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9 Things You Should Know Before You Rent a Moving Truck

Jon Fesmire | December 13, 2017 @ 9:00 AM

Planning your next move? Let’s talk about renting a moving truck. It seems like it should be an easy enough task. You go in, pick the size you need, pay, and off you go. Well, not quite. There’s quite a bit to be aware of, so let’s sort through it all.

It’s Best to Compare Companies

Not all truck rental companies were created equally, so call at least a few and compare them. Do they charge a hefty fee up front? How many miles are covered in the rental fees before you have to start paying per mile? How much do you have to pay per mile once you’ve driven far enough? Is there a location where you can turn the truck in near your destination, or will you have to go out of your way to get it back to the company?

Armed with this information from a few different companies, do some calculating. Perhaps one company charges $40 per day for the sort of truck you need, with a per-mile fee of $0.50 after the first 30 miles. Let’s say you’re moving halfway across the U.S., and are going to drive about 300 miles per day. You will owe the moving company $175 per day. Let’s say another company charges $25 per day for its truck, with a per-mile fee of $0.79 after the first fifty miles. Although the base price is lower, and you get more initial miles, that $0.79 adds up quickly, and you’ll owe $222.50 per day.

You’ll Need the Right Sized Truck

You don’t want to rent a truck that’s too small, or you’ll soon see with disappointment and consternation that you can’t fit all your belongings into it. On the other hand, you don’t want one that’s a size or two too large, or you’ll end up spending more for it. Also, larger trucks are tricker to maneuver, so it’s best to get a truck that meets your size requirements as perfectly as possible.

Enter the search terms “truck size estimator” into Google and you’ll find several pages, belonging to various moving companies, that will help you pick the size you need before you rent a truck. We recommend using Penske’s truck wizard page, which allows you to specify with a fair degree of accuracy everything you plan to pack into a truck, and then gives you a recommended size.

It’s a Good Idea to Book in Advance

Don’t wait until the last minute to reserve a rental truck. The earlier you book, the more likely you’ll get exactly what you need. We recommend doing so a month to a week in advance. Certain times of the year--especially the summer months--are more difficult to rent a truck, as more people are moving. By renting well in advance, you’ll make your move a lot easier.

You Should Make Sure You’re Comfortable With the Truck

You may want to go a step further and ask to sit in a moving truck before you book. You’ll want to get a feel for the truck, and a sense of if you’ll be comfortable driving it.

As long as you’re a relatively experienced driver, moving trucks are easier to drive than you may think. You need to position your side mirrors so that you can see the lanes to the right and left of the vehicle, not a broad stretch of the truck itself. You may not be able to completely eliminate blind spots in a large truck, but this will help.

While on the road, pay attention and drive carefully. That means going at the speed of traffic (but below the speed limit), watching where you’re going, and glancing periodically at the side mirrors, especially before you plan to change lanes. Give yourself a little extra turning room before you make a wide turn onto a road.

If you’re sure you won’t be able to drive the truck safely, then it’s time to look into other options. Perhaps you would feel more comfortable with a smaller truck and could make two trips, or perhaps you could enlist the help of a friend who would feel comfortable driving a truck the size you need.

Don’t Forget the Insurance

Before you rent the truck, it’s important to know your insurance situation. Check with your car insurance company to find out if you’re going to be covered with the rental truck, and if so, what they cover. It could be anything from no coverage to full coverage. Unless you have full coverage for any accident in the rental truck, we suggest you purchase additional insurance from the truck rental company.

No one goes for a drive expecting an accident, but they do happen, so make sure you’re covered.

There Will Be a Vehicle Check

On the day you rent your truck, after you’ve signed the papers, including those for the insurance, and you’re just about ready to drive the vehicle away, the rental company will do a spot-check. If you’re ready to drive off and realize they haven’t done a spot check, remind them right away.

This check involves a technician going around the vehicle with a clipboard and a pen. On the clipboard, they’ll have a piece of official paperwork which includes a diagram of the outside of a truck. They’ll take notes on the page, showing where they see damage: a dent near the back bumper, a long scratch on the right side, and the like. When you return the truck after your move, they’ll know you didn’t cause any of the damage they noted.

Packing the Truck is a Chore

Even if you’re driving alone to your new residence or office, we highly recommend you get some help packing the truck. Bringing in large items, like furniture, is rarely a job for one person, unless you have only small, and possibly foldable items, like short shelves and futons.

Even with helpers, you should have some moving equipment at your disposal. These include a hand truck, bungee cords to first secure items to the hand truck as you move them, and then to secure them to the walls of the truck once inside. You may want a moving pad or blanket, to help pull items deeper into the truck, and, to supplement the bungee cords, some ropes.

Most moving trucks have a ramp that you can pull out from the back, and this can make getting those heavy items inside much easier. Just remember to put it back up and make sure it’s securely put away when done.

It’s Best to Plan Your Trip

When you start your trip to your destination, have some idea of where you plan to stop. For a long trip, know where you plan to be at the end of each day, and rent a hotel room in advance.

One thing that’s tough to plan for is roads that don’t allow trucks. We recommend using an app like Smart Truck Route for your GPS, to keep you on the right roads.

You Must Fill the Tank

Truck rental companies require that you fill the gas tank before returning the truck to them. If you don’t, they’ll charge you for this, and the price will be well above the current price of gas. Save yourself some money and fill the tank shortly before you bring the vehicle to the drop-off lot.

Now, you have the information you need to rent your truck and prepare for your drive. It’s really not that difficult, once you know the details.

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