Moving Truck Rental Comparison
The price to rent a truck to move your belongings can vary seasonally and can change depending on whether you are conducting a local move or a long-distance, one-way relocation.
Renting a truck for a local move often can be done on a per-hour or daily basis, since you can pick it up and return it to the same location. U-Haul advertises a 26-foot truck (large enough to hold the furnishings of a 3 to 4-bedroom home) with a loading ramp for $39.95 a day, plus $ 0.99 per mile driven in many metropolitan areas. U-Haul has trucks, trailers, cargo vans, containers (pods) storage, moving supplies and accessories, and can help arrange for moving support such as packing and loading. Penske and Budget offer local and one-way rentals as well. Penske tends to be a bit pricier, and Budget will usually only rent to people aged 24 and over, but both have free, unlimited mileage, which can make a difference in the longer moves (more on long moves coming up). It can be tricky to make a direct comparison of prices between the rental companies since they advertise differently and may be including different elements in their pricing, with other fees added later. For U-Haul, the daily rate may be higher, and the per-mile cost lower, while Penske front-loads most costs into the upfront charge, and adds fewer fees at the end. Make sure you are looking at all the price elements when you compare. Enterprise, which only offers local rentals, advertises a 24-foot truck with a lift gate (arguably better than a ramp) for $170 for a two-day rental and $0.20 per mile. For a local move, you should consider these:
- Rental truck fee (base rate)
- Mileage fee
- Fuel costs
- Damage protection
- Environmental fee
- Add-on services (moving supplies, moving equipment, etc.)
For a one-way long-distance move, the pricing elements are similar but usually don’t have a per-mile fee, just a mileage cap.
What other fees are there when I rent a moving truck?
You can avoid some extra fees with planning. Ensure you have insurance coverage for any damage to the vehicle, or you risk high expenses for repairs. Return a rented truck with the same amount of fuel that it had when you picked it up, or the refueling charge may be high. Check ahead of time for the cost of accessories and supplies–just because they are in the truck doesn’t mean they are free. Ask about charges for additional or underage drivers, and make sure you return the rental in the time agreed to. If you need to cancel, do so promptly.
Also, look for (and ask for) discounts from the rental companies. You may be able to snag 10% off by making your reservation online instead of in person or over the phone. A quick look at the Budget and Penske websites shows discounts for students, military personnel, members of automobile associations, first responders, retirees, and even attorneys. It never hurts to ask for a break based on a college, credit union, or other affiliation.
When you are making a local move, you may also want to consider renting from a local moving company. You may be able to negotiate a better deal from a small business that has a lull or sees an opportunity. Again, this tactic is more likely to be successful if you have flexibility in your schedule.
What if I am moving a long-distance?
Truck rental is still an option for a long-distance state to state move. You may be charged an additional fee for dropping the truck off at another location, but that depends on whether demand at the destination at the time of your rental is higher or lower than where you picked it up. For example, California is currently experiencing a net outmigration (more people moving out than in), so there is less competition for moving truck space and less demand for the rental trucks to return to California markets. You may pay more for dropping off a truck in an unpopular destination than in a market that has high demand.
As with commercial moving companies, truck rental costs will vary based on the season. Summer brings the highest demand for truck rentals, as families and students move. The end of a month is also a critical demand period since most rental obligations are calendar-based. If you can be flexible and move during the offseason or in the middle of a month, you may be able to obtain a lower price. If you are not moving a large amount, consider sharing a truck rental, which will reduce the cost, and eliminate some of the driving and labor as well.
Other expenses to consider when evaluating a long-distance truck rental are the added cost of food, lodging, and fuel. If it takes three days to make the journey, you have three days of rental charges, plus hotels and food, on top of the gasoline or diesel.
Packing supplies. While it may be tempting to pick up your packing supplies from the truck rental company, you may want to reconsider. Penske offers medium boxes for sale online at $2.65 each, while the same box at Home Depot sells for just $1.48. That dollar-plus difference will add up in a hurry. Of course, if you can plan ahead and start gathering used boxes from friends, deliveries, or other sources, you may be able to amass much of what you need for free. On the other hand, you probably are better off paying for temporary use of the dolly and moving blankets you need from the truck rental agency, instead of purchasing these items you won’t need again (at least not soon.) But ask about pricing before you use them—just because they are in the truck doesn’t mean they are available without charge.
Don’t overlook insurance. Of course, you already have car insurance, but don’t assume that your truck rental, contents, and towed vehicle (if applicable) are covered. Possibly, your passenger vehicle coverage excludes large trucks, towed cars, or cargo. You want to check that you have adequate liability coverage if you damage any other vehicles or property. Remember, you probably aren’t accustomed to driving (or parking) a huge box truck. If you are unfamiliar with towing, having to back up can be intimidating, even overwhelming. If something goes wrong, it is better to have the comfort of adequate insurance protection.
The same is true for your cargo. One of the reasons you may have decided to take this task on yourself was to maintain control of your cherished possessions. Yet, you may be parking your truck in a hotel or highway rest stop along the way, leaving the contents vulnerable to loss or damage. To keep your goods safe, ensure that they are well packed, loaded correctly, and insured for the full value if there is a mishap.