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.


Why is temporary van exchange better?

So… what are the advantages of temporarily swapping your van? When we started this project, we disliked the idea of renting our van for this reasons.

For us, a temporary van swap is better, since:

  1. Insurance Covers You: You just need to call them in advance and let them know a particular friend of you, is going to be driving your van. They will include them in the insurance coverage for free, or for a small sum. And you are not lying; you just met this friend online, which is perfectly legal. There is no economical profit.
  2. Vehicle wears down normally: When you lend someone your motorhome and they let you use theirs in return, you know they are going to take care of it as if it was their own, and you are also sure that they know how to take care of a van, since they own one!
  3. Neither taxes nor commissions: Depending on how you find your fellow vanswapper you will pay nothing, or a small fix amount to subscribe to a website, not a huge percentage commission.
  4. More security: When you have been doing video calls with some fellow campervan owners, and you get to know each other, you can trust that they are going to do their best not to let you down. There is way less chances that your trip gets cancelled. You will be doing the same thing!
  5. It´s great to make friends and get lots of local tips! This was a somehow unexpected bonus.

Therefore, we believe that arranging a temporary van swap is cheaper, and much safer than renting out your campervan to some strangers and using the money to rent a van somewhere else. We have no doubt that the benefits are big and compensate the disadvantage of giving you less flexibility than a bunch of cash.

Of course, these are just some things to consider, your final decision will depend on your preferences and of course about your economic situation. Hope to see you all on the road (the rental vans as well)!