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Penske seems to be building an empire largely focused on its logistics and commercial business. But once you get past that and look at its consumer truck rental business, you will find a wealth of information about driving and safety, knowledgeable customer service agents always willing to help, and some great discounts. A thorough Web site that anticipates consumer questions and provides more info than you’ll ever need to know on the company are plusses. It makes up for its relatively small size (only 1,000+ locations) by paying lots of attention to customers.
For the purposes of this guide, I am planning a long distance move (1,100 miles) of a 3-bedroom home from Fort Lee, N.J. (New York City area) to Kissimmee, Fla. (Orlando area) because those are two destinations with which I’m familiar. I order the rental about two weeks before the invented move date. I try to reserve the rental for a Saturday, which is a popular moving day. I complete the order and later cancel it. By keeping the particulars of the move about the same for each order, I make it possible for you to more easily compare companies and services.
Here’s the particulars of my move: I live in a 3-bedroom home with two large flights of stairs. In addition to the bedrooms, there are two and a half bathrooms, a finished basement (which includes a bar and living area featuring a sofa that turns into a queen-sized bed), a laundry room (with storage under the staircase that includes boxes of holiday decorations), a kitchen, living room (with two sofas, including another one that converts to a queen-sized bed), formal dining room (with a very large and heavy china closet filled with delicate china and glasses for entertaining), and an attic (with some pieces that will eventually be used to convert my son's toddler bed to a queen-sized bed and my wedding dress packed in a special box for preservation). The quotes I received are based on this information.
Prices vary based on the distance of the move and the equipment and coverage you choose. To give you an idea, for the move from New Jersey to Florida, I was going to be charged $2,089.05, which includes the rental of the 26-foot truck ($1,614.75) for 6 days and unlimited mileage, 2 dozen furniture pads ($15 per dozen), 2 hand trucks ($20 each), protection plans (Limited Damage Waiver for $132 and supplemental liability for $100.50), sales tax for $162.80, and an environmental fee of $9. This cost puts Penske right in line with those offered by Budget ® and U-Haul ®. Talking to an agent and making your reservation online can lower the price.
You get unlimited mileage free, but you have to pay if you go over the agreed-upon number of travel days. Pick-up and drop-off are the same time, so you have to return the vehicle when agreed upon or risk being charged for an extra day. If you add extra days to your trip before pick-up, you will pay $50 more per day. If you add them after pick-up, you will be charged $100 per day. If you complete your move and drop off the truck before the agreed upon date, you do NOT receive a refund, except on protection plans and insurance. You’ll be charged for returning a dirty truck, so sweep out the cargo areas and make sure to remove all trash and personal belongings.
There is no charge for changing or canceling your reservation as long as you do this at least 48 hours before the scheduled date and time. You will be charged $100 if you fail to notify Penske of changes or cancellations within that timeframe.
Someone who is concerned about safety and is willing to do the necessary research to find out about available discounts is the perfect match for Penske. You have to be willing to speak up and ask questions to get the best price. If you do, you’ll probably be satisfied with the experience at least through the reservation portion of the process.
Penske has outstanding customer service. The representatives are both knowledgeable and kind, a winning combination. The Web site is more informative than those of U-Haul and Budget. Discounts – even if they are sometimes hidden – can bring the cost of your rental down. A focus on driving safety and the types of trucks you are renting puts your mind at ease. And there are some other perks, too.
Besides being courteous and respectful, Penske’s online agent actually offered to try and get me a better deal without me asking for it. She came through, too, with a price that was $129.18 less than what I had gotten quoted on my own. She also continued our conversation until all my questions were answered. This experience was in stark comparison to how things went down with her counterparts at U-Haul, where the agent would close our conversation and I would have to start a new one to get answers, and Budget, which offered kind representatives who didn’t seem to know anything about the company’s services. I called on other agents to answer my questions after this first one, and they were all able to answer my questions without hesitation and with great care.
I got money knocked off my total by making a reservation online and going through the HireAHelper site. As I mentioned, the online representative also managed to save me another $129.18 on top of those other savings. Granted, I was lucky to end up with these discounts because none of them were advertised. The total, $2,089.05, ended up falling right in line with the prices paid at U-Haul and Budget. Still, it’s nice to know that there’s hope for getting a lower price. Some of the advertised discounts include those for military, college students, and AAA members.
