What to Know When Renting a Moving Truck
As you might have inferred from my post about thanking friends who help you move, I recently made a move myself, driving from the East Coast to the West Coast over the course of eight days. It was an amazing trip — I saw friends and family, ghost towns, and wonderful museums (along with vast stretches of flat, brown land).
I made the entire trip — all 3601 miles (including several off-the-interstate jaunts) — in a 10-foot U-Haul truck. And after doing a lot of research into cost-effective moving vehicles, getting friends, family, and a couple of last-minute professional movers to help me, and spending over a week bringing the truck over everything from five-lane highways to gravel-kicking back roads, I've learned a few things about renting a moving truck. Here's some advice to keep in mind for your own DIY move. (See also: Pack Up Your House: Tips for Saving Money (and Sanity) on a Move)
Your Reservation Might Not Reserve What You Think
I learned at the very last minute that at some major truck-rental companies, such as Budget, your reservation might not be as firm as you might think. When I called my local Budget location on the day I was picking up my truck, the gentleman I spoke to said, "I don't know if anyone told you, but we don't have any 10-foot trucks. You have a 15-foot one." If I had just been doing an in-town move, this substitution might have been fine, but I was driving across the country — plus I didn't even have enough stuff to completely fill a 10-footer. I ended up canceling my Budget reservation and called various companies until I finally found a 10-foot U-Haul available 25 miles away. Some companies — including U-Haul — do guarantee your truck; just make sure you know the company's policy before making your reservation.
You Can't Rent a Cargo Van One-Way
Or if you do manage to rent a cargo van one-way, you're extremely lucky. This was my ideal mode of transportation based on the amount of stuff I had, but the major moving-truck rental companies will only rent cargo vans for same-city moves. I've been told that it's because of "wear and tear" on the vans.
Mileage Costs Vary by Company
Part of the reason I originally made a reservation with Budget was because their trucks include unlimited mileage for one-way rentals. Other companies include a set number of miles based on the distance you are traveling. In-city rentals (where you pick up and return your rental to the same location) are generally charged at a flat rate plus a mileage fee. All of that said, additional free mileage for one-way rentals can be added at the discretion of the location you're renting from. For example, the U-Haul office I rented from included an additional 25 free miles for me to get the truck back to my apartment.
Not All Trucks Can Tow Cars
Some of the smaller trucks from some companies cannot tow vehicles. If you plan on towing your car, make sure that your particular truck can tow — and make sure to include extra funds in your budget for the tow trailer.
Parking Can Be a Concern
My U-Haul had a 9-foot clearance, and other trucks can be even taller. Most of the roadside hotels we stopped at had open-air parking, and a 10-foot truck fits (if a little snugly) into an average parking space. However, for my final hotel in my new home city, I had to call ahead to several locations until I could find one that provided parking other than 7-foot-clearance parking garages.
Not Everything You Want to Be Included Necessarily Will Be
There are several conveniences most rental-truck companies have available...for an extra fee. Dollies, moving blankets, insurance, locks for the back of the truck, and GPS units don't come standard, but they can increase the safety or comfort of your trip. Budget accordingly. Also note that most moving trucks only feature AM/FM stereos. If you have an MP3 player and are making a long move, consider investing in an AM/FM transmitter or get used to long stretches of radio scanning.
Moving Trucks Can Be Easy to Drive
I was terrified to get behind the wheel of the U-Haul; I've barely driven a car since I sold my last one over three years ago, let alone a truck. But once you become used to relying on your side-view mirrors instead of the rearview, driving a moving truck is very doable. Don't be afraid!
Gas Isn't Included
Gas isn't included with your rental, so you need to include it in your moving budget — and you risk a paying a penalty if you return your truck with less gas than was in it when you received it. Another piece to keep in mind is rising or changing gas costs, especially if you're moving to a new area. Over the course of my drive across the country, gas moved from about $3.45 a gallon to $4.17.
Other than that, just be sure to pack securely, drive safely, and have fun!
Do you have any advice for renting a moving truck?