The Truth About U-Haul Truck Rentals
My Experience With U-Haul
In order to be taken seriously, I need to bring some experience to the table of discussion. I managed an independent U-Haul dealership for four years in Olympia, Washington, so I am intimately familiar with the corporation and how they manage their affairs.
I write this as a way to point out some of the pitfalls that people encounter when dealing with U-Haul. Moving is, at best, a stressful situation, and part of that stress for many people is dealing with U-Haul employees. They can be, on the best of days, a tedious group, and on the worst of days they can be downright rude and unbending in their rules.
Hopefully, by reading this article, you will be forewarned and better prepared for the moving adventure that lies ahead of you.
U-Haul International: A Little History
U-Haul was started in 1945 by Leonard Shoen and his wife in the town of Ridegefield, Washington. With an investment of $5,000, Shoen began building trailers in his garage and then splitting the rental fees with gas station owners who then became franchise agents. Today there are over 13,000 U-Haul dealerships in the United States and the name U-Haul has become synonymous with the truck and trailer rental business.
The Shoen family currently owns about 40% of the company; the rest is part of a conglomerate called AMERICO, and they are headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona.
Trucks available for rent range in size from 10’ to 26’; pickup trucks, vans, and trailers of varying sizes are also available. You can also rent two-wheel tow dollies and auto transports to move your passenger vehicles. In addition, most U-Haul centers have storage space available. Storage space is rented weekly or monthly on a first-come, first-served basis.
In the past few years, U-Haul has made a great effort to upgrade their truck fleet. Many newer trucks with little wear and tear are available now, and the fleet is being upgraded continually. In addition, U-Haul has an excellent record regarding road assistance should you have a problem with the truck.
Now we get into a tricky area with regards to U-Haul. The U-Haul inventory at any center is divided into “in-town” and “one-way” inventory. Those trucks and trailers designated as “in-town” cannot be rented for a one-way trip, and the opposite is also true. This can be quite infuriating for customers looking to rent, who see quite a few trucks and trailers on the lot, and are told there is nothing available.
At corporate centers, rarely can you rent a truck or trailer for a 24-hour period, although most of the public believes that to be part of the rental agreement. Most corporate centers will rent for blocks of time, either six hours or twelve hours, but you will be charged the 24-hour rate.
Make sure when you are renting that you ask when the equipment is to be returned, and then make darn sure you are not late in returning. Five minutes late means another day of charges to your bill, and all of the arguing in the world won’t change that late fee. Remember, they have your credit card as a rental requirement, and they have the power and the right to tack on charges if you are late.
Having said all that, you are much better off going to an independent franchise agent; oftentimes you will be able to rent for the entire 24-hour period, especially if you are renting during slow times of the year.
Cost per day
10' and 14'
24' and 26'
Now things really get tricky! One-way rates are determined by the availability of equipment in any particular city. For example, if you are renting a truck in Seattle for a one-way trip to Tucson, the rate will be determined by how much equipment is in Tucson at that time, and the rates are constantly changing according to inventory movement. It is entirely possible that it is cheaper to rent a truck from Seattle to Orlando than it is to rent from Seattle to Tucson, a considerably shorter distance.
Armed with this information, it is important to deal only with independent dealers when you need a one-way truck. They have the freedom to do a little “shopping around” for you. What do I mean? Remember, the rate is determined by inventory, and that applies to cities in the same state. It is possible to find different rates for two cities that are fifty miles apart.
Back to the example of Seattle to Tucson; say on the day you make your reservation that one-way rate is $850. A wise renter would then ask what the one-way fee is from Seattle to Sierra Vista, or Green Valley, Arizona, two cities within 50 miles of Tucson. If the one-way fee is $700, then rent the truck for Green Valley, drop it off thereafter unloading in Tucson, and get a ride back to Tucson. Savings…$150!
As unbelievable as that may sound, that is, in fact, the way the rate structure works for U-Haul. Live with it and learn to use it to your advantage.
Read this next section carefully! Before you drive your truck out of the U-Haul lot, make sure you walk around the truck and make a note of every single scratch and dent on the truck or trailer. Repeat: every single scratch and dent. There may be quite a few, and it may take you quite a bit of time to do it, but do it for your own peace of mind AND for your bank account.
If, when you return the truck or trailer, there is a scratch or dent that was not identified at the time of the rental, you will be charged for the damage. Period! This basic fact is in your rental agreement and believes me, U-Haul will inspect that truck when it returns and they will charge you for repairs.
Make sure you check your auto insurance to see if you are covered when you rent a truck or trailer. If you are not, do not leave that rental yard without insurance. It may cost you $15 for a day rental, or $100 for a one-way, but it is worth it for your peace of mind. U-Haul Corporation has no sense of humor when it comes to damage incurred on their equipment.
Fill ‘er Up!
You, the renter, are responsible for the gasoline you use while you are renting. You are required to return the truck with the same amount of gasoline that it had when it left the U-Haul lot. U-Haul employees check this closely, and if you are short they will charge you greatly to replace the missing gasoline. They will not only charge you for the gasoline but they will charge you for labor fees to have it fueled, so make sure you do not scrimp on this requirement.
How Has Your Experience Been With U-Haul?
Compare with Other Dealers
Always get a price quote from U-Haul, and then turn right around and get a price quote from another U-Haul dealership. You just might be pleasantly surprised!
Also, keep in mind that there are other truck rental companies available to you. Budget, Penske, and Ryder are just three of the alternatives you should check. Here is a bonus tip: Once you get a quote from one of the “other guys,” take your quote to U-Haul and see if they will do better. U-Haul is a business, and they face competition just like any other business, and they have been known to meet or beat a quote by another competitor. It is well worth your time to shop around.
It is important to repeat that you, the customer, are much better off dealing with an independent U-Haul dealer rather than a corporate store. Rules are inflexible with corporate U-Haul; you have a much better chance of being treated well by an independent dealer.
Customer satisfaction is not high on the priority list at U-Haul, especially during peak rental periods like the summer months. It is an attitude that filters down from the corporate offices in Arizona and infiltrates each individual corporate center around the country. With that in mind, make sure that you take the precautions outlined in this article, and you protect yourself by following the suggestions I have given you. It just might save you hundreds of dollars the next time you need to rent a truck!
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
How old is the average truck?
Probably about five years old.Helpful 8
What will happen if you lose the rental agreement?
UHaul will have it in their computerHelpful 7
How often are trucks maintained (i.e. tune-ups, oil changes, checking fluids including break)? We are traveling up and down some steep roads.
It's about every 5,000 miles.Helpful 6
Does U-Haul charge more if your renting has a business compared to renting as an individual?
Not that I know of. They never did in the past.Helpful 5
Our storage unit business is considering being a haul dealer, can you negotiate their rates in the contract before you sign the dealer contract?
No, there is no negotiating with U-Haul about rates.Helpful 1