What to know when renting a moving truck

Renting a moving truck and moving your belongings yourself is a good way to save money and stay in control of your residential move – you will be able to plan your relocation to perfectly suits your needs and preferences, pack at your own pace, take care of your own items, perform your move when you want to, and as a whole – do things your way.

To make the most of your DIY move, however, you need to rent the right type of moving truck at the most favorable conditions and the best possible price. To achieve this, you have to be well informed and to know what to look for when renting a truck to move.

Here are some useful tips for renting a moving truck that will help you make the right choice and avoid troubles, setbacks, and unpleasant financial surprises during your self-move:

Choose the right size moving truck

You need a moving truck that is big enough to accommodate all your belongings, but not so large that you end up paying for space you don’t actually use.

Most rental companies offer a variety of truck sizes, from small 10-foot trucks suitable for one-bedroom apartments to large 26-foot trucks that can hold the contents of a four-bedroom house. What size moving truck will be right for you depends on the number and type of items you have for moving (and more specifically – on the cubic footage they take up).

So, when choosing a moving truck, you need to estimate the approximate volume of your belongings (you can use the calculators available on the websites of the rental companies – just enter everything you want to relocate into the corresponding fields and you’ll get a good idea of the total cubic footage of your shipment) and opt for a vehicle that that has about 10-20% more storage space than the estimated cubic footage of your household goods (as it is virtually impossible to use the full capacity of the truck – you can’t pack the vehicle so well that there are no empty spaces).

Decide what auxiliary equipment and/or extra services you’re going to need

In addition to moving vehicles, rental truck companies usually offer a wide assortment of moving supplies and add-on services that can make a self-move much safer and easier. You can request temporary storage, moving labor, moving boxes, wrapping and padding materials, covers and bags, moving dollies, ropes and tie downs, hitches, bike racks, and many other auxiliary supplies and services – at a price. (Some essential equipment like loading ramps and towing accessories may be included in the cost of the rental, but you need to ask in advance to know for sure. More often than not, you’ll have to pay for any additional services and/or supplies you want to use.)

Customers can request the extra services and moving equipment they need (if any) when making a rental truck reservation.

Understand moving truck rental costs

Moving truck rental costs are based on the size of the truck and the distance and duration of the move:

  • Rental companies typically charge a daily rate (set for every size of moving truck), along with a certain amount per mile;
  • Some companies include a set number of miles based on the distance of the move (you can purchase additional days or mileage, if you need to);
  • Many nationwide truck rental companies offer free unlimited mileage on one-way truck rentals;
  • There may be additional fees for dropping a truck off at a different location from where it was picked up – as is the case with one-way moves;
  • Most companies charge higher rates during busy periods – on weekends, at the beginning and end of a month, around holidays, etc. – when most residential moves take place and moving trucks are in high demand;
  • You may be able to take advantage of seasonal discounts, promotional coupons, and special packages when renting a truck to move;
  • Most rental companies allow payment by cash, debit cards, or personal checks, but some require credit cards.

When budgeting for your DIY move, keep in mind that there are many additional costs to renting a moving truck – you’ll have to pay for fuel, road tolls, parking fees, additional vehicle insurance, etc.

See also: How to keep moving truck rental costs under control

Consider the return requirements and options

Before you rent a truck for moving, you need to consider how you’re going to return it:

  • If you’re moving across the country, you’ll want to rent a moving truck one way, so that you can pick up the vehicle from a location near your old home and return it to a lot near your final destination. To be able to do so, you need to find rental companies that have offices both in your current city and your new one. This should not be a problem, though, as most rental companies have branches in many major cities;
  • Ask what type of fuel the truck must be filled with and make sure you return the vehicle with the same amount of gas it had when you picked it up – otherwise, you’ll be charged a penalty;
  • Keep in mind that you need to sweep the cargo hold and cab interior and make sure the truck is clean and in good condition before returning it as the rental company will charge a cleaning fee if you leave it a mess;
  • If you return the truck early, you may get a refund for the unused days. However, if the company has given you extra days so that you can return the truck without being pressed for time (common practice for one-way moves), there will be no refund.

Book the rental truck as early as possible

The earlier you book a moving van, the better deal you’re going to get and the greater choice of available vehicles you’re going to have. So, start looking for a rental truck as soon as you decide to perform a self-move:

  • Visit the websites of several different truck rental companies in your area to see what they have to offer;
  • Check the companies’ legitimacy and reputation – research the BBB database, read moving reviews, ask for references and recommendations, etc.;
  • Get truck rental quotes from three or four trustworthy agencies that seem to best suit your needs and preferences;
  • Discuss the details of your relocation – pickup and drop-off locations, time-period of the move, space requirements, additional moving equipment, etc.;
  • Ask for discounts and special conditions;
  • Compare the offers and choose the best moving truck rental company for you;
  • Reserve the right size moving truck as soon as you’ve made your choice – ideally, a month or so in advance.

