You got the call and you're going to be starting a new job next month — but the job is 200 miles away in a new city. Or maybe it's in another state and 2,000 miles away. Either way, you're going to need to start buying boxes and packing tape. If you plan to handle the move yourself, you need to research truck rental services.
Renting a moving truck is your biggest expense when it comes to the actual move. Ignore those prices you see on the sides of moving trucks, because $19.95 is a far cry from what you're actually going to pay. In fact, an in-state move costs, on average, $1,170, according to the American Moving & Storage Association. If you're moving cross-country, you're potentially looking at spending more than $5,000. Your costs may be higher or lower depending on how many rooms of furniture and other stuff you have to move, how far you're moving, when you're moving, and whether you use cost-cutting measures.
If you'd rather not move your stuff by yourself, you can hire a moving container service as an affordable alternative. And in case you don't have a lot of belongings, you can look into renting a small truck or van from a car rental service. Read on to learn more about your options and how to save money on your move.
Most Territory Options
Types of Moves
Moving is always going to be a pricey event, but if you're making a move across town, you have more options. Some companies require that you return a truck back to the same location where you rented it, while others allow one-way rentals.
The good news is that every national truck rental service that's available in your area offers local services, so you have many more options if you're moving across town or to a nearby city. Local moves are much more affordable than long-distance moves. The only caveat is that you must return rental trucks to the same location that you rented it.
If your move is more than 100 miles away from your current location, you're less likely to want to return your truck to your former hometown. A one-way truck rental means you can load your belongings in the truck, drive to your new destination and then return the truck to the company's location in your new zip code. Only the three best-known national services offer one-way moving like this. Otherwise, you have to rent a moving pod service or movers, which can be costlier.
Penske is one of the three big truck rental companies that offer local and one-way truck rentals. This truck rental service is available in the contiguous United States and six Canadian provinces. If you're planning a long-distance one-way move, Penske gives you nine days to complete the trip.
Most Equipment Options
Aside from renting moving trucks, these companies often have helpful accessories that you can rent to make your move easier.
Most of the truck rental services also sell boxes. Sure, you can sift through a dumpster behind a store to get free boxes, but you can buy specialty boxes from these companies that help protect your items, such as wardrobe boxes that let you hang your clothes and segmented boxes made for dishes.
Carts & Pads
You can also rent a hand truck, or a dolly — a metal L-shaped cart that helps you move several boxes at once or heavy furniture without putting strain on you. Furniture pads are also usually available for you to rent. These thick blanket-like pads can protect your couch, armoire and dining room table from the metal interior of the rental truck.
You'd be hard-pressed to drive down an interstate and not see a U-Haul truck or trailer. This truck rental service is one of the most ubiquitous in the nation and it's one of the few that offers one-way truck rentals. The familiar orange paint job, the advertised $19.95 in-town price, and usually a graphic that represents a state or province are instantly recognizable to anyone who pays attention to the vehicles around them while they're on the road.
Best Pricing Options
There aren't many national truck rental companies, so there's fierce competition among the few that are available. You can take advantage of this by getting a binding quote and making reservations with several companies, and then approaching each one to see if one is willing to match the lowest quote.
What Size of Truck Do You Need?
Size matters when you rent a truck. It's important to get the right size of truck for your needs — you don't want to have to make two trips because the truck is too small for your stuff, or risk your belongings sliding around in the bed of the truck, which could cause damage. First, you need to assess your stuff. How many rooms of furniture do you have? Are you going to pare down or keep everything? Do you have more in storage that you plan to take with you?
Cargo Van or Small Truck
If you're moving out for the first time from your parents' house, you likely haven't accumulated enough stuff to necessitate a full-sized moving truck. In this case, a cargo van may be enough. If your move is nearby, this could be a viable option.
10' to 12'
Studio apartment dwellers and those in one- or two-bedroom apartments who have minimal belongings can rent this popular size of truck for moving. It's one of the most cost-effective choices for cross-country moves.
