Bartering for goods and services is a centuries-old art. Recently, the idea of trading with your neighbors and within your community has received a big boost and taken on a modern spin. Combining our often-materialistic, ownership-based society with the Internet’s ability to bring buyers, sellers, and traders together, online bartering has sparked a wealth of new sites and communities.
With average U.S. household incomes falling 4.8% between 2000 and 2009, people are now starting to look for new methods to get the goods and services that they want and need in an affordable way. Today, you can find many niche and large-scale sharing sites, and it’s difficult to find the right one to meet your needs.
To help, we’ve rounded up 36 popular sites designed to help you share, swap, and rent clothes, music, or even exotic vacations without spending too much of your hard-earned cash. In some cases, you may not need to spend anything at all!
With over 40,000 listings in 142 countries, HomeExchange lists free places to stay almost everywhere in the world. Members pay just $9.95 per month to trade their homes and apartments with each other. After the monthly fee, your vacation lodging expenses won’t cost any more staying at home would. You’ll get to stay in a new place, while someone else comes to stay in your home, both free of charge.
If you don’t want to pay a membership fee but you’re looking for a free place to stay when you’re on the road anywhere in the world, CouchSurfing may be your new best friend. CouchSurfing is a non-profit organization, so they don’t charge you for using the site. They don’t allow hosts to charge travelers either. With almost 3 million members in 246 countries, chances are there is a free couch out there waiting. CouchSurfing also has an extensive safety section on the site, including references, vouching, and verification from other couchsurfers and hosts alike.
People in nearly 14,000 cities spread over 182 countries are waiting to rent you a room, apartment, or home wherever you’d like. Since 2008, Airbnb has made it easy for you to find a place to stay wherever you may be headed. Just enter the dates you need, see what’s available, and book your stay. The site even has its own payment system, protecting all parties from fraud and illegal activities. While you may at first only be interested in traveling, you can eventually sign up to be a host for other members. There are no fees to join, and Airbnb keeps a small portion of the host’s price of each stay to operate the business.
GoSwap is a permanent house swapping site, meaning you list your house, look for a house you want, and then just swap away! Say you want to trade your beachfront home for a log cabin in the woods; maybe someone else on the site wants to swap their woodsy retreat for life at the beach. No more waiting to sell your place before buying your dream home, as you just have to find someone who wants what you have. Listing your home on the site costs anywhere between $9 and $270, but signing up and shopping around is free.
Are you self-employed and tired of only having your pets to talk to at home? Visiting a new city and need to find a space to hold a meeting with potential clients? If so, LiquidSpace can help. Using their iPhone or iPad app, members scan through available work or meeting space, book the space for specific times, and get directions and access to other services that the space provides. The company is debuting in the San Francisco Bay Area soon, and they hope to expand nationwide quickly.
If you are a clothing hound, always chasing the latest in fashion, SwapStyle should be one of your main bookmarks. Started in 2004 by fashion designer Emily Chesher, this worldwide community swaps clothes, shoes, accessories, cosmetics, and even gadgets, all without a membership fee.
Kids sure do grow out of their clothes rather quickly, and that’s where ThredUP comes in. They set up a cool shop for parents to swap clothing and toys with other parents whose kids are different ages. You can pick up a box full of clothes or toys for just $5 plus shipping, or post your own child’s used clothing for other users to pick from. Membership is free for everyone.
While the original idea for Rehash was to design clothing out of recycled clothes, it eventually evolved into a site for trading clothes with other users. Members can trade their unwanted stuff (clothing and accessories) with others who are looking for new items for their wardrobe, and vice-versa. Rehash also acts as a social community where users can get green living advice, read articles, request items, and attend swap events. Membership is free to interested parties.
If you need more than clothes, like baby bedding, baby furniture, or even sporting goods, you’ll be glad to find Zwaggle. It’s a network of parents who have joined together to share the expense of getting “new to your family” stuff in exchange for used or no-longer-needed items. You receive Zwaggle points for giving away your things, and you can use those points to get the things you want. Membership is free, and the community is powered by a points system rather than cash. The only money you have to spend is on shipping.
