How To Rent and Pack a Moving Truck

Moving can be a stressful undertaking, especially if you've never done it before. Having a plan can help you save time, energy and money and also help you avoid unnecessary delays. One way to make the experience easier is to find a truck rental company that will help you with the planning process, particularly selecting the ideal moving truck for your needs.

Key Points

  • 1 It’s not hard to research rental trucks. You can narrow down your moving truck rental choices with a few phone calls or Internet searches.
  • 2 Making a personal visit to each of the truck rental companies on your shortlist is vital as it helps you determine which one best meets your requirements.
  • 3 Packing with a plan will make loading, moving and unpacking easier. Don’t forget to leave out items that you’ll need during the move.
  • 4 Load things you’ll need access to at the rear of the truck, and pack the heavier items toward the front for a smoother ride.

An oversized truck is a waste of money, and one without enough room will cost you more energy, time, gas and money since you will have to take everything out and repack for a tighter fit, make several trips or be forced to decide which of your valuables to leave behind.

Remember, planning ahead is the key to renting the right truck and efficiently packing it.

Research First

Start by calling a few truck rental companies or looking at their websites to get some key information:

1. What does it cost to rent a truck?

This could be a major factor in the cost since some companies let you pick up the truck the afternoon before the move without charging for an extra day’s rental.

2. What’s the rate for mileage?

Mileage rates vary, so do the math and determine if there’s any noticeable difference in cost between rental companies.

3. Am I supposed to fill the gas tank before returning the truck?

Some companies offer to fill the gas tank for you, but their cost per gallon may be more than the going rate.

4. What happens if the truck breaks down during use?

If your truck is out of commission at any point during the rental, you want a company that brings you a new truck so you can complete the move.

The time you it takes to call around and ask these questions will save you time and headaches come moving day. Compare the information you gathered and then visit the two or three places that seem to have the best deals.

How to Find the Right Size Truck

It’s better to choose a truck that ends up being too large than to rent a truck that’s too small, forcing you to make an extra trip. Also, if you’re planning a long-distance move, the last thing you want to do is decide which of your belongings to leave behind.

When researching rental trucks, you’ll find out how many cubic feet each of them can hold. From there, you need to compare that measurement against the items you’re moving. As a start, measure the square footage of your home. Depending on how dense the furnishings are, a rough guideline of the required truck size would be:

  • 15-16 foot truck: 3 rooms/700-900 sq. ft.
  • 17-22 foot truck: 5 rooms/1,000-1,200 sq. ft.
  • 24-26 foot truck: 7 rooms/1,300-1,600 sq. ft.

Just be aware that the amount of storage includes the entire cargo area, from top to bottom. You can stack items, especially boxes, but you have to be careful to put the lighter items on top. You can store mattresses sideways, and you might be able to pack couches standing on end. Tables can be loaded much easier if you remove the legs first.

Picking a Moving Truck Rental Company

Once you have your preliminary information about prices, pickup time, mileage and emergency procedures at a few rental companies, it’s time to check them out individually. A company with major name recognition can be a good choice, but it’s not automatically superior to a smaller rental truck supplier. The first step is to make sure you understand the pricing structure for each of the companies on your shortlist. And the best way to do this is to visit each rental company personally and talk to the staff.

Once you have a clear picture of the total costs involved for each rental, consider other factors. Are the staff easy to work with, and did they answer all of your questions? How easy is drop-off and pick up, and do they offer extended hours of operation? Check the trucks stored in the lot to see if they’re clean and in good condition. Make sure the truck you are reserving has an air-conditioned cab with a radio that works. These seemingly minor details can make a big difference on moving day.

Packing Up

Before packing, determine what items you’re going to need to leave out. It’s frustrating to have to search for necessities once you’ve started the job. Set aside a few boxes and clearly label them “do not pack.” You can store clothes and toiletries that you’ll need access to in suitcases and travel bags. If you don’t already have them, pick up some disposable plates, cups and utensils to use once the kitchen items are in boxes. Vital tip: Don’t pack the trash can liners.

Buy some wide and narrow black permanent markers to use for identifying what’s in your boxes before and after the move. Use the wide markers to label each box with the room where it belongs, and jot down a list of contents on each box with the fine-tipped marker. If you decide to take some of the furniture apart, place screws and small parts in freezer-strength baggies. Write on each one with the markers so you’ll know which item of furniture they belong to, and then store the bags together in a labeled box.

Go from room to room, packing items that belong together in the same boxes. To make the job easier, get several rolls of clear packing tape in the dispensers that cut the ends easily and prevent them from resealing. Don’t worry about buying too much packing tape because running out will put a major kink in your packing efforts.

For kitchen items, you can purchase cardboard boxes with slots for glasses and dishware. These protect fragile items and speed up packing. Remember that you’ll need plenty of small boxes, especially for heavy items such as books and tools. The cheapest way to acquire padding materials, besides collecting old newspapers, is to buy a couple of large rolls of brown kraft paper from a hobby store.

Loading the Truck

Begin by putting a layer of painter’s plastic sheeting on the floor of the truck to help keep your belongings clean and dry. A hand truck or dolly saves you from back strain, allows you to get boxes into the truck more quickly, and helps with moving larger pieces of furniture. Before packing, think about what you’ll need to get to first after the move, such as kitchen items and bedding, and put them in the car so they don’t accidentally get packed in the middle of the truck.

A rule of thumb when loading a moving truck is to put heavier items at the front. This gives a more stable ride, and it also makes it easier if you have to rearrange items at some point. You can buy or rent moving blankets to protect your furnishings, and they also help prevent things from shifting around. Securely wrap large items with rope or straps, and attach the ends to the hooks on the inner sides of the truck.

Start by adding a few heavy items to the front of the truck, and then fill in with boxes of non-fragile possessions. If your truck has a raised dais at the front of the storage area, pack it from top to bottom with boxes, and then put large items of furniture in front of the boxes to keep them from falling. Make sure you have enough help when loading the truck, and practice good posture and a proper lifting stance to prevent injuries.

The final layer of packing at the back of the truck should consist of the things you’ll need first when you get to your destination and things you’ll need along the way, including:

  • Suitcases/travel bags
  • Basic kitchen items
  • Pet supplies
  • Bedding/pillows
  • Towels/bathroom tissue
  • Toolkit/flashlight
  • First-aid kit
  • Extension cords
  • Cleaning supplies

Certain things are too important to pack inside the truck, so have a special place for them that stays with you. This category includes jewelry, important papers, medications, electronic equipment and chargers.

Planning Is Key

Having a plan and seeing it through helps you rent and pack a moving truck with the least hassle. Do your research to find useful supplies and a moving truck rental that fits your needs. Once you’ve arranged for the right equipment and transportation, keep track of what to leave out and what to box up for the move. Then pack your belongings intelligently to help ensure an uneventful trip.

No move is stress-free, but you can certainly make yours smoother and more enjoyable by following these guidelines.