How to Pack a Moving Truck like the Pros

At a glance

When you pack a moving truck for the first time, you probably rely on what you learned from playing Tetris as a kid. “As long as everything fits,” you think, “it’ll be just fine.” All too often, the result is smashed furniture, broken glass, and sometimes even damage to the moving truck itself.

Luckily, these mishaps are totally avoidable, and you don’t have to be a professional mover to load a truck like one. Here’s a quick outline:

  1. Put fragile stuff in the mom’s attic
  2. Load your heaviest items towards the front
  3. Load your furniture
  4. Stack moving boxes wherever they fit
  5. Put unstackable things at the back

Below, we’ve broken down the truck-packing procedures professionals use into five easy-to-follow steps. Whether you’re packing a truck for the first time or the fiftieth, it never hurts to learn from the pros.

Rental truck companies we recommend

First things first. You’re going to need a moving truck. To find the best moving truck for your move, check out these guides:

How to pack a moving truck in 5 steps

Step 1: Fill the mom’s attic with your most fragile items

The “mom’s attic” is the small section that hangs over the truck’s cab like a shelf. Because it’s separated from the rest of the cargo area, a mom’s attic is ideal for small, fragile items that are likely to break if they’re wedged between your furnishings.1

Not all moving trucks have a mom’s attic, but if yours does, we recommend filling it with your dishes, glassware, and small electronics.

Megaphone

What the attic isn’t for

What the attic isn’t for

Since this attic section is so well-protected, it might seem ideal for antique instruments and vinyl records. But this space isn’t climate-controlled, so heat-sensitive items like these probably wouldn’t fare very well on a long drive. We recommend keeping stuff that can melt or warp in the cab or in another vehicle if possible.

Be aware that the mom’s attic of a moving truck is always its weakest section, and if you exceed the attic’s weight limit, you could damage the truck and void the coverage you purchase from the rental company. The attic’s weight limit should be listed somewhere on the inside of the truck or in the user’s manual.

When the attic is full, secure everything with tie-down straps and bungee cords to prevent stuff from shifting or falling into the larger cargo area while you’re en route.

Step 2: Load heavy appliances toward the front

Proper weight distribution is essential for secure packing and safe driving. If your heaviest items are packed too far in the back of your truck, they can make it harder to control the vehicle at high speeds. The closer to your front wheels the weight is distributed, the safer your ride will be.

That’s why we recommend loading your heaviest appliances toward the very front of the cargo area, right up against the cab.

Start with things like your fridge, your deep freezer, your washer, and your dryer. These rectangular objects should neatly line up with the front wall. For extra security, use ropes and ratchet straps to fasten these appliances to the rails that run along your truck’s walls. Wrapping these items with furniture pads will also help prevent damage.

(In case you’re not a sailor or a mountain climber who knows some good knots, here are a few handy ones that’ll help you tie everything up.)

Step 3: Load your furniture

After your heavy appliances are in place, you can start loading your tables, bed frames, bookshelves, chairs, mattresses, and sectionals. Remember, the heaviest items should be as close to the cab as possible, so load your bulkiest furniture first. We also recommend disassembling furniture that can be disassembled to make these items more compact.

While you’re packing, try to evenly distribute the weight between the left and right sides of your truck. If you put a bed frame on the left side, put something that weighs about the same on the other side as a counterbalance.

Some professionals pack furniture like sofas, box springs, and bed frames upright instead of horizontal to save floor space. This method can be effective, but if you try it, make sure you properly secure these items to prevent them from falling and smashing your other belongings.

Little pin

PRO TIP FOR PACKING MIRRORS, ART, AND TVS

PRO TIP FOR PACKING MIRRORS, ART, AND TVS

If you have a full-body mirror, a framed painting, or a flat-screen TV that’s too big to put in the mom’s attic of your truck, tightly sandwich it between two mattresses or a mattress and box spring. Pack the fragile item into its own box first for the best protection.

Step 4: Stack boxes wherever they fit

Once all of your largest items are safely loaded, you can start filling the truck with boxes. As with everything else you’ve loaded so far, try to put the boxes filled with the heaviest items, like books and cookware, as close to the cab as possible.

However, you should also avoid stacking exceptionally heavy boxes on top of your furniture. Put your heftiest boxes on the floor, even if that means they’re a little farther out in the cargo area.

On top of your furniture and heavy boxes, stack your boxes of clothes, decor, toys, bedding, and other lightweight household items.

Stack boxes as close to the ceiling as you can without impeding the roll-up door, then tie rope between the rails along the walls to create a net that will hold them all in place during your drive.

Heads up exclamation

AVOID EMPTY SPACE WHEREVER POSSIBLE

AVOID EMPTY SPACE WHEREVER POSSIBLE

If there’s an empty space between two pieces of furniture, try to fill it with boxes that won’t break under pressure. Packing tightly will conserve space and guarantee that your stuff won’t turn into an expensive avalanche when you open the truck to unpack.

Step 5: Put unstackable items at the very back of the truck

After all of your heavy and stackable stuff is in the truck, it’s time to load the assorted odds and ends that don’t really fit anywhere else. Things like lawnmowers, treadmills, and bikes are best placed at the very back of the truck.

While odd angles and shapes will make these objects difficult to pack tightly, you can still secure them with rope and cord to keep them from tumbling around and dinging up your wooden furnishings.

Finally, load the first thing you’ll need when you open the doors and start unpacking: your trusty dolly.

Bullhorn

ROUTINE CHECKUPS

ROUTINE CHECKUPS

Even the best packing job can let you down if you hit a speed bump or have to brake abruptly. If you’re driving long-distance, pull over every hundred miles to open up the truck and check on your stuff. This will also give you an excuse to stretch your legs while you’re on the road.

Moving truck rental FAQ

How much gas mileage does a moving truck get?

On average, moving trucks between 10 and 16 feet long will usually get about 12 miles per gallon (MPG). Trucks that measure 17-feet long or larger usually get 8—12 MPG. That said, different truck rental companies use different trucks, so gas mileage varies depending on which company you go with.

How much does a moving truck rental cost?

Renting a small truck for a local move typically costs about $120 when you factor in mileage rates. Prices go up from there for bigger trucks. For long-distance moves, rates usually start around $600 and can go up as high as $6,000.

Of course, truck rental prices vary depending on factors like availability, how far you’re moving, and the time of year you’re moving, so it’s impossible to predict exactly what your rental will cost beforehand. Luckily, our favorite truck rental companies make it easy to get quotes online or over the phone.

Can I hire someone to help me load my moving truck?

Yes. In fact, many truck rental companies partner with moving labor companies that can help you pack and load your truck. Of course, this does cost extra, but if you’re worried about loading your truck by yourself, it might be worth the cost (usually under $100 per hour for loading services).

You can also check out which moving labor services we recommend by checking out our list of the best moving labor companies.

Recommended resources

Now that you know how to pack your moving truck like a pro, go check out our other guides to making your move as smooth as possible:

People also asked…

Sources

  1. U-Haul, “How to Load Your Moving Truck

About Joe Roberts

Joe Roberts
Joe Roberts is a professional writer with a degree in writing studies and over three years of copywriting experience. He previously worked at Overstock.com, where he wrote about furniture, home decor, and moving. Joe has moved all over Utah, so he knows his way around a moving truck—and he spends his time (and money) expanding his personal library so it will be even heavier next time he moves.