Friday, July 4, 2014

Home Exchange and the Car
An important issue

We have just returned from a home exchange in The Netherlands which included the use of our automobiles.  On several occasions in the past, the use of the car was no problem.  This time I had called my insurance agent to make sure that there was no problem and also wrote a statement in which I  stated that I had given use of the vehicle to the other driver.  Recently when I addressed a service club about home exchange, I was asked about the car:  "Is that difficult" I was asked.  "Are there any problems?"  "No problem" I said......

Well this time there was a problem..... a huge problem!  When we left the airport in Amsterdam, the GPS in the car took us on a wild journey through the Dutch country-side, along beautiful lakes and canals.  Apparently, the GPS had been programmed to avoid the big, busy motorways and was taking us along secondary roads and more scenic routes.  In fact the road was so "secondary"  that I had not noticed the hazard called a "bus sluis",  an ingenious way whereby the Dutch authorities discourage the use of a road designed exclusively for buses.  The word "discourage" is mildly put:  it in fact is intended to seriously damage the offending vehicle and render it inoperative!

I hit the "bus sluis" with considerable impact but continued on my journey from the airport not realizing the damage that had been done.  The next day the car stopped in the middle of the road and I had to be towed to our home exchange residence!  When I called the local dealership I was told that the engine had leaked enough oil to seize up and had to be replaced!

When I told the other home exchanger now living in my home in Canada what had happened, he was obviously upset and could not understand how I could have missed seeing the red warning light.  
My Dutch friend enquired if I had third party insurance, thinking that that would cover the damage.
He also informed me that the insurance on his vehicle was for third party damages only and that this did not cover the damage caused to his vehicle,  an issue which had not been made clear to me at the time we signed our home exchange agreement!

Apparently this type of insurance is not uncommon in Europe:  where the owner assumes the risk of damage to his own vehicle and has it insured against third party claims only.  In fact, had I known this fact, the home exchange would never have happened.  The bottom line is that both he and I had been far too casual about the insurance issue when exchanging our homes when our cars were included.  

We enjoyed our two weeks of home exchange and were able to add two more weeks for stays in Amsterdam and Paris.  But let this anecdote of our experience be a warning:  Make sure there is adequate insurance coverage for both parties on home and car.  There is no problem when there is no problem.  But when there is a problem, it could be a huge problem with serious consequences.