Secrets of Renting a Moving Truck

Go online and search for price estimates for a moving truck with any of the major companies and you’re likely going to get wildly different quotes from each company. It turns out renting a moving truck isn’t as simple as it sounds.

Inevitably, when you call to actually make that reservation, it turns out the cost is often twice that much, maybe more. When you start looking for a more extended trip, like cross-country, the price differences get even larger.

I ran into this problem myself when I was pricing out moving trucks for a cross country move. The price difference was large enough that I decided to figure out why. I called U-haul with my Budget quote in hand, and asked for a deal.

Like airlines and hotels, truck-rental companies have adopted complex algorithms that help them manage inventory. While that means more efficient use of vehicles– savings which can theoretically be passed on to customers– it adds a lot of complexity.

Rental companies say in-town and cross-country trips are priced differently for a variety of reasons. Customers do tend to pay higher rates for one-way rentals, according to Budget, because of the extra costs involved in getting trucks to and from popular pickup locations and to compensate for additional wear and tear.

The end of the month is when everyone needs a truck. Combine that with the fact it’s also right around Labor Day weekend and that means they can charge me whatever they want because they know I need the truck. Essentially, an algorithm chooses the price of a truck.

It turns out, it’s likely because I’m doing them a favor. That means I move their inventory for them, someone else gets to use the truck in Seattle, and we all win.

The tip here is simple: when you’re shopping for a moving truck, compare prices at every rental truck provider and play around with the dates. Getting a deal on a moving truck is a lot like getting a deal on airline tickets. There doesn’t appear to be a Kayak for moving trucks.