While some people may balk at an online community for finding babysitters, I know several parents who say it’s actually very difficult to find a sitter they can trust. BabysitterExchange started in 2000 as a babysitting co-op, and it has since expanded to the point that members use it to reserve time when they just have some errands run, need help tutoring their kids, or want a temporary house-sitter.
If you live in a major metropolitan area, chances are that you probably take public transportation to most of your destinations. You ditched your car long ago – eliminating parking, gas, and car insurance from your budget. But what if you need to get out of town for an hour-long meeting or pick up 25 bags of dirt from the landscaping store? Do you rent a car for the whole day even though you only need it for a few hours? Not if you have Zipcar nearby.
Zipcar has been renting cars by the hour or day for years now, and they keep adding to their list of participating cities. You can pay different membership and rental rates, depending on how frequently you think you’ll need a Zipcar. Though the process varies, you basically sign up in your city, pay the application fee of $25 and any annual fees (ranging from $0 to $60, depending on the plan), and voila - you can now borrow a Zipcar for an hourly rate or daily charge. The rental includes gasoline, auto insurance, and 180 free miles, which is usually plenty.
12. Connect by Hertz
Similar to Zipcar but owned by car rental company Hertz, Connect by Hertz focuses on car sharing services on or near college campuses around the world. Membership is free, and hourly rental rates start at $6.80, which includes gasoline and insurance. Again, for those of you who rarely need a car of your own, a car sharing service could save you a bundle over the costs of ownership.
For $75 per year, Capital Bike Share gives members access to inexpensive bike rentals around the Washington, D.C. area. Bike stations filled with 1,100 bikes are located all over the district and nearby towns, and a single membership key grants you access to use and return any of them wherever you are. The first 30 minutes are free, and each additional half hour costs a few bucks. Members can also use the SpotCycle app for the iPhone, Blackberry, and Android device to locate the closest available bike. You can also try a limited plan, like a 30-day pass for $25.
Need a ride? Zimride is a ride share service which members use to set up private networks for sharing rides and saving money. Most cars fit four people, yet we usually commute by ourselves. Why not share the burden of car ownership and resource consumption? Centered around hundreds of colleges and universities, you can probably find a ride almost anywhere you need to go near campus.
A place to exchange your books with other members, Bookins says that they have “more available books than the largest Barnes & Noble.” Best of all, there are no membership charges or fees to speak of. Bookins arranges all the trades for its users, so members never have to contact each other at all to set up swaps. Sending items is free of charge, while receiving an item costs $4.49.
16. PaperBack Swap
PaperBack Swap is exactly what it sounds like: a place to swap paperback books. Currently, more than half a billion books are available for trade on the site. Just list the books you don’t want anymore and other members will find them. When someone requests one of your books, you just mail it out and then choose any available book that you want to receive. Swapping is easy, and membership is free.
Stop lugging around old books you won’t read again and trade them for some new reading material instead. Bookmooch uses a points system, so you’ll enter the books you want to give away, get requests from members who want your books, ship from home, get points, and then spend the points on the books you need. While membership is free, you’ll receive .10 points for every book you make available and one point for every book you successfully give away. To remain in good standing, you need to give away one book for every two you receive.
An online swap meet of sorts, at Swap.com there is no bidding or money exchanged. Rather, you offer to trade the stuff you no longer want. You’ll then have the ability to choose from books, movies, CDs, and other items. The site doesn’t seem to have monthly charges, but you’ll be responsible for shipping costs associated with items you sell. Swap has its own free iPhone app for simple listing and searching.
Books, DVDs, CDs, clothes, cars, games – you name it, SwapAce has it available. You can join this electronic bartering and negotiating system for free, and Swapace’s auto-matching and offer management system will help you find the stuff you need and ditch your old items.
If you are a video gamer, GameTZ could be your best bet for finding new games you’ve been anticipating – and for less than the retail price. The site’s reputation system helps you avoid getting ripped off, and you won’t face any membership charges, purchase surcharges, or sales fees.
For those of you looking for another option to trade games and movies, Goozex (short for “Goods Exchange”) might be for you. Users trade games & movies for points, which are then used to get other games or movies for only a $1.99 transaction fee. Membership is free.
