U-Haul is one of the best-known moving truck companies across the country. We’ve researched everything—from customer service to pricing—to ensure you’re prepared to make the best choice for your move. There are pros and cons to renting from U-Haul, and we feel that knowing these ahead of time will help you decide at last: Is U-Haul right for your upcoming move?
Our quick opinion about U-Haul
U-Haul is a great option if...
- You’re doing a small, local move
- You feel comfortable driving a large rental truck yourself
- Professional movers and portable storage containers are out of your budget
Here’s what you can expect when it comes to pricing:
- The $19.99 pricing you see advertised is rarely the bottom line
- This is the formula you should remember when figuring out cost: Rental truck *& Mileage *& Damage Protection *& Gas refill *& Environmental fee *& Taxes = Total
When it comes to insurance:
- U-Haul offers two options: Safemove and Safemove Plus
- Safemove Plus offers everything offered by Safemove, but with the added protection of supplemental liability insurance to protect you from third party lawsuits.
U-Haul is the oldest and most common moving alternative for anyone who doesn’t want to pay for professional movers. The company is mainly known for its moving trucks, but over the years it has expanded its services to include car towing and and even moving helpers.
Our close-up look at moving with U-Haul
Customers typically go online to the U-Haul website to get a basic quote for their rental services. U-Haul does not cap the number of reservations that U-Haul centers can accept, so a customer’s pickup time or equipment size may be rearranged last minute if their preferred location runs out of inventory. Because of this, U-Haul may not be the best fit for a move with little room for flexibility.
U-Haul offers customers moving trucks in five sizes:
- 10’ truck: best for a small studio or apartment
- 15’ truck: best for an apartment with up to two bedrooms
- 20’ truck: best for a home with 2 or 3 bedrooms
- 26’ truck: best for a home with at least four bedrooms
On average, these trucks fit up to three people and are not kid-seat friendly. You don’t need a special driver’s license to drive U-Haul rentals, but you do need to be at least 18 years old to make a reservation and sign off on the rental contract.
Because U-Haul operates under a franchise business model, many of their centers will have different hours and varied upkeep standards. Research Google reviews whenever possible to find out if your preferred location has a history of positive feedback from customers.
Where is U-Haul available?
U-Haul is a recognized brand not only because they’ve been around for so long, but because of their broad availability. U-Haul has franchises in all 50 states and Canada.
You can book a truck from U-Haul at any time. You don’t need to schedule your move weeks or months ahead of time, like with most professional movers. This can be super convenient, but if you’re not open to having your truck size switched up or having to pick up your truck at a different location, then U-Haul’s flexible booking process may add more stress than relief to your moving day. (More on this in our customer service section)
What move types can I use U-Haul for?
U-Haul is best for these types of moves:
- Local moves (In-town)
- Long-distance moves (this includes moves between states or between cities in the same state)
- U-Box, U-Haul’s portable storage container
To get the best quote from U-Haul you’ll need to define your move into one of two categories.
In-town (local): In-town moves assume you will return your moving truck to the same U-Haul center on the same day (sometimes within a certain time frame). If your move is less than ten or fifteen miles—or in the same city—then it’s an In-town move.
One-Way: U-Haul’s definition of One-Way moves is sometimes confusing to customers because your move doesn’t have to be out of state (or long-distance) to be considered a One-Way move. If you are planning to return your truck to a different location from where you picked it up—even if it’s just a 20 mile difference—then it’s classified as a One-way move. Your price will be calculated differently and you need to specify this when getting a quote.
We recommend U-Haul if you’re flexible with your moving date and especially if you’re moving a short distance. If you are doing a long-distance move, then U-Haul is still a great choice as long as you feel comfortable handling a large truck across highways you may not be familiar with.
If you’ve seen a U-Haul truck advertise a flat rate of $19.99 or $29.99 for a move, you should know the following:
- This price is rarely the bottom line. If you don’t specify that you intend to return your rental truck to a different location while making your reservation, then you can be charged upwards of $124.95 in addition to what you’re already paying.
- On average, only pick-up trucks and cargo vans come out to $19.99. If you need a larger moving truck then the price goes up to at least $29.99 or $39.95—per day.
- While this is still a steal, you also need to add in mileage charges. This fee ranges from $0.59 to $0.99 per mile.
