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How to rent a moving truck

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by Tom Rains ConsumerAffairs Research Team
moving truck driving

Some people prefer to rent a moving truck instead of paying full-service movers. Do-it-yourself moves have some drawbacks, but consumers with the ability can save money by moving themselves.

How much does a moving truck cost?

Moving across several states in the summer costs an average of $1,000, which includes gas and full coverage insurance.

We have some estimated costs for various routes. These estimates are for weekend moves in the summer with full coverage insurance and an estimated gas price of $2.50 per gallon.

Move typeExampleTruck sizeAverage cost
LocalWithin Oklahoma City12-foot truck$100
In-stateDallas to Houston16-foot truck$450
InterstateIndianapolis to Kansas City, Missouri22-foot truck$900
Cross-countryNew York to Los Angeles26-foot truck$4,250

Rental truck sizes

Most rental truck companies offer three to five truck sizes. The table below estimates what truck size works best for different people. A good rule of thumb is to pick a rental truck with 10% more room than you think you need. When in doubt, consult consumer reviews or speak to a representative at the truck rental company.

Truck sizeAverage volumeAverage gas mileageWeight capacityGood for
10 - 12 feet425 cubic feet12 mpg3,250 poundsStudios
15 - 16 feet825 cubic feet10 mpg5,400 poundsOne-bedroom home
17 - 20 feet950 cubic feet10 mpg6,000 poundsTwo-bedroom home
22 - 26 feet1,675 cubic feet10 mpg10,000 poundsThree-bedroom home

What to consider when renting a moving truck

Keep the following variables in mind when planning your budget and deciding whether it’s worth renting a moving truck:

  • Move size: The smaller the move, the easier it is to use a rental truck. Larger moves require larger trucks, which are harder to drive and cost significantly more.
  • Move distance: For a long-distance move, renters need a truck that can fit all their possessions. It's possible to use a smaller truck for local moves if the renter is willing to make multiple trips.
  • Gas prices: The cost of fuel falls on the renter, so calculate this expense as part of your budget. Some rental trucks have gas mileage as poor as 6 mpg, even with nothing loaded in them.
  • Additional fees: Insurance, packing supplies and packing tools cost extra.
  • Truck comfort: For cross-country moves, comfort is especially important. Driving a rental truck with an uncomfortable seat across multiple states isn’t advisable. Read reviews to see which trucks are most comfortable and how long and far most renters can drive in a day.
  • Driver age: You don’t need to be 25 to rent or drive a rental truck, but most companies require the driver to be at least 18.
  • Local regulations: Check to make sure it’s legal to park a rental truck at your starting point and destination for an extended period of time.
  • Hotel costs: If a move takes multiple days, factor in the cost of staying at a hotel during your trip.
  • Number of people moving: Most rental trucks fit two people. If you need to bring more people, factor alternative transportation into your budget.

Rental truck insurance options

We recommend purchasing insurance for DIY moves. Car insurance and credit cards typically don't provide rental truck insurance, but you should check with your providers to be sure. If you need additional coverage, purchase it through the rental company or an independent party. Common types of rental truck insurance include:

  • Damage waiver: This type of insurance relieves the renter of responsibility for damage to the rental truck. These policies vary in coverage, so read the fine print. A damage waiver may also be called a collision waiver, personal damage waiver or limited damage waiver.
  • Supplemental liability insurance: This insurance protects renters against damage claims made by other people. The usual amount of coverage is $1 million.
  • Personal accident and cargo insurance: This covers costs related to personal injuries, death or damage to items in specific situations. Be sure to ask about exclusions when signing up for this type of plan.
  • Personal effects coverage: This coverage protects the financial value of your possessions in the rental truck if they are stolen or damaged in an accident.
  • Auto tow protection: This insurance protects the trailer you are towing. Make sure you know the deductible before signing up.

How to pack a moving truck

Packing a moving truck is a new experience for many people. Consumers who want to skip packing, loading, unloading and unpacking themselves often hire a moving company. People who want to pack everything themselves should do the following:

  1. Disassemble all furniture. Disassembled furniture takes up far less space.
  2. Use moving straps, quilts, boxes and dollies. Most rental truck companies sell these items, which help protect your belongings and make moving easier.
  3. Layer the items based on weight. Start with the heaviest, most durable items on the bottom. Besides getting the most difficult part out of the way early, it helps to have the most durable items at the bottom of the truck. Then, load your medium-sized items. The lightest items should go last, and smaller items can fill in the empty spaces.
  4. Protect your mattresses. Mattresses are fragile. Place them in a protective mattress bag to keep them safe.
  5. Roll up rugs. It might be tempting to just lay out a rug like you would at home, but a rolled-up rug is less likely to sustain damage.
  6. Keep your essentials within reach. You should keep food, water bottles and a first-aid kit within easy reach during your move.
  7. Rest as needed. It’s easy to overdo it when you’re caught up in the excitement of a move. Take a break every now and then to rest and drink water.

Once you’ve packed your moving truck, drive safely. Know your clearance when going under bridges, respect speed limits and keep your distance from other drivers. Moving trucks don’t brake or handle like cars, so give yourself extra room and time on the road.

Moving truck rental FAQ

What is the cheapest moving truck rental?
Prices vary by company, route, season and city. To find the cheapest moving truck rental, compare prices by requesting quotes from several reputable moving companies. Other factors, such as availability and consumer reviews, are also significant when deciding which rental truck company is best for you.
Are movers or a rental truck cheaper?
It’s cheaper to rent a truck than to go with a full-service moving company. Just keep in mind that additional fees add up quickly. It also usually takes longer to move yourself.
Do moving trucks have to stop at weigh stations?
Typically, only commercial trucks have to stop at weigh stations. However, laws differ by state. Look up your state laws or ask the rental company for advice.
What’s the gas mileage on truck rentals?
Gas mileage for empty trucks ranges from 6 mpg to 14 mpg. However, a truck's fuel efficiency significantly decreases once you load it with thousands of pounds of household items.
What’s the biggest moving truck available?
The biggest moving trucks commonly available are 26-foot box trucks. These trucks hold about 10,000 pounds of belongings. That’s equivalent to about eight rooms’ worth of furniture and possessions.
How far in advance should I book my rental truck?
It’s best to book a rental truck between one week to one month in advance. Some moving truck rental companies don’t guarantee availability. If that’s the case, a representative might contact you the day before to let you know a truck isn’t available.

Bottom line

Renting a moving truck is hard work, but it’s cheaper than hiring a full-service moving company. Those ready to rent should compare the best one-way truck rental companies and pick one that fits their needs. If using a moving truck sounds daunting, keep in mind that it’s possible to hire a moving company to help with packing, loading, unloading and unpacking. You can still drive the rental truck yourself.

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Profile picture of Tom Rains
by Tom Rains ConsumerAffairs Research Team

Tom Rains graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2014 with a master’s degree in Professional Writing. Tom’s passion for delivering quality content fuels him to provide consumers with accurate, well-researched information on major life purchases.