I'm doing a house swap with another family, and as part of the logistics, at a certain point I have to leave my car for them, and they will pick it up a few days later. This happens to be in Newark, NJ, but the problem is pretty general.

We can't meet in advance to exchange keys, and I don't have a third party who could hold the key.

Can anyone suggest a way to accomplish this?

  • 7
    Some AirBNBs use lock boxes and you can open them with a code. There are companies that operate lock boxes in bars or caffees, so it's reasonably safe and supervised. Access is controlled through the service with an app
    – Hilmar
    Jul 16, 2019 at 14:01
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's not about travel. Jul 16, 2019 at 14:09
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    @DavidRicherby: it's totally about travel. If I was at home, there would be no issue. I only need to do this because I'm swapping cars at an airport while traveling. Jul 16, 2019 at 14:28
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    I am not sure about the USA, but here in Europe, luggage lockers at train and bus stations are often key-less and can be opened with a code. If you pass the locker number and the code to the recipient, he can pick up whatever you left there. Jul 16, 2019 at 14:48
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    I’m not sure the timing logistics of your problem are clear. Will the incoming house swappers arrive at your house and then later want to pick up the car? If so, don’t you have a spare car key that you could leave in the house? Or are they arriving at the airport and will pick up the car at that point?
    – Traveller
    Jul 16, 2019 at 15:01

4 Answers 4


Assuming you have two sets of keys, mail them one set of keys in advance and keep using the other to drop off the car. If you think they need two sets of keys, mail the second set to the house once you have dropped the car off. Otherwise just hang on to them and use them to pick your car up afterwards.

  • We've not tried that. It's always been cab from the airport; pick up the house keys from a neighbour; car keys are in the house. Jul 17, 2019 at 3:42

Fedex have a service called "Hold At Location", where you can ship a package to a Fedex Location (which generally includes most Fedex Kinkos location which are frequently opened 24x7), and they will hold it for the recipient for up to 7 days.

You could simply ship the keys to the recipient, with THEIR name as the recipient, but with the Fedex Hold-at-Location address. Once the package "arrives" at the location (which might take a day or so, even if you drop it off at that same location), then they will be able to pick it up anytime within the next 7 days simply by showing ID matching the name it is being sent to.

In the event that they don't pickup the package within 7 days, it will be returned to you as the sender.

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    You could probably do much the same thing using General Delivery at a US Post Office; the only major differences would be that the post office has more limited opening hours, and that having the key returned to you if the pickup fails might be more difficult. Jul 16, 2019 at 16:18
  • I don't know where your exchangers are, but you could consider mailing the key to them in their (or a) previous location. If you'll be on the road when you want to do this, leave a prepaid (postal service or courier) envelope or small box with a friend who'll sent it when you direct. Jul 16, 2019 at 17:08
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    @MichaelSeifert: General Delivery packages are also returned to sender if not picked up within a certain amount of time. See faq.usps.com/s/article/What-is-General-Delivery. Jul 16, 2019 at 18:30

Make a copy of the key without the chip or without the chip being coded to the original key, this means the car can be opened but not started, secure this key within a magnetic lock box somewhere on the car out of site or in a hitch safe, then store the original key that can start the car in a small combination secured safe within the car.

Response based on this link https://doityourselflocksmithing.blogspot.com/2013/02/where-to-hide-hide-key-on-your-car.html

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    Can you expand a bit on the "hitch safe"? I'd never heard of this before.
    – gerrit
    Jul 17, 2019 at 7:47
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    This website site expands it way more than I could in a message [link]hitchsafe.com
    – user100321
    Sep 6, 2019 at 4:47

You are probably overthinking the risks here.

Do what the professionals do. Just leave the car unlocked with the keys hidden somewhere inside, or tucked behind one of the sun visors. Or if you there are valuables inside the car and you want to lock it (unlikely, since you are leaving it for somebody else to use) then lock the car and hide the key in a front wheel arch, on the suspension.

The point is, if your car is parked in its usual place at your house, nobody who knows the area is going to assume it can be stolen. If an opportunistic thief can't see anything that is obviously of value inside, they aren't going to waste any time on it. If a professional car thief wants to steal it, the fact that it is locked is no deterrent at all. If they want it badly enough, they will turn up looking like vehicle recovery service employees and take it away in broad daylight, with all your neighbours watching and nobody suspecting a thing!

IMO you are taking a far bigger risk granting the use of your car to strangers for a long period of time, than the risk that somebody will steal it during the short transfer period.

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    Do what the professionals do Professional what? Bad guys do not necessarily have to steal the car. They may break something. Your insurance then wants to know if the car was properly locked. Jul 17, 2019 at 10:50

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