- You’ll be required to fill the tank back to what it was when you picked up your truck. If you run out of time, U-Haul can fill it up at a higher rate than the average cost of gas, and your final bill will reflect this.
- If you choose to go with U-Haul’s most comprehensive rental insurance (which we highly recommend) then that will be an additional $28 per day.
- Don’t forget about taxes and U-Haul’s environmental fee (either $1 or $5 depending on your driving distance)
- Ultimately, your final bill comes out looking like this: Rental truck *& Mileage *& Liability coverage *& Gas refill *& Environmental fee *& Taxes = Total
Fortunately, when you need U-Haul for a long-distance move that spans over days or over 30 miles, U-Haul’s quote generator can give you a good estimate, as long as you specify that you plan on returning your rental truck to a different location. For example, if you specify that you will be picking up your rental truck in Chicago and dropping it off in Los Angeles, then U-Haul will calculate a mileage and time frame allowance to give you a better idea of how much you are likely to pay.
Just remember this number doesn’t take into account the cost of refilling your tank multiple times throughout the trip or the increased cost of the damage protection plan.
One major perk of U-Haul’s pricing is that you can book your moving truck without a deposit or downpayment. When you pick up your truck U-Haul will place a hold on your debit or credit card (typically the cost of the online quote) and then the cost is adjusted for mileage and gas costs once you return the truck.
You can reserve a truck to lock in your price and change the date of your reservation as needed at no additional cost. If you decide to cancel your reservation, we recommend doing so at least 24 hours before your scheduled pickup time. U-Haul does not charge for cancellations as long as they’re before your reservation date.
How is the U-Haul customer experience?
We’ve gone over pricing extensively because some of U-Haul’s biggest customer complaints tend to revolve around pricing. As we mentioned earlier, the flat-fee pricing you see advertised on trucks or online is rarely the final price. Knowing this ahead of time will ground you in what to expect when choosing U-Haul.
Here are four more customer experience issues you should be aware of:
- Lag with live chat: If you’re looking for a quick answer, then live chat probably isn’t your best option. The live chat feature takes a few minutes to connect you with a service rep. Once you get connected to a service rep, you’ll need to focus your attention to speaking with the rep because conversations time out quickly if there’s no activity on your end (and by quickly we mean a minute or two).
- Faulty gas and mileage charges: Although uncommon, some U-Haul customers have complained of unnecessary gas and mileage charges after returning their trucks. Your local U-Haul center should carefully record the mileage and gas level of the truck you are given. However, if you find yourself in a situation like this, we recommend using your phone to take a picture of the odometer and the gas needle as soon as you’re given the moving truck and as soon as you return it. Most smartphones will record a date, time, and even location of when a picture is taken, so you can prove your case should you have this problem.
- Mechanical issues: The quick availability of U-Haul trucks is both a blessing and a curse. Trucks are used fairly often and they’re typically full to the brim. This means a moving truck wears out faster than your average vehicle. U-Haul has worked hard to service and update their trucks, but mechanical problems can go unnoticed until a truck is out on the road. Luckily, all trucks include roadside assistance at no additional cost. To avoid any liability on your part, we recommend purchasing one of U-Haul’s coverage plans. For additional safety, we also advise you to check your truck for any obvious dents or mechanical problems before hitting the road. Leave the truck running for a few minutes and listen closely for any unusual noises. If you have the time, drive your truck around the block to test how smoothly it operates and keep your ears open. If the truck doesn’t feel safe, go with your gut and return it to U-Haul for an exchange.
- The $50 reservation guarantee is complicated: The single most important thing you need to remember when booking a U-Haul truck is that it’s not a reservation until you get a verbal confirmation from a U-Haul employee. U-Haul’s flexibility with booking dates comes at a price for some customers—especially during the busy summer months—because your location, pick up time, and truck size aren’t guaranteed when you make your initial online “reservation.”
When you reserve a moving truck online, you are simply requesting a preference for truck size, time of pick up, and location. Your preferred location is then given your request and they are in charge of confirming whether they can reserve a truck for you that day. Your preferred location should call you the day before to confirm your moving truck size, time, and pick up location. Only once this is done will your reservation be considered “guaranteed.”
