What size moving truck do you need?

General guidelines and expert tips

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Where are you moving to?

Bellhop
a moving truck on the road

Finding the right size moving truck for your do-it-yourself move is paramount to a smooth process. If the truck you rent is too big, your belongings can shuffle around in transit and incur damage. If the truck is too small, you’ll have to unpack everything and scramble to rent a larger one at the last minute, wasting time, energy and hard-earned cash.

By calculating how much stuff you have, you can determine what size moving truck to rent. To determine the right-size moving truck, use an online calculator or follow general guidance from a moving company based on the number of bedrooms you’re moving.


Key insights

Determining what size moving truck you need will make your move smooth and less stressful.

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Moving companies have general guidelines for moving truck sizes based on the size of your home.

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The right truck for your move depends on how much stuff you have and how far you’re moving.

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Professional movers or online moving calculators can help you take inventory of your belongings to figure out which truck you need.

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How to choose the right size moving truck

Moving companies often provide general guidelines to help customers decide what size moving truck they need based on the number of bedrooms they’re moving.

Jason Mueller, the marketing manager at A-1 Auto Transport, recommends using the guidelines below as a starting point.

It also depends on how much stuff you’re moving, explained Nick Valentino, vice president of market operations at Bellhop. “A very cluttered 1,500-square-foot home will probably need a bigger moving truck than a minimalist home of 2,000-2,500 square feet,” he said.

Jennifer Burton, general manager of Oaks Dumpster Rental in upstate New York, has a different approach. Burton said their rule of thumb is to “select and measure the three largest pieces of furniture in each major room. Think couches, shelves and coffee tables in living rooms [and] beds and wardrobes in bedrooms.” To get an estimate of the truck size you need, add these measurements in square feet and add a little extra for wiggle room.

Tips

“Picking the right size of moving truck is never going to be an exact science,” Valentino said. Some factors to keep in mind:

  • Number of boxes
  • Number of rooms you’re moving
  • How much furniture you have and how big it is
  • Distance of your move

Also consider whether you’re hiring a pro or doing a full DIY move. Professional movers are trained to pack well and fit everything tightly, while DIYers are less likely to have this skill. If you’re hiring movers, you can usually get away with renting a slightly smaller truck.

In general, you should book a moving truck that has 15% more space than you think you’ll need. This offers some leeway if you end up with more things to pack into the moving truck and ensures your move will be less stressful.

Types of moving trucks

There are two primary types of moving trucks: box trucks and pickup trucks. Box trucks are ideal for larger, long-distance moves because everything is contained in the back of the truck and won’t be damaged by weather or road friction. Pickup trucks have less capacity than box trucks and are open in the back, so they are best for smaller moves that involve a few bulky furniture pieces.

Box trucks come in small, medium and large. Choose the right size for your move by first calculating the volume of your belongings or using an online calculator to give you an estimate. Compare that number to the volume capacity of the truck to find one that’s the right size.

Mueller suggests using a small truck for studio or one-bedroom apartment moves, a medium to large truck for two- to three-bedroom homes and a large truck for four-bedroom homes or larger.

A 20-foot moving truck (or larger) can hold bulky items, like a washer and dryer. If you’re moving appliances, opt for a large truck.

What size truck is right?

To determine the right size truck for your move, Mueller suggests the following:

  1. Take inventory of your items.
  2. Consider the layout and accessibility of your new home (can the truck fit in the driveway?).
  3. Consider a professional consultation with a mover.

Stuck deciding between truck sizes? Valentino said it’s a good idea to go with a smaller moving truck to save money, especially if you can supplement with another vehicle, like your own or a family member’s.

“If the moving truck is your only vehicle, the bigger one is the safe choice,” Valentino said.

Keep in mind that you can rent an additional trailer to attach to the back of your car for extra space if you need it.

Where are you moving to?

FAQ

How many passengers can ride in a moving truck?

The number of passengers that can ride in a moving truck ultimately depends on the size of the truck. Larger trucks can hold three passengers, while smaller ones may only be able to take one passenger.

Do you need a special license to drive a moving truck?

You can rent a moving truck without a commercial driver’s license (CDL) if it’s under 26,000 pounds. Most moving companies only require you to have a government-issued driver’s license to rent moving trucks and trailers.

Should I hire packers for my move?

Hiring professional packers costs extra but saves you time and energy, making your move less stressful. Hiring packers is smart if you have physical limitations because it means you’ll have to do less heavy lifting.

Bottom line

To determine what size moving truck you need, there are several factors to consider. Start by looking at the general guidelines provided by moving companies to get an estimate of the truck size you’ll need.

For a closer look, take inventory of your belongings and measure bulky items, then add the measurements together and compare it to the available sizes of moving trucks. Remember, opt for a truck that’s 15% larger than what you think you’ll need.

If you need help, reach out to a professional mover or two for a consultation to determine the right truck for you. And don’t forget you can always rent an additional trailer to hitch to your car if you need more space.

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