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How to Choose the Right Moving Truck

So, you’ve decided to handle moving yourself - by which we mean paying your friends with pizza rather than paying professional movers with money. In exchange for saving that money, you have a lot more things to think about, and one of them is choosing a moving truck. How do you make sure you choose the right moving truck and don’t end up regretting the decision?

The basic rule of thumb

There are two basic rules that you’ll find most people use, both of which you do by counting the number of rooms you’re trying to move.

The first is pretty straightforward: try to get 250 cubic feet of truck per fully furnished room.

The other rule, which is roughly the same, breaks it down like this:

  • Studio apartment: 10-foot truck
  • 1-2 bedrooms: 15-foot truck
  • 2-3 bedrooms: 20-foot truck
  • 4+ bedrooms: 26-foot truck

These are pretty good as starting points, but as always, the actual answer is more complicated with that.

More size considerations

The fault with the rules of thumb should be obvious. The truck doesn’t carry rooms, but the stuff in the rooms. If you have many rooms with relatively spartan furnishings, you might not need as large of a truck as someone with fewer rooms crammed with more stuff.

To get a better idea of what you’re going to need, you’re going to need to measure stuff. How large are your moving boxes, and how many of them do you have? Measure every piece of furniture you have, too. Adding those up gives you an absolute minimum for the truck - you might have missed a lot of smaller things that will take up space. You’re also unlikely to pack the truck perfectly, so unless everything can fit perfectly together and you’re a Tetris master, expect that there’s going to be some empty space in the truck.

In fact, you should plan for there being more space. Err on the side of buying a larger truck than you think you need. The laws of physics are a lot more forgiving of you having extra room than trying to fit 600 cubic feet into 500. This is especially true if you’re going to be moving over a long distance - if it’s just across town, then you could make another trip, but you’re not just going to “make another trip” to another state when you leave things behind. If your reaction to “What would I do if everything couldn’t fit in the truck” is “panic”, then you really should get a larger truck.

Choosing the rental company

It’s a good idea to get a few quotes from companies near you. Choose truck rental companies which have been in business for a length of time; look for online reviews via sites such as Yelp.com or Angie’s List.

Some information which is important to share with the rental company to receive an accurate estimate:

  • The number of days you’ll need the truck for loading, unloading, and driving
  • Other moving paraphernalia you’ll rent, including items such as blankets and dollies

Compare rates among companies, taking into account the flat rental fee as well as the cost of extra items. Since they rent out trucks to people who are moving all the time, they're another place you can get an estiate of how large of a truck you'll need, though beware of them trying to upsell you on a larger (and more expensive) truck you won't really need.

Are you ready to drive the truck?

Most budget truck rental companies stock trucks that a renter can drive with a general driver’s license, but don’t assume that’s the case with your rental. Confirm that a special license isn’t required before you make the reservation. Also, know whether you’ll be renting a manual or automatic transmission truck.

Even if you don’t need a special license, consider whether or not you are able to handle a truck comfortably. Moving truck driving requires some special driving tactics and techniques. If you are a nervous driver in general, think of how you’ll feel with a truck on narrow city streets during bad weather or rush-hour traffic. If the thought of that makes you sweat, consider finding or hiring someone else to do the driving.

Moving is often a difficult process, no matter how well you prepare. If you’re moving yourself, choosing the right moving truck can mean the difference between a smooth move and one that you’ll tell horror stories about for years to come!

Categories: Renters

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About the Author
Zac Kandell Headshot

Zac Kandell is a freelance writer based in Atlanta. In addition to contributing to Rentals.com, Zac has previously written for Apartment Guide and AT&T. During his spare time, he enjoys reading comics and spending way too much time listening to podcasts.