The advantages, the brakes and the precautions to be taken when swapping RV

Do you dream of spending your vacations in a motorhome in Europe, Australia or New Zealand? But perhaps you are somewhat reluctant to put yours on a cargo ship in the middle of the oceans, to rent or even to buy an RV on the spot… Exchanging your motorhome may be the solution!

Why exchange your motorhome, RV or van?

The advantages are numerous, starting with the possibility to travel, free or almost free, to the other side of the world! Because yes, the concept of exchange consists quite simply in lending your motorhome to another traveller, in return for which you will be able on your side to borrow his vehicle. Imagine being able to lend your motorhome to an Australian, and then being able to drive his RV through the bush… This good exchange is all the more interesting as it considerably reduces your vacation budget. Add to this the airlines that offer international flights at ever more attractive prices… You can then easily plan your dream vacation, always in road-trip mode, whether it is for 2 weeks in Europe or one month in New Zealand.

Discover the world by RV: what are the most popular options?

To travel the world by VR, needless to say that it takes time… But is it necessary to remember that the further away the destination is, the more important the economic dimension becomes? If you are, an American and you want to travel by motorhome to Europe, South America or Australia, for example, there are several possibilities… 
The first option is to rent a vehicle on the spot, but this can quickly impact your budget depending on the length of your stay and the period concerned. The second option is to temporarily import your own vehicle and transport it by cargo ship, which can be expensive, not to mention the associated administrative procedures and possible risks of theft during the crossing. Once you disembark your vehicle, you will need to insure it, which can be complicated and very expensive depending on the destination. Finally, as far as maintenance and mechanics are concerned, it is better to avoid breaking down abroad with your own vehicle…. In this case, you will have a lot of trouble finding a competent garage or one that simply agrees to take an interest in your problem and take a look under the hood…
The third option is to buy a vehicle when you arrive in the country and resell it before you return home. But to make sure you don’t make a bad purchase, which would then jeopardize your stay, or beyond that, the very profitability of the operation in the case of a resale at a low price, This is what many young roadtrippers do when they go to Australia or New Zealand with a WHV (working vacation visa) in their pocket… This practice of buying/reselling is very interesting over a relatively long period of stay, between 6 and 12 months.

A 4th option synonymous with saving and sharing…

The RV exchange is therefore a real alternative to continue traveling in “Vanlife” mode away from home. Being able to borrow a vehicle on the spot allows you to envisage a stay over a longer or shorter period of time, without having to worry too much about insurance or the taking care of the vehicle in case of breakdown. All this, of course, free of charge. Even if it is still essential to take certain precautions beforehand with the owner of the vehicle you are about to drive! Finally, you should know that beyond “swapping” their vehicles from time to time, the regulars of the RV exchange say they also share their experiences, their good plans and their traditions. Many of them also talk about the lasting friendships they have developed through the exchange of their “rolling home”. In passing, they say that this provides them with more opportunities to travel, as the ties with the country and its people are so strong that it almost becomes a second home…

What are the brakes?

Those who have already lived this experience readily concede that the research was complicated. Those who have not yet tested the motorhome exchange admit their reluctance to lend their vehicle and more generally their difficulty to trust. If you own a motorhome that is in San Francisco and you propose to exchange it for a road-trip in Europe. The owner of a motorhome in Europe who is interested in a vacation in California puts his motorhome at your disposal and uses yours. Still, it is necessary to be interested in the same destination and to agree on the dates… Moreover, the motorhomes exchanged must be somewhat similar, and the duration of the exchange must be the same so that the exchange is fair.

What precautions should be taken?

 First of all, we advise you to contact your “exchangers” well in advance of your trip. Do not neglect this step and with it the relationship you are going to initiate. Confidence is necessarily established with time… A phone call or even a message? No matter the way, the essential thing is to be in contact and to allow yourself to stay in contact as much as possible. Thus, you will be able to make sure that the current passes between you, identify if they are serious people and also check that the vehicle you are about to borrow has the accessories and equipment that will be useful to you during your trip.

As far as insurance is concerned, because this is certainly the aspect that most concerns the followers of motorhome exchange. First of all, you must know that the term “exchange” means “loan” in the eyes of the law. You should therefore check what is indicated in your insurance contract.
Depending on the insurance companies and the contract taken out, lending a vehicle to a third party may be prohibited or authorized under certain conditions. In the event of an accident, when lending a vehicle to a person who was not authorized by the contract, the intervention of the insurance company may be limited at best, or even non-existent. In addition, the deductible that will be applied may also be increased. The method of weighting the assessment of risk and claims should also be considered. Not forgetting, of course, to mention the need for the occasional driver to have a valid driver’s license (translated into an international license for certain countries) and to use the vehicle under the conditions provided for in the owner’s insurance contract.
The objective for you is therefore that all these elements be discussed (and bordered) with your “interchanges”, so that ideally the loan of the steering wheel is possible, without limitation of guarantees nor increase of deductible!

Ideally also, we advise you to agree to be present for the handing over of the keys in order to devote at least one hour to the explanation necessary for the proper functioning of the vehicle. As you know, each motorhome is unique and has its own specificities, specificities that it is good to know in order to experience the best possible trip. It is not uncommon for “borrowers” to arrive one day before receiving the vehicle, to be accommodated by the “lenders”, and to take to the road one day later. This is an excellent way to build a genuine relationship based on trust.
One last detail that goes without saying but that goes better when you say it: don’t forget to exchange your phone numbers!

By respecting all this advice and as those who have the experience of exchanging motorhomes will testify: you will very quickly feel responsible for the vehicle you are lent, as if it was finally yours! Finally, you should know that many exchanges lead to lasting friendships, which in the process multiplies the possibilities of travel. 

Julien D.

Tribu Duigou
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