At a glance
Renting a moving truck, packing it yourself, and driving it to your new home is the cheapest way to move—but even this budget-friendly option can cost thousands of dollars. After you total up the costs of the truck, gas, damage coverage, mileage, hotels, food, and other expenses, you might be looking at a bigger bill than you were expecting.
Luckily, there are a lot of ways to save money on your truck rental move. If you’re after the cheapest move money can buy, follow these simple tips:
- Get rid of stuff you don’t need
- Get quotes from several truck rental companies
- Get the right truck size
- Check for discounts
- Ask about price matching
- Don’t pay for extra damage protection
- Do a careful pickup inspection
- Pack meals to eat along the way
- Watch the odometer
- Refill the gas tank before returning your truck
If you want to learn more about what truck rental options are available, check out our list of the best moving truck rental companies.
How to save money when you move with a moving truck
Get rid of stuff you don’t need
The less stuff you have to move, the smaller your rental truck needs to be. Larger trucks cost more to rent, so getting rid of things you don’t need is one of the easiest ways to save money on your move.
Also, since heavier vehicles get worse gas mileage, reducing the weight of your load will equal savings at gas stations.
When you’re still in the planning stage of your move, you should perform a home inventory to evaluate everything you own and decide what you still need (and what you can get rid of).
From there, you have a few options:
- If the stuff you’re getting rid of is still functional, donate it.
- If the stuff you’re getting rid of is valuable, you can try to sell it.
- If the stuff you’re getting rid of is broken or useless, take it to the dump or hire a junk removal company to toss it for you.
Learn more about selling, donating, and tossing your old belongings in our guide to getting rid of stuff before your move.
Get quotes from several truck rental companies
Different moving companies charge differently for the same services. If you get only one quote, you might pay way more than you have to.
That’s why it’s essential to get quotes from multiple truck rental companies before you decide which one to rent from. You’ll know you’re getting a low price if you have several others to compare it to.
We’ve already done some of the research to help you get started. To find out which truck companies usually offer the lowest rates, check out our list of budget-friendly truck rental companies.
Get the right truck size
Like we said earlier, large moving trucks cost more to rent than small ones. If you get a bigger truck than you need, you’ll be paying extra for every unused cubic foot of storage space.
The ideal truck size for your move will be based on several factors:
- How many rooms are in your old home
- How many boxes you’ll need
- How large your furniture is
If you’re moving out of a studio apartment, it’s unlikely you’ll need anything larger than the smallest truck size available. For every additional bedroom in your home, you’ll probably need to go up at least one truck size.
Of course, these are just estimates, and the right truck size is impossible to predict without knowing exactly how much stuff you have. To learn more, read our guide to picking the right truck for your move.
How to pack your moving truck
How to pack your moving truck
A poorly packed truck can be hazardous for your belongings, and if you don’t know how to pack efficiently, your stuff can take up more space than it needs to. Read our guide to packing your moving truck to learn how the pros do it.
Check for discounts
Promotional discounts are a staple in the moving business, and they can save you a lot of money.
Many discounts are only offered to people in specific demographics—seniors, college students, military service members, etc.—but others are offered to all customers. Check each truck rental company’s website for discounts that might apply to you.
If you don’t find any discounts advertised, ask customer service about them when you call to get your quote.
You can also search for promo codes online, but don’t be surprised if these don’t always work.
Ask about price matching
The moving industry is highly competitive, and companies are constantly trying to undercut their competitors’ prices. This can mean big savings for you if you play your cards right. When you talk to customer service representatives, ask about price matching.
Price matching is a business strategy where one company will lower its own price to match (or beat) a written quote from one of its competitors.
This is another reason you should always get multiple quotes before you sign a rental contract.
Not all companies offer price matching, and many of those that do only offer it under special conditions. For example, some companies will match a competitor’s price only if that competitor has a good score on Better Business Bureau. Jumping through hoops like these can be annoying, but a lower price is almost always worth the trouble.
Don’t pay for extra damage protection
Damage protection (sometimes called coverage) does exactly what you’d expect. It protects your belongings and truck if they get damaged by natural disasters, equipment malfunction, theft, or car crashes.
Most companies include at least a little protection like this on every rental, but it’s rarely comprehensive, and the exclusions can leave you high and dry in most cases. Damage protection that actually covers you against unforeseeable circumstances is always a good thing to have, but it costs extra.
If you’re trying to cut corners to save money, then foregoing extra damage protection can save you hundreds of dollars.
That is if everything goes well . . .
If you do get in an accident or your stuff gets stolen, you’ll wish you’d sprung for the coverage. The couple hundred bucks you saved will feel like nothing compared to the cost of replacing your stuff or fixing your rental truck.
For that reason, we never recommend moving without damage protection. If you’re willing to take the risk to save some money, though, it is an option.
Do a careful pickup inspection
When you pick up your moving truck, you’ll be asked to inspect the vehicle and list any damage you notice on a form. It’s essential that you thoroughly note each scrape, dent, and scratch you find, even small ones.
When you return the truck, the company might assume any previously unnoted damage is new—and your fault. This means you can be blamed (and charged) for damage you didn’t cause.
To make sure you don’t miss a single scratch, bring your most nitpicky friend with you to help with the inspection. This will make it go quicker, and they might notice something you don’t. Your wallet will thank you.
Pack meals to eat along the way
Road trips are one of the best excuses to eat fast food every day. There’s nothing like pounding a cheeseburger at a greasy dive bar after several hours on the road.
However, eating out a lot can break your budget. If you’re going to restaurants for every meal, food costs will quickly add up—especially if you’re driving for a few days or traveling with kids.
Save yourself hundreds of dollars by keeping precooked or easily prepared meals in a cooler you can access when you make stops.
Planning a moving road trip?
Planning a moving road trip?
If you’re going to drive a moving truck long-distance, you’ve got a lot of planning to do. How long should you drive every day? What are the best places to stop? And just how are you supposed to keep the kids entertained for multiple days in the car? You can learn the answers to all of these questions and more in our guide to planning a moving road trip.
Watch the odometer
Most truck rental companies prorate you for the distance you’ll be driving when you move. If you exceed your original mileage estimate, though, you’ll probably get hit with additional charges when you return your truck.
That’s why it’s essential that you pick the shortest route to your new home and stick to it.
If you want to make a stop along the way and do some sightseeing (something we recommend), park the moving truck somewhere safe first and drive your backup vehicle for your excursion.
Refill the gas tank before returning your truck
You should always refill your rental truck’s gas tank before returning it—even if this adds a little extra time to an already long day of driving and unpacking.
If you return your truck with an empty tank, the rental company will add an additional charge to your bill. In addition to the cost of the gas, it’ll also charge you for the time one of its employees spends filling the tank.
Quick note: Moving truck companies don’t keep their trucks full of gas when they’re parked at their facilities. Some keep their trucks’ tanks about a third or a fourth full. This means you don’t have to completely fill the tank before you return your truck. Just fill it back to where it was when you picked it up.