7 Sanity-Saving Tips for Renting a Moving Truck

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Few things evoke as much panic during a move as the thought of renting a moving truck. Is it difficult to make wide turns? (Totally.) Do I need a special license? (Nope.) Is it worth the hassle? (Depends.)

Whether you’re absolutely set on renting a moving truck, still making up your mind, or just nervous about maneuvering one, we’ve put together these truck rental tips to make the process easier:

Get a quote for the actual day you’re moving

You know how it’s cheaper to move in the winter? The same concept applies to moving trucks. Most moving truck rental companies use algorithms to adjust their rates depending on the month, week, and day you’re looking to rent (meaning their claims of “it’s just $20 for an hour!” may not be accurate 100% of the time). If you’re able to schedule your move for mid-month, rather than the beginning or end, your truck rental will probably be considerably cheaper.

Either way, call ahead to get a quote. Be sure to ask the following questions:

  • Size: What size trucks do you offer? How much does each one cost per day? (If you’re doing a shorter-distance move, ask about hourly rates: this can save you money and open up more options for truck availability.)
  • Gas: Is gas included? What type of fuel does the moving truck need? Do I need to refill the gas tank to its previous levels? If I don’t fill the gas tank before returning, will there be an additional refilling fee?
  • Returns: Do I need to return the moving truck rental to the same facility? Is there a fee for dropping off the truck in a different location? (This is especially good to know if you’re doing a long-distance move.)
  • Moving equipment: Do you provide additional moving equipment, such as dollies, padding materials, etc.?
  • Mile limits: Do you charge extra for additional mileage? (Some rental agreements have designated mileage limits.) 
  • Last-minute changes: What is your cancellation policy? Is there a fee?
  • Upgrades: Do you have any newer vehicles? (If you’re traveling a long distance, a new, sleeker model can make a huge difference.)
  • Lead time: Is there an additional cost for a last-minute reservation? How far in advance do you need to book to avoid it?

Figure out what sized moving truck you’ll need


Channel your inner Goldilocks: You want to a moving truck that’s just right for your needs. Too small, and you’ll be forced to make multiple trips back-and-forth (which is pretty much impossible with a long-distance move). Too big, and you’re stuck overpaying for footage you don’t even need.

Penske Truck Rental put together a handy “Truck Wizard,” so you can calculate the approximate size rental you’ll need – a 26-, 22-, 16-, or 12-foot truck. These dimensions also more or less apply to other major truck rental retailers, like Uhaul and Budget.

When in doubt, it’s best to get a bigger size; you can always pad extra space with moving blankets.

Feeling overwhelmed? Skip the truck rental and book a Dolly to move your stuff instead.

Make sure you have the proper paperwork

It’s the stuff of moving nightmares: Showing up at the truck rental facilities, ready to take on your tight moving schedule… only to realize you left your driver’s license packed up in a forgotten box at home.

To avoid this headache, make sure you have everything you need. You should call ahead to confirm with the company you’re renting from, but here’s a general list of what you need when renting a moving truck:

  • Valid driver’s license for every person who plans to operate the truck (most truck rental agencies require renters to be at least 18 years of age).
  • Proof of insurance: You should decide ahead of time what kind of insurance you want to use for renting the truck. Your own insurance may offer coverage for damage to the truck and/or its cargo in case of an accident. If it doesn’t, or you don’t have driver’s insurance, you can purchase supplemental insurance from the agency.  
  • A credit card in the name of whoever is renting the truck (some companies also accept checks or debit cards, but often prefer credit cards).

Thoroughly inspect the moving truck’s interior and exterior

Examine the entire truck before you leave the rental facility. Make sure the tires, signals, and lights are in working order. Keep an eye out for scratches or dents that look minor, but could cost you big time. Double check for damage to the interior, and make note of any to the rep so you don’t get blamed for it. Most truck rental companies will note this in your rental paperwork before you sign, so make sure you examine the truck before handing over your John Hancock.

Get acclimated to driving the rental truck


Now that you’ve figured out the size truck you need, your paperwork is cleared, and you have the keys, it’s time to start driving.

The trip from the rental agency to go load up your stuff is like a test drive – your stuff isn’t yet loaded, so you can familiarize yourself with the easier-to-drive, empty vehicle. Take some time to adjust the driver’s seat and mirrors, and mentally prepare yourself for some safe, slow driving.

Even if you normally drive a pickup truck, remember that a moving truck is a different class of vehicle, and therefore, drives differently. The recommended spacing is about five vehicle-sized spaces between you and the car in front of you; at the very least, be sure to double the distance you would keep if you were in a normal car. This is especially helpful for turns, which will require a lot of extra space.

If you’re driving the rental truck in rain, icy conditions, or snow, you should stick to at least 10 mph below the speed limit. Give yourself time to brake, since a heavier cargo means the vehicle will take longer to slow down.

And take a cue from professional truckers, who aren’t allowed to drive for longer than 11 hours at a time; take breaks on your own drive.

Pack the moving truck properly


Driving a moving truck is difficult enough without every single one of your prized possessions clinking into each other in the back, so make sure you pack the truck box properly.

Penske recommends starting with heavy objects like your refrigerator and washing machine. These should go in the very front (towards the cab) of the truck box. Then, load the less-heavy items, like desks and tables. Mattresses are next, and they should be placed on the left side of the box. Load sofas directly opposite, on the right side. Pile up any heavy boxes in the remaining center of the back. Then add all the smaller boxes behind and around the heavier items.

Keep valuables (e.g., money, jewelry) with you in the front. Take them with you when you make stops – this is the (second) easiest part of the truck to break into, and leaving them behind is a sure sign to thieves that you’ve got something valuable.

Feeling overwhelmed by all the items you have to load? Keep calm and call Dolly. Our Dolly Helpers will show up ready to expertly and efficiently load up your moving truck for you. And if you’re moving locally, we can also help you unload the truck at your new destination.

Get moving!

The truck is loaded, your hands-free is (hopefully!) plugged in, and you’re buckled up – now it’s time to hit the road. Take your inevitably slower speed limit into account when looking up directions and ETAs, and drive safe!

Feeling ambivalent towards the thought of driving an oversized vehicle loaded with all your belongings? We have the perfect alternative: Dolly. Our Dolly Helpers will bring a truck of their own, expertly pack and transport your items from Point A to Point B, and save you time, energy, and one heck of a headache. Book your Dolly today.

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