For the first time in all my truck renting, I had few questions for the online agent and didn’t even have a need to use the phone. You know why? Because the Penske Web site provided most of the answers. It was really thorough and offered some other benefits, such as extensive moving tips, a tool that generates a personalized packing list, and info on how to save money with Penske partners (10 percent off at Best Western, 25 percent off Papa John’s pizza, for example).
I’ve never driven one of these huge trucks before, and the thought scares me. I worry that the truck – being ginormous – will be difficult to drive and I could have an accident, which will put my family and me, not to mention the truck, our stuff, and strangers innocently lurking about, in danger. While U-Haul and Budget barely ever address such concerns and offer little information on the trucks themselves, Penske has site pages dedicated to this. I learned the truck I was planning to rent had an automatic transmission with cruise control, antilock brakes for safer stops, dual-faced mirrors for better vision, and power steering. My concerns about being able to load the truck melted away when I read about the easy-to-operate 1,000-pound capacity loading ramp and rear roll-up door. There’s a translucent roof with interior lighting, so I could feasibly load and unload in the dark. Perks, such as air conditioning, cargo-tie rails, and 3-person bench seating were nice to know about, as was the diesel power, which was estimated to save me $58.70 on fuel. Knowing the average truck was no more than 24 months old was the cherry on top. Also, as long as I called the district office in my area, the number for which a customer service rep gave me, I could test drive the truck before pick up.
Pages about how to drive one of these big trucks safely made my heart sing. Planning a move for early March from New Jersey, where it is often still cold and snowy, to faraway Florida had me worrying about the weather conditions. Well, Penske had a page for that, too, and I read up on winter driving. One of the things I learned was that you should always park a diesel truck out of the wind in cold weather. Who knew?
As if that weren’t enough, Penske will keep you warm and fuzzy in the cold: “If conditions are dangerous, your rental may be extended without charge. And, if you add windshield washer fluid, oil, or antifreeze, save your receipts and Penske will refund you.” Sounds like a company that cares!
Some companies make you pay extra for access to roadside assistance should your truck break down or malfunction. Penske, however, offers an SOS number to all renters of its trucks should the unthinkable happen. When you’re worried about driving one of these big boys, this sure could put your worries to rest.
Many other truck rental companies have you choose a preferred pick-up location only to inform you that you’ll be getting your truck elsewhere the day before you are scheduled. The online agent told me that I’d be picking up my truck where I requested. Period. This makes me happy because I know that my moving journey will begin just as I planned it, and I won’t have to go out of my way at the start.
As long as the truck and equipment you need is available, you can reserve and pick up a truck in the same day.
There is little to dislike about Penske. I had one of the best customer service experiences ever. But, of course, there is always room for improvement. The company’s site and reputation are largely based on its commercial and logistics services. That’s great, but as a consumer looking for a personal rental, you might be put off by that emphasis on the Web site and when researching the company. Also, you might end up spending more if you don’t know the tricks to getting a lower price. And a couple times the knowledgeable customer service representative refrained from admitting certain charges by deferring to the receipt I would be getting in my e-mailbox. Here’s what you need to know:
For starters, the price is lower if you make your reservation through the Web site, and this is the case for many truck rental companies. Still, it’s not advertised, so you need to realize this for yourself. A web reservation saved me $215.30. Lesson learned. Second, I received a discount of $193.77 for going through the HireAHelper site.
At this point, I was impressed with the $1,743.93 price for the truck alone. But I had some questions about coverage. So, I clicked on the live chat button that appears when you start getting a quote. The agent offered to give me a quote herself and see if she could lower the rate. Indeed, she managed to get the price for the truck down to $1,614.75. That’s an additional savings of $129.18, which I wouldn’t have gotten had I booked without talking to an agent. She wrote that the rate was only good during our live chat and that she was able to offer this price based on availability.
Whatever it takes, I’m just happy to have some extra money in my pocket. If I were advising someone about this, I would suggest he strike up a conversation with an online customer service representative and specifically ask if he or she can help find the lowest possible quote. This is in the “Downside” section because I accidentally stumbled on these savings and would have no way of knowing about them otherwise.
