someone can also explain to us, why this is not openly stated anywhere on this kind of websites.

4. It´s a pyramid scheme. Point 3 necessary brings us here. Normally the older members of the website (namely the founders and their friends) will have more benefits, and will also get incentives to put more people into the site. This is the only way the website will work, giving free tokens to older members and encouraging them to draw in more people. Is it moral that older members get points for having been more time on the website, and that new users have to lend their vehicles for free to older users, as a toll to access the system? We don´t believe so. In any case, that´s how all pyramidal schemes work. Just saying.

Examples of referral systems giving away tokens, and encouraging users to draw in more members.
Old members having a special treatment (that´s ultimately supported by newer members) it´s a common structure of all the pyramidal schemes. Naturally the system owners are on the top of the pyramid.

5. It creates dependency: You can´t just close your user tab and go. When you have some points, you need to use them only in that particular website. When you have spare tokens left, you are forced to lose them, or to go back to that particular website. Sounds worse than having actual money to us.

6. You will end up paying real money, to buy tokens. What happens when you don´t have enough tokens to pay for the full length of your van rent? Sooner or later, they will gladly offer you to round up the points you are missing with real money. This is really questionable; this round up money should be for the van owner, not for the website. It also creates a no add up game. There are not enough van rental days to cover up all the money in circulation, and somebody is going to have to pay this, someday.

It´s the perfect business for them, no wonder the websites try to hide this fact.

Home Exchange members being encouraged to contact privately to buy tokens. Home Exchange will keep the money and a user will rent his house in exchange of tokens.
Home Exchange will try to hide the fact that points are for sale, since 2016 this info is only provided privately and not on the website, but it can be found on travellers blogs.
Swaptheroad members are encouraged to buy points (info only available for members). The website gets the money and the users will rent their vans for tokens.

7. A bank without regulations: In this system, the website is the bank, except you cannot take out your money at any time, and the bank is not subject to any regulations at all. And when the bank decides to close or goes down because all the money they have printed, your deposits are not warrantied. Every time they print money for an event, your token wallet shrinks with inflation… Maybe we have trust issues.

8. Vulnerable to hackers, or system failures: If the website is attacked or discontinued you can very easily lose all your tokens. Needless to say, the security measures this kind of websites can implement are not even close to the ones your bank has.

9. Way less flexible than having cash in your pocket. This is self-explanatory.

10. Vehicle wear down: When random people use your van, they are going to wear it down much faster than when you use it. A person you are never going to share anything with, is still a stranger. Not the same if you are going to meet and use each other’s vans in a reciprocal exchange.

11. Commissions: On the token system you don´t need to pay taxes, but you need a complex website that will require bigger commissions sooner or later.

12. Insecurity: From the point of view of the renter, that the van you have rented and you are relying on for your holidays, get broken down by a previous renter letting you stranded it´s pretty easy, as well as a change of plans from the van owner. They are not going to be so empathic with you as if they knew you, and you had been planning a van swap together for some time.

13. No fun in making new friends!


As you can see, we can think of a very good number of reasons for not exchanging our beloved vehicle for monopoly money. In our opinion, the token system has the worst of renting your vehicle, but without the big advantages that cash in your pocket involves, plus a lot of added problems that are intrinsic to the token system. We have something clear. If we ever rent our van, it will be for real money.

Hope we have convinced you all to stay with us doing old school reciprocal van swaps!  Please share your thoughts about this with us on our Facebook and Instagram.

Happy roads to all of you guys!

Stay together vanswappers 😀