Renting Cars to Swap or Steal Their Parts?

Some rental car facilities apparently have a policy in place that renters cannot exchange vehicles during a rental — except for mechanical issues — because in the past, people would swap out vehicles after stealing parts from them and then exchange them for a different vehicle.

Renting Cars to Swap or Steal Their Parts?

“A first in my experience this holiday weekend. Have a week long rental out of OMA with National, wanted to exchange out of a SUV to a sedan/sport car during my rental and the agent said that no exchanges are allowed during a rental unless there is a mechanical issue. (I’ve never had issues exchanging cars at other bigger locations)”, posted FlyerTalk member ginmqi, who also called this experience a first. “He told me this is apparently policy in certain locations because years past people would rent cars out, then steal/swap out parts from the rental car (including even an engine swap) and then come in to ‘exchange’ the car out to a diff rental car and then returning the non-gutted rental car. And later they would discover the cars that were being exchanged were being used as a way for ppl to basically steal car parts.”

Including even swapping an entire engine?!?

“Hertz used to ‘rent a racer’ (Shelby mustang) back in the day. People would rent it, swap the engine and return it. Hertz didn’t know to look for it and the hourly folks cleaning the cars didn’t know what the engine should look like!” according to FlyerTalk member IAHtraveler. “I’m sure it’s done now here and there swapping easy items (rims/tires, floor mats, etc) but all major items have the VIN etched in so I’m not sure how one could swap an engine/transmission/etc without getting caught. I’m shocked that’s the reason they gave you. I’ve often said rental agencies should charge you based on a # of days, plus a set cleaning fee per rental (it costs them to clean a vehicle so why not charge more for 1 day vs 14). If you want to swap vehicles without a valid mechanic reason, you just pay an extra $10 cleaning fee and go on your way.”

Apparently this has been occurring for quite a number of years. “The client rents a car and swaps parts from another vehicle, such as tires, airbags, batteries, wheels and even interiors”, according to this article written back on Tuesday, January 1, 2008 by Mike Kane of Auto Rental News. “The client returns the rental and the agency is none the wiser.”


I am simply amazed at the chutzpah of some people, as swapping or stealing parts from rental cars and then exchanging the vehicles is something of which would never enter my mind or occur to me…

…and the result is usually the creation of policies whose terms typically inconvenience the honest car rental customer — as well as passing on the losses to renters in the form of more expensive rental car rates…

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

7 thoughts on “Renting Cars to Swap or Steal Their Parts?”

  1. derek says:

    Several years ago, I read a comment from a Russian saying she was perplexed why rental car companies exist because people would switch parts. It never occurred to me that someone would do this.

    1. Tico Tom says:

      Same here! I was like… what!!?

  2. Mike L says:

    This sounds like a Kramer scheme straight out of Seinfeld.

  3. Donato says:

    Regarding cost calculations!
    Neither I nor you have all the information used to calculate costs, and thereafter, charges for rentals. Did you ever consider that cars rented for a day or two are driven more that cars rented for a week? Perhaps the airport staff and space charges are such that there is no profit on a single or two day rental.

  4. DaninMCI says:

    Does seem odd in that the vast majority of people are very honest. Some minor car parts are very expensive so I guess it makes people do such things. Not sure vin etching does much unless they discover the theft right away.

  5. AlohaDaveKennedy says:

    In a similiar vein, a Walmart customer was accused of making $1.3 million in fraudulent returns, which appear to include returning computers after stealing their parts.


  6. vlad says:

    pakis and eastern euros do it here all the time. thats their margin.

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