What does this mean for most customers? This means customers only qualify for the $50 refund if someone calls to confirm a reservation the day before. So if no one calls you and you show up to pick up your truck and you’re then asked to go to a different location or told to come back later, you don’t qualify for the $50 refund. Also, “U-Haul has the right to substitute equipment of equal or greater size to fill your guaranteed reservation.” This means that even if you had your reservation confirmed the day before, U-Haul can trade out your 17-foot truck for a 26-foot truck to fulfill their part of the guarantee. You could not ask for a $50 refund.
This proves problematic for customers who may not feel comfortable driving a truck that’s almost ten feet larger than what they were initially anticipating. Not to mention that bigger trucks also get poorer gas mileage. In short, the $50 reservation guarantee applies to a rental that is confirmed by U-Haul the day before and is switched up unexpectedly upon pick up.
U-Haul’s liability coverage
Unlike professional moving companies, U-Haul’s liability coverage qualifies as insurance and not just valuation because U-Haul uses an licensed insurance company known as Repwest. Most personal policies and credit cards do not cover rental trucks, so we highly recommend opting into U-Haul’s damage protection plans. Verify with your auto insurance to find out if your rental truck is covered. U-Haul offers two types of liability coverage options: Safemove and Safemove Plus.
Here’s what Safemove offers:
- Damage waiver
Frees you from paying U-Haul back for any damages to the moving truck if anything happens during your trip. So if you dent the side, crack the windshield, or break a side view mirror, you don’t owe U-Haul a penny. If the moving truck is stolen, then you’ll need to prove there was no neglect on your part to be covered by the damage waiver. Sound too good to be true? Here’s the drawback, Safemove does not cover collisions with overhead obstacles (the most common accident amongst customers) or cut, blown, or damaged tires. You’ll need to get Safemove Plus to cover these items.
- Cargo coverage
This covers damage to your goods should you get into an accident, catch fire, or hit a windstorm and overturn the moving truck. Cargo coverage cannot be claimed if your property is damaged in transit due to poor driving or packing. Additionally, cargo coverage is subject to a $100 deductible and a limit of $15,000 for an in-town rental and $25,000 for a one-way rental.
- Medical and life coverage
U-Haul’s medical coverage isn’t extensive, but they do offer $1,000 for medical bills in case of an accident. In case of death, life coverage goes up to $25,000 in coverage for the lessee and up to $15,000 for passengers.
Everything covered by Safemove is covered by Safemove Plus, but two significant additions make Safemove Plus a must-have in our eyes:
- Supplemental liability insurance
If you’re in an accident with another vehicle and you injure someone or seriously damage their property, then you’re liable for that damage even if U-Haul covered your moving truck, property, and medical bills.
Supplemental liability insurance is the best way to protect yourself from any lawsuits that could be brought against you after an accident. U-Haul’s supplemental liability insurance offers you one million dollars and no deductible. We highly recommend going with Safemove Plus for this added protection.
- The damage waiver for Safemove Plus covers all damage to your U-Haul truck, including collision with overhead obstacles and cut, damaged, or blown tires.
How do I file a claim with U-Haul?
Because an insurance company handles U-Haul’s liability coverage, their claim process is very similar to that of auto claims. If you’re in an accident with another vehicle or you damage someone’s property, you should exchange information, file a police report if needed, call for medical assistance if necessary, and take photos to document the damage. Report your claim right away to U-Haul through their online claim portal, and a representative will reach out to you to guide you through the process.
Since each claim is handled on a case-by-case basis, it’s hard to review U-Haul’s turnaround time on claims. Still, the more information and documentation you’re able to provide up front, the better.
Additional services offered by U-Haul
In addition to pickup trucks, cargo vans, and moving trucks, U-Haul offers the following:
Is U-Haul the right truck rental for your move?
We recommend U-Haul if you’re flexible with your moving date and especially if you’re moving a short distance. If you are doing a long-distance move, then U-Haul is still a great choice as long as you feel comfortable handling a large truck across highways you may not be familiar with. Otherwise, you may want to check out U-Pack for long-distance moves. The affordability of U-Haul is undeniable when doing an in-town move, but be aware that the flat fee pricing does not apply to long-distance moves, so you’re going to pay more.
If you’ve used U-Haul, did you have a positive or a negative experience? Leave us a comment below and let us know!
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