I repeatedly asked about any fees associated with cancellations. When quoting me the price initially, the customer service agent wrote,” The reservation is free to make, free to cancel and free to change the dates.” So, I asked if I could cancel, even the night before, and not get charged. She told me that Penske recommends customers give notice at least 48 hours beforehand. I asked again if I would be charged anything, and she repeated the statement about the 48-hour recommendation. I read about the $100 charge in the receipt in my e-mailbox after she told me to read that carefully. I would have preferred she just answered me. If she knew about the 48-hour recommendation, she must have known there was a charge, even if she didn’t know for exactly how much. Still, this was a small error on her part and easily forgivable, considering she managed to help me save more than $100 more on the bill.
When you first visit the Web site and conduct research on Penske, you will notice that there’s lots of emphasis on its commercial services – full-service leasing, transportation, warehousing management, and supply-chain management. Although that’s an important part of the business, it’s not the only part. And a little deeper investigation of the Web site will reveal that the consumer arm of its truck rentals is an excellent option to consider when planning a move. You just might get distracted by the other stuff. I did at first.
Every truck rental company charges this environmental fee (although it costs more or less depending on the company). This time it was for $9, which isn’t a ton of money. But I just can’t wrap my brain around this fee, nor has anyone been able to explain how it’s put to use. Still, it’s supposed to be in support of efforts to be green, so I have to suck it up and move on. And so do you. Sorry.
There are many protection plans and each one is clearly defined on the Web site. You can find out about your options here: Penske Truck Rental Coverage.
I was unsure which was the right plan for me, so I consulted a customer service representative. She suggested I opt into the Limited Damage Waiver (LDW), which covered me for any loss or damage as long as I lived by the terms of service and cost $132, and the Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI), which protects against claims by third parties for bodily and/or property damage sustained as a result of an accident and costs $100.50. Both seemed right for me because they protected me against my own fears of destroying equipment, strangers and their vehicles or property, and myself and my passengers. Anything that saves me from myself is a good thing.
Penske has more than 1,000 locations in the United States, 26 locations in Canada, and 200,000 vehicles. The average age of rental trucks for personal use is 24 months.
Penske goes way back to Dec. 1, 1969, when Roger Penske founded the company by purchasing a car and light truck rental and leasing business that served eastern Pennsylvania, according to the Web site. By 1981, the business had grown to include 33 facilities staffed by 420 employees and making sales of more than $40 million. In 1982, the company joined forces with Hertz ® Truck Division to form Hertz-Penske ® Truck Leasing, and together they later acquired Goldston & Leaseway Transportation’s truck renting and leasing business. In 1988, Penske solidified the ‘80s as its golden era by purchasing Hertz’s share of the joint venture and forming a partnership with General Electric that folded GE’s Gelco Truck Leasing into Penske Truck Leasing Co., L.P., according to the site. From 1995 to 2007, Penske expanded its logistics business to the rest of the world.
If that wasn’t enough to get the head honchos at Penske shouting they were “kings of the world,” then their status today must have done the trick. The company now operates 200,000 vehicles across North America and employs about 18,000 associates worldwide. The logistics arm of the business operates more than 275 locations and manages about 15 million square feet of warehousing space worldwide. Annual revenue, according to the Web site, is $4 billion. Woah baby!
Besides showing genuine concern for the safety of consumers, Penske promotes diversity, community service, and concern for environmental safety. The company boasts about its diversity and inclusion initiatives. “We will improve and grow our businesses by supporting a work environment that is diverse, inclusive and respectful, so we can draw from the talents, backgrounds and varied perspectives of all our associates,” according to the Web site.
Among its recent community service are providing help to charities that supported victims of the southern tornadoes and floods and Red Cross fundraising for Japan’s earthquake. Penske donated $1 million to the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, and has worked with many organizations, including Toys for Tots and Habitat for Humanity. The company is a major supporter of United Way and has donated trucks for Al Roker’s Lend a Hand Today charity effort on NBC’s Today Show. It recently partnered with the Paralyzed Veterans of America for a year-long fundraising effort to benefit Mission:ABLE, which promotes the support, care, and benefits of veterans with disabilities.
Penske is also trying to limit its carbon footprint by participating and supporting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay Transport partnership as an affiliate, carrier, and logistics partner. The program is designed to improve energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions, and improve energy security, according to the Web site.
Thanks to a partnership, you can pick up or drop off your Penske truck rental at participating Home Depot locations.
We went with Penske since Budget was unresponsive to our queries.
The truck was relatively new and drove very well.
I've used Penske several times and had no problems. They have great rates and their web site is easy to use.
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