A 2nd Review of U-Haul U-Box for Portable Moving and Storage
We Moved Three Times Using U-Box
U-Haul's U-Box program has changed significantly since I first used them back in spring 2009, and so my original review is sorely in need of an update.
Here is what I’ve learned: U-Box’s convenience and customer service continues to be second to none, but their prices have gone up (always a disappointment).
In summer 2011, by the way, we moved (again) to Canada, again using U-Box. (Oh, the wayfaring life of students!)
Sadly, U-Box’s prices have increased over the years.
- In 2009, the move from Pittsburgh to St. Louis cost us under $500.
- Our 2011 move from St. Louis to Boulder cost about $700.
- My research for our move in summer 2011 put shipping costs from Boulder to Kingston, Ontario, at about $1000.
Monthly storage costs have gone up as well. In 2010, we paid $60/month. In 2011, it told me $70/month. And even if you don’t plan on long-term storage, you still have to pay for at least one month.
I looked at some other destination combinations for comparison. While the shipping costs seem distance-based (which makes sense), monthly storage seems location-based. A move from San Francisco to Sacramento would cost about $500, but almost $100/month for storage. A move from Seattle to Miami would cost about $1700, and about $90/month for storage.
For our trip north, the cost is getting a little up there for our budget. We are considering saving some money by driving a U-Haul trailer ourselves, but the convenience of door-to-door service (to Canada, no less) is so tempting it might still be worth it.
Alas, U-Box pickup and delivery are no longer free as they were at our first move, though they do have various options depending on the number of boxes you need and your budget.
- Do it yourself. Today’s U-Boxes can come with a nifty trailer hookup for $15/day. This means if you have a trailer hitch on your car, you can pick your box up yourself from your nearest U-Haul location, and brink it back when you’re done.
- Trailer drop off. If you don’t have your own trailer hitch, U-Haul can drop off your box for you with one of their trucks, and come pick it up when you’re ready. For our move, this would be $150 on the Boulder end and $80 on the Kingston end (plus $15/day for the trailer).
- Truck delivery. If you are getting multiple boxes, this is the most convenient option. They will bring all your boxes at once on a flat bed truck and pick them up when you’re done. For us this would be a flat $220 on the Boulder end (though impractical because we only need one box). There is no option for this in Kingston.
- Load at a U-Haul location. You bring all your stuff to U-Haul and load your box on-site. This is free (unless you need to rent a truck to get your stuff there), but in my experience is kind of a pain.
When we moved from St. Louis, we picked option 2. However, because of a mixup with scheduling the delivery, they dropped it off for free. We didn’t even have to pay for the trailer. This is why they keep getting points in my book for customer service.
Also to note, the trailer hook up is only intended for local deliveries. They will not let you take it on the highway. We learned this the hard way, when a glitch with their reservation system had me pick a drop off location all the way down in Denver, hence we had to use option 4 at the end of our move.
For the best customer service, talk to the folks at your local U-Haul location. I tried contacting their central customer service through the U-Haul website (via both chat and phone) and found them clueless.
When we were trying to figure out the best time to do our move, I used the customer service chat to ask if they did Sunday pickup. The person basically said “I don’t know, try calling our customer service number.” So I did, and they said yes. We found out later from our local U-Haul that no, they don’t actually do Sunday pickup.
After I made the reservation for our St. Louis to Boulder move, I noticed my receipt gave a slightly higher total than the online quoting system. I gave them a call to double check, but the person I spoke to couldn’t tell me anything. It seemed that he could only see the same order confirmation as I was seeing, and could not tell me my order break down. We finally decided it was tax, but they should really list that somewhere on the page.
When it came time to get our boxes, our local U-Haul was supposed to give us a call to set up a time. Days passed without hearing a word. Finally, the day before our scheduled delivery, I called them up to figure out what was going on. It turns out that the order they got from the only system only gave them an old phone number that was associated with my billing address. I know that was a bad thing on my part and have since fixed my billing phone number, but the reservation system didn’t even give them my email address (which it definitely had) or my cell phone (which I’m pretty sure it had).
We had to scramble a little after the phone number mixup, but because we only had one box they were able to squeeze us in without any delays. And as I mentioned before, they also didn’t charge us for the delivery or the trailer.
We had hoped that they could pick up our box on a Sunday, because that was the day we were driving to Colorado, and we didn’t feel comfortable leaving the box all alone until Monday. While they weren’t able to pick it up Sunday, they were able to squeeze us in Saturday evening (though again, it helped we only had one box).
While it may look like there are more “bad” items listed than “good”, all of my bad experiences have been with U-Haul Central. The local staff have always been extremely helpful and I think make up for the bad.
The lesson to take away is this: for any questions, contact your LOCAL U-Haul. If you think their online reservation system might be having bugs (I’ve run into a few), contact your local U-Haul. If you want to avoid the online reservation system altogether, I’m sure your local U-Haul can set you up just as easily.
Whether U-Box is right for you depends on a lot of things—the distance of your move and how much stuff you have, of course, but also now your location affects your monthly storage costs. If you only need one box, but you're far from a U-Haul location, you might want to try a different option instead of paying for the truck delivery.
Despite a few online glitches and learning the hard way that local trumps central, I still have a favorable impression of U-Box and may very well pay a little extra for their convenience.