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With so many locations, you shouldn’t be surprised to see a U-Haul rental truck shuttling stuff across your nearest highway on a regular basis. After all, U-Haul is a veteran of the industry with a history that dates back to the 1940s. In fact, it credits itself with birthing the DIY move. It offers a range of services – from trailer rentals to storage facilities. Still, the company gets mixed reviews from clients, sparking worry in some that it has begun to rest on its laurels.
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 equipment and distance of the move. To give you an idea, however, a 20’ rental truck (which is used to move belongings from a 3-bedroom house), Safemove (the basic and most popular insurance option, which costs $102), and the rental of one each of basic moving equipment (utility dolly, appliance dolly, furniture dolly, and 1 dozen furniture pads) for a move from Fort Lee, N.J. to Kissimmee, Fla. costs $2,094.00 before tax and gas. U-Haul estimates the trip to last no more than 5 days or 1,302 miles. You will be charged $.40 for each additional mile and $40 for each additional day. If you drive fewer miles than anticipated, you would get money back. There is also a $5 environmental fee on all truck rentals. Be sure to sweep out the truck or risk having to pay a cleaning fee.
You might be a good fit if you are disinterested in conducting lots of personal research and willing to rely on a company’s endurance in the business and brand name. If you pay close attention as you are ordering your U-Haul rental and plan for minor glitches (like the possibility of a different pick-up location than the one you asked for), you might have a successful move.
There’s a reason the U-Haul company has lasted as long as it has. There are some concessions for customers when the company has changed plans on them. And they throw a bone or two, which is a good thing when someone is going through the major hassle of moving his or her lief from one place to another. Here’s what you can look forward to if you book a U-Haul rental:
If you don’t get your preferred pick-up location, U-Haul promises to give you $50 back. The same is true if it fails to make good on the size equipment or pick-up time you want. While that might seem small, 50 bucks is still 50 bucks. Just sayin’.
On the other hand, you can change the date of your move at any time and there is no penalty. You’re better off making a reservation as soon as you find a price you like and then changing the date later if you need to. This locks in the rate, which is subject to change at any time, warned a customer service representative on the phone. In fact, after I canceled my online order and called a phone rep, she immediately reinstated my order and simply changed the date for me, so I kept the same price. One caveat to this policy is that if you cancel on the day of pick up, you are charged $50. You can change the date on the day of pick up without worry or fee.
You might have to travel farther for pick up because it’s based on availability, but you could order a truck this morning and pick it up a little later if you want to move on the spur of the moment.
My equipment rental qualified me for one month of free storage at any U-Haul storage location, which could come in handy if I really was moving. Also, I opted to do express online check-in, which promised to make pick up quicker and easier. Since I didn’t go through with the order, I can’t comment on whether that is true. But the express online check-in happened to take less than two minutes to complete. Easy as pie, really.
If you’re like me, the prospect of driving a U-Haul truck is akin to hopping on one of those upside-down, loopdy-loop roller coasters after chowing down on some corn dogs. It seems like a great idea until the ride starts. Still, you long for it to be easy-breezy, fun, and free of vomiting.
For some peace of mind – at least in the case of the U-Haul – you can consider the family safety features of the vehicle. You might be able to take a test drive, but it depends on the manager at your location, said an online customer service representative. In any event, there are dual mirrors for better vision while driving and backing up, disc brakes, gentle-ride suspension, and comfortable van-like seating.
Most of that seems like gibberish to me, so I investigated further. Disc brakes are a high-end item for trucks and work better than the standard drum brakes because they reduce stopping distances by almost 40 percent, stop brake fade, and minimize the wear of brake linings on a trailer, according to HowStuffWorks. Gentle-ride suspension ensures a smooth ride, so you and your stuff are not bouncing around like you’re in a fun house at a toddler’s birthday party, according to U-Haul. Cushy seating at least will help you relax as you take on some of the most stressful tasks ever – moving and driving a U-Haul truck. Ok, so maybe you won’t relax, but at least your bottom won’t be sore on top of everything else.
U-Haul’s online ordering system made me downright angry. Sure, it was intuitive, especially for anyone comfortable with making purchases online. (Let’s face it, that’s pretty much everyone nowadays.) But there were a few tricks – designed to get me to spend more than I wanted to – that nearly tripped me up. And the live chat component wasn’t nearly as helpful as it should be. Here’s what you need to know:
Once you settle on the size truck you want and your preferred pick-up and drop-off, you will arrive at pages asking if you want additional services, such as packing supplies. It makes sense because it’s the kind of thing someone moving might need. What annoyed me was that there were already numbers in the box for each item (see screen shot below). For example, there was a 12 already inserted under the “small moving box” and other quantities for all the rest. If you didn’t notice the inserted quantities and the “No, thank you…” link in small letters at the top of the page, then you might just order all those additional materials, which would have you spending $97.38 (before tax) more on your move. Frankly, I could get that packing tape at the local dollar store, and there are numerous ways to get your moving boxes, many of which don’t require paying a cent.
Normally, online reps ask me if I have any further questions before they sign off and end the session. One person at U-Haul asked if I needed more help, but she and all the others ended the conversation before I was finished asking questions. I ended up having to start five separate chat conversations to get my questions answered. I chatted with either Jennifer or Misty each time on the first day, and Diana and Mark on the second. Diana and Mark were more helpful, in general. But the fact that I kept getting cut off – by the same people – made me more and more frustrated.
In addition, I was unimpressed with their knowledge of the company and services. Most of the time, they just copied and pasted info I had already gleaned from the Web site. The reason I got in touch was because I wanted elaboration. For instance, I asked for more scoop on the insurance available for truck rentals. I was hoping to better understand the difference (besides the price) between Safemove and Safemove Plus insurance plans. Basically, I ended up with exactly the same answer as I had gotten by searching the site. And when I asked about the age of the fleet, the rep first said U-Haul had the “newest fleet in the industry,” but couldn’t share how old it was exactly. How can you possibly know if the fleet is the newest if you don’t know its age?
My advice is to order your rental online (for ease and convenience) but ask questions to the customer service reps on the phone. I spoke with two of them, and they were friendlier, more accommodating, and more well-mannered than those online (which could just be a function of the method of communication). The phone reps also were more knowledgeable, which is all you really need in a representative of any company when you want the full 411 and fast.
Another bit of fine print worth noting comes at the end of ordering. “Your preferred pick-up location is Route 46 Lukoil Fort Lee Mart. A local U-