Make sure you ask about the company’s cancellation policy before making a reservation – most agencies require at least 48 hours’ notice and charge a cancellation fee if you don’t notify them early enough. If you need to change your pick-up date, you can do so, based on availability, without it affecting your rate.

Good to know: To rent a moving truck you must be 18 years of age or older and have a valid driver’s license. You can add up to three additional drivers for a fee (family members may be added at no charge), but the person who signs the rental agreement is the one responsible for the truck. Additional drivers must provide driving licenses and ID documents.

Get adequate insurance

When renting a moving truck, you need to have adequate insurance – anything can happen on the road (you may get into an accident, your belongings may be stolen, etc.), so you’d better be on the safe side.

Your home and auto insurance policies may provide some coverage for damage to the truck and/or its cargo, but it may not be enough – a 10-foot truck might be covered under your car insurance policy, for example, but a 26-foot truck probably won’t be. So, it is a good idea to purchase some sort of supplemental insurance. Different types of moving truck insurance include:

  • Damage waivers – protection plans that relieve you of financial responsibilities in case of loss or theft of items or damage to the truck;
  • Supplemental liability insurance – a type of insurance that protects you from property damage claims and personal injury claims filed against you;
  • Personal accident and cargo protection – insurance policies that protect you and your property while inside the rental truck – in case you are injured or your items are damaged due to certain listed causes. These protection plans do not cover damage caused by shifting or theft;
  • Auto tow protection – a protection plan that covers damage to or theft of your personal vehicle if you’re towing it on a trailer.

Good to know: If the moving truck breaks down, you need to call the company’s emergency services – each agency has its own policy concerning truck malfunctions, so make sure you ask about it when making your reservation and get the phone number of the company’s emergency services.

Other things to consider when renting a moving truck

When renting a moving truck, keep in mind that:

  1. You may need to stop at weigh stations – Each state has its own rules about what trucks have to stop at weigh stations – some require only commercial trucks to do so, but others demand that all trucks exceeding a certain weight go through the checkpoints. Some explicitly include or exclude trailers and moving trucks. So, whether or not you’ll need to go through weigh stations will depend on the weight of your rented truck and the laws in the states you’re traveling through.
  2. You need to inspect the truck before signing the rental agreement – check the existing damage (both interior and exterior), as well as the condition of the tires, loading ramp, windshield glass, and other features. Note any damage – even minor dents, dings or scratches to the truck – to ensure you won’t be charged for damage you didn’t cause.
  3. Driving a large moving truck is a great challenge:
  • Map out your route – find out if some of the roads prohibit trucks, where weigh stations are, what road tolls will be required, etc. Keep in mind the clearance of the truck and watch out for low bridges and detours;
  • Practice some basic driving maneuvers in an open parking while the truck is still empty;
  • Get familiar with some essential tips for driving a moving truck;
  • Make sure you load the moving truck the right way.
  1. You may not be able to tow your car — in most cases, you will be able tow your car behind the rental truck on safe and convenient towing equipment, but some smaller trucks cannot tow vehicles. Besides, not all vehicles meet the rental companies’ weight, width, tire size, wheelbase, and drive shaft requirements. So, ask in advance to avoid unpleasant surprises and be sure to check if you need to pay extra for the towing equipment.
  2. Not all extras are included in the rental quote – Locks for the back of the truck, GPS units, and other extras that can considerably increase the safety and comfort of your trip don’t come standard, so budget accordingly if you want them;
  3. Hiring a moving company may be your better option – the pros will perform your move in a fast, safe, and efficient manner and will save you lots of trouble and hard work. Make sure you see what they have to offer before deciding on a self-move and renting a moving truck.

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2 thoughts on “What to know when renting a moving truck

  1. Thanks for suggesting we get a vehicle that has 20% more storage space than the estimated cubic footage of what we’ll be moving. My husband and I are trying to prepare for a move, but it’s been really hard to guess what size moving truck we’ll need. I’ll definitely be following your advice of calculating the cubic footage of everything we want to fit in the truck and choosing a truck slightly larger to allow for space in between objects.

  2. You made a great point about booking the rental truck as early as possible. This makes room for any sort of potential cancelation. I think it’s wise to book in advance.

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