I wish I came up with this fantastic idea. SharedEarth is a free site that connects landowners with gardeners and farmers in need of space to grow crops (i.e. starting a home vegetable garden). You can find free access to land in exchange for sharing a little bit of produce with the landowner. In a time of a strong and growing local food movement and concerns about food safety, SharedEarth might just be the most important sharing site of all!
When you’re looking to rent power tools, a shop-vac, or camping equipment, Zilok will help you find great products for short-term rentals. Rather than pay full price for a one-time use, borrow from members of this free site instead.
With 8.5 million members and 5,000 groups, Freecycle is like the mother of all garage sales, with one exception: Everything is free! The site started as a grassroots organization, encouraging members to reuse products rather than send them out to the landfills. For example, I have used Freecycle many times to find new owners for pieces of my cassette and record collection, piles of magazines and books, and assorted unneeded tools.
An online community in which you can either share free stuff or rent items for a fee, NeighborhoodGoods bills itself as a “social inventory,” enabling members to save money and resources by borrowing what they need to use. While joining is free of charge, you can create private sharing groups for your business or neighborhood for a small fee: $36 for six months.
One of my favorite sites on the Internet, and one of the biggest names in the business, Craigslist is the ultimate round-the-world classifieds site. While not specifically built for sharing or renting items, you can choose from a wide range of marketplace categories on Craigslist, including “free,” “rideshare,” and “barter.”
It’s simple, really. Register for free to become a member, list your unwanted items, find the stuff you like, and arrange to make a trade or cash offer. Since 2005, Trashbank has given buyers and sellers a great system for everything from antiques to toys.
Freegans are people who embrace community and sharing, in opposition to a society based on materialism and greed. Freegans avoid purchasing new products or food as much as possible. Instead, they spend a lot of time digging through trash and waste, looking for the things they need. Yes, it’s an extreme example of sharing and bartering, but they make the system work for them!
29. Trade Stuff
When you just have some stuff that you can’t classify but you want to trade away, TradeStuff can help. With a simple forum setup and over 22,000 members, chances are that you can easily get rid of some of your items in exchange for someone else’s.
With no transaction fees and no points system, SwapTreasures is just a simple site for exchanging goods and bartering for services. If you want to trade but you don’t want a targeted marketplace or an overly involved process, check these guys out.
BarterQuest makes it easy to trade or barter for goods, services, and real estate. With categories ranging from transportation to books to clothing to sporting goods, and billing themselves as the “Largest Barter Site,” you’re sure to find something you can offer up or receive back in trade. Registration and posting is free of charge.
With 70,000 members posting items they would like to barter with or for, there is a good possibility you can find what you are looking for at U-Exchange. Listings are available from all over the world, and the search feature lets you narrow down your choices by keywords. There is no charge for membership or listings, as advertisers pay to sponsor the site.
Billed as a “money-free system of exchange,” FavorPals is a site where services like babysitting and housekeeping can be exchanged for other services or goods, all without any money exchanging hands. There is no charge to join, list, or trade.
Registration and basic listings are free at Tradeaway, where you can sell, buy, and trade anything from antiques to vacation travel. It is run in the style of an auction house, where users can make offers of trade, TradeCredits, or cash for an item or service that they are interested in. Signup is free.
Listia is an online auction site where users bid on other people’s stuff using site credits instead of real money. Users earn credits by giving away the stuff they no longer need and can then bid on “new” stuff by using the credits they have earned. The highest bidder wins the item, and membership is free.
BizXchange is for business-to-business barter, where members use “BizX dollars” to help each other save cash on expenses and find new ways to grow their businesses. BizX dollars are earned by (and can be spent on) selling products, services, or unused inventory to other members. Membership costs include a one-time initiation fee of $795, a $15 cash/$15 BizX monthly fee, and a 6% fee on each transaction with other members.
Phew! Well there you have it: 34 sites you can use to share, swap, barter, borrow, and lend your products, services, or unwanted household items.
Have you ever used one of the sites on this list to barter or trade? What was the overall experience like? Do you have another favorite site to add to the list?
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