We compared dozens of quotes from U-Haul and professional movers to determine which is cheaper. U-Haul always won, but cheaper doesn’t always mean better, and U-Haul’s service consistently falls short.
Is U-Haul Actually Cheaper than Hiring a Mover?
While renting a U-Haul moving truck can be $1,000 to $5,000 cheaper than hiring professional movers, it’s not as cheap as it’s cracked up to be (it isn’t even the cheapest moving truck rental company).
Additionally, DIY moving comes with a lot of inconveniences and risks that hiring professional movers shields you from. That’s why we always recommend full-service movers if you can afford them.
Keep reading to learn more.
U-Haul vs. full-service movers at a glance
Quick service comparison
|Moving coverage included|
*U-Haul works with a network of moving labor professionals to supply these services for an extra cost.
**Professional packing services are always available, but they cost extra.
Renting a truck from U-Haul usually means you do all the moving labor yourself, though U-Haul does offer moving services. If you need help, the company will send you moving labor professionals for packing and loading, but these services can add hundreds of dollars to your final cost. To really save money on your DIY move, you have to do the hard work yourself and maybe enlist some good friends for assistance.
When you hire qualified movers, you don’t have to cart your heavy furniture down any stairs or drive an unwieldy moving truck hundreds of miles. You simply have to let the trained professionals do what they do best, handling your items with care and transporting them to your new home where they’ll unload it all.
Let’s be honest: your furniture and boxes are safer in the hands of experts who have access to proper equipment than they probably would be if you and your neighbors were to tackle the move yourselves.
Your budget is certainly a valid concern, but if convenience and security are your top priorities, then hiring professional movers is well worth the price.
Our favorite full-service movers
If you want to learn a little more about these movers and why we recommend them, hop over to our list of the best moving companies.
Quick pricing comparison
Average truck rental costs were based on up-front rental costs for two truck sizes plus the costs for gas for the rental truck and one other vehicle, moving coverage costs, and food and hotel costs for two people.
Prices for professional moving services were calculated by averaging quotes for two home sizes gathered from two full-service moving companies. Prices do not include packing costs.
For a move under 1,000 miles, you probably won’t pay more than $4,000 for your U-Haul truck rental, and prices are usually much lower.
Hiring a professional moving company, on the other hand, will almost always cost you upwards of $1,000, even for short distances. And the sky is more or less the limit on how much professional movers can cost if you purchase every add-on service a moving company offers.
That said, prices for truck rentals and movers vary greatly depending on how far you’re moving, how much stuff you’re moving, and what time of year it is. The only way to know exactly how much your move will cost is to get your own online quote or—even better—in-home estimate.
Additional truck rental costs
On top of the price for your rental truck, you should also factor these extra costs into your budget if you’re planning a U-Haul move.
When you book your truck rental, you should also purchase protection coverage for your truck, yourself, and your belongings in case you get in an accident or you go over a bump too quickly and break something in the cargo area.
U-Haul has several different protection options, but the cheapest one, Safemove®,1 was often somewhere between $50 and $90 on the quotes we gathered.
For contrast, all properly licensed full-service moving companies offer basic liability coverage for free with your move. Basic liability coverage is exactly that: basic. It only protects your belongings for $0.60 per pound, so it doesn’t cover full market value for your items, but it’s free and better than nothing. Full-service movers also offer much better coverage, but never for free.
Miles per gallon2
Cost of gas
Cost of gas based on the average gas price of $2.88 on April 27, 2021.3
Fuel costs don’t stop at fuel for the moving truck. You should also have someone drive a backup vehicle, ideally your personal vehicle, behind you during your journey in case the moving truck breaks down and you need help.
Assuming that gas costs $2.88 per gallon and your car gets the national average of 25 miles per gallon,4 you’ll pay about $115 to drive it 1,000 miles and $57 to drive it 500 miles.
The next cost you should budget for when you’re planning a moving road trip is food. Since there will be at least two people (you and the driver for your backup vehicle) making this theoretical journey, we’ll budget for two people for this example.
The cost of food during a road trip can be about $40 per adult per day.5 You should never drive more than 500 miles in a day,6 so let’s say that the 500-mile trip takes you one day and the 1,000-mile trip takes you two. If this is the case, you should plan on paying about $80 for food during the 500 mile trip and $160 for the 1,000-mile trip.
To cut down on these costs, you can pack meals and avoid fast food restaurants.
As we mentioned, you can safely drive 500 miles in a day, so you probably don’t need to add a hotel to your budget for a 500-mile trip. You can just wake up early in your old home, drive your moving truck to your new home that day, and sleep there that night.
For a 1,000-mile trip, though, you should plan to spend at least one night in a hotel. The average price for a single night in a hotel room is $180, though it can be much higher in fancy hotels or in densely populated regions.7 If you need a place to stay for cheap, you might find a better deal on Airbnb.
While you’re here, feel free to check out these other guides that can help you plan and budget for your upcoming move:
- U-Haul Truck Rental, “Get the Protection You Need for Your Move!” Accessed April 27, 2021.
- U-Haul Truck Rental, “U-Haul Truck Rentals.” Accessed April 27, 2021.
- AAA, “Gas Prices.” Updated April 27, 2021. Accessed April 27, 2021.
- Business Insider, “The 5 Most and Least Fuel-efficient Cars on the Road Today,” December 2019. Accessed April 27, 2021.
- Living on the Cheap, “9 Ways to Take a Bite Out of Road Trip Food Costs.” Accessed April 27, 2021.
- The Road Trip Expert, “How Far Can You Drive Safely in a Day,” August 2019. Accessed April 27, 2021.
- Business Travel News, “Demand Drives U.S. Hotels,” March 2018. Accessed April 27, 2021.