This most commonly rented truck is the smallest option from one of the best-known truck rental services, U-Haul. The truck's actual length inside the cargo space is just shy of 10 feet at 9'11". Penske's smallest option is a 12-footer. Also, of all the three national truck rentals' smallest options, U-Haul is the only one that can tow a car. If you go with Penske or Budget, you have to choose the next size up to tow.
15' to 16'
Most truck rental companies offer 16-foot trucks, but U-Haul breaks from the norm with its 15-footer. Both sizes are ideal for families in a two-bedroom apartment or a small house. The 15-foot truck is almost 8 feet wide and just over 7 feet tall. The cab seats three people.
The slightly larger trucks from Penske, Budget, Ryder and Enterprise are also good for those moving a small house worth of stuff, but the Penske only has seating for two. Budget's 16-footer has seating for three.
17' to 22'
The next size up from U-Haul is a 17-foot truck, which is big enough for a two-bedroom house, larger apartments or an office relocation, according to the truck rental company. It includes seating for three adults, and its width and height are the same as the 15-footer, but it's 16'9" long.
U-Haul also offers a 20-foot option, which can accommodate three-bedroom households and seats three people. Its length is 19.5 feet. Penske's next-largest size jumps up to 22 feet, which is more spacious and can handle a three-to-five-bedroom home, and the cab can seat up to three people.
24' to 26'
The largest trucks in these companies' fleets are 24 and 26 feet long. U-Haul is the only truck rental company to offer both of the larger sizes for a one-way trip, while Enterprise offers both sizes for local moves (the vehicle must be returned to the same location). Budget offers a 24-footer, and Penske has a 26-foot truck. One of these moving truck rentals can fit a large household's stuff in its large cargo interior — up to seven rooms' worth. As a bonus, no special license is needed to operate these trucks that rival the size of a semi-truck.
Towing Your Car
Moving your stuff is one thing, but what about your car or truck? Even if you're not moving alone, driving two vehicles is costlier if you're crossing state lines. You have two options to tow your car with most national services.
The least expensive option is a two-wheel dolly that works for cars with front-wheel drive. You drive your car up the ramp and secure it to the dolly. Your car's back wheels are secured but make contact with the road, which means wear and tear on two of your tires. On the plus side, a tow dolly is generally less expensive than the second option to rent and weighs less, so you use less gasoline.
If your vehicle has all-wheel drive, you need to rent a car carrier; otherwise, there could be damage to your car's drivetrain. A carrier like this lifts your car entirely up off the ground and onto the trailer, which means your car suffers no wear and tear. Car carriers are usually more expensive to rent than tow dollies because they're more in demand and weigh more, so you spend more to transport your car overall.
Do You Need to Purchase Insurance?
This is one of the most frequent questions customers have when they rent a truck for moving. If you have full coverage for your car, your insurance company may cover you and any vehicle you drive, but it's best that you double-check before you make any decisions. Often the amount that an insurance company covers would not cover the cost of a rental truck if it were totaled. There are four common types of insurance extras you can purchase from truck rental services.
Supplemental Liability Insurance
Most contracts you sign to rent a moving truck include the minimum liability coverage, but it won't cover much. This extra liability insurance can protect you in case a third party makes a claim against you after an accident in your rental vehicle. The coverage generally maxes out at $1 million.
Another option is insurance provided by a credit card company. If you use a credit card to rent your moving truck, check with the credit company to find out if you have any coverage with it.
This protects you when there's accidental damage to the rental equipment, but the details vary for each company. The only time this extra coverage won't protect you is if you use the rental truck, trailer or tow dolly in a way that violates the rental agreement or contract. This insurance can include incidents of theft.
Some truck rental services offer two types of damage waivers: Physical Damage Waiver (PDW) and Limited Damage Waiver (LDW). Each one covers different kinds of damage and may require you to pay a deductible if damage occurs.
Personal Accident & Cargo Insurance
You can purchase protection for yourself and your belongings should you get into an accident. Personal accident insurance covers your injuries. You may not need to buy this additional insurance if you have health insurance or medical coverage with your car insurance.
Cargo insurance or personal effects coverage protects your belongings if you're in an accident. Homeowners or renters insurance may cover this already, so be sure to ask your insurance agent before you buy protection you may not need.
Auto Tow Protection
A damage waiver may already include insurance to cover accidental damage to a tow dolly or car carrier, but if not, you may want to look into this supplemental insurance. This policy covers the rental equipment — not the vehicle you tow. Your full-coverage auto insurance should cover your vehicle, though.
Truck Rental Companies
Now that you know what you need, you need to choose the company that works for your situation. All of the truck rental services we spotlight are great choices for local moves, but some are better for one-way moves. These nationally known companies can handle both.
More than 40 million people may move this year, according to moving statistics on U-Haul's website. So, any given day, you're likely to see a U-Haul truck on a freeway somewhere in America. U-Haul has more than 20,000 locations across the United States and offers the most choices of any truck rental company. It's also the only company whose smallest truck can tow a vehicle.
You have a choice of four different sizes of trucks if you rent a moving truck with Budget. This truck rental service has about 27,000 trucks in its fleet, which is available nationwide. Budget Truck Rental offers competitive pricing, and you can often find promotions to save even more money.
Penske Truck Rental's fleet of trucks is 50,000 strong, and the company offers four different truck sizes for your move. You can find a Penske location easily, because the truck rental service is partnered with The Home Depot. You can also purchase moving boxes, tape, mattress bags and more that you need for a DIY move.
If your move is local, you have a couple more options. These are national chains or franchises, so you're likely to find a location near you.
Ryder's trucks are available for you to rent in most of the United States and Canada. You have two choices when it comes to large moving trucks: a 16-foot truck or a 26-foot truck. Costs are generally calculated per day, and Ryder charges mileage, so your total varies based on how long you need the rental, where you're driving and the rate in your area.
Although this company is better known for its rental cars, Enterprise also rents trucks for your DIY move. The trucks you can choose from are 16 feet, 24 feet and 26 feet long. All three of them include lift gates, which can help save your back as you move the big stuff. Enterprise charges a per-day fee plus mileage and other fees, like a tire and battery fee.
Why We Chose These Truck Rental Services
If you don't see a local DIY rental truck service on our list, it's because we chose to not include regional companies in our guide, as they don't serve a national customer. If you're making a local move, then a mom-and-pop shop that rents moving trucks may be the best for you, so be sure to consider those options when you make your choice. Our guide can help you ask the right questions and choose what's best for you. Other well-known rental companies, like Hertz, were not listed because they simply have partnerships with other rental companies (Hertz partners with Penske).
How Much Does It Cost?
Many factors affect the cost of a truck rental. As with almost anything in life, the cost of products and services are based on demand. So, time of year and location are the big deciders in cost. You can save money by applying a few tips and tricks, though.
Summer is the most popular moving time, and as demand for moving trucks go up, so does cost. Many of the truck rental company clients are students who are either moving home after college or moving back to the dorm at the end of summer. So, if you can plan your move before or after the summer months, you're likely to get a better deal. Time of week is important too. Weekends are popular for big moves. If you can move during the week, you're more likely to get good price.
Most moves take place at the end and beginning of a month, because leases are generally on the same cycle. If you can schedule a move in the middle of the month, you're more likely to get a cheap truck rental.
If you're making a cross-country trek, obviously you're going to pay more. You could get a good deal on a truck if you happen to be moving to a city that many people have recently left. For example, if a truck rental service has rented out its trucks from the Midwest states and they're all headed south to Florida, then those locations in the Midwest are lacking trucks. If you're moving to the Midwest, you are helping to resupply its stock of trucks. You can't count on this possibility, though.
It's easy to do a quick search online for any promotions that a company may be holding. A coupon code could save you a good chunk of money, so keep your eye out for them. You should also check prices often, even after you make a reservation, because as supply goes up, the cost goes down, and this can happen unexpectedly.
Read our articles on truck rental services to fully arm yourself with the knowledge you need to make the best decision for your move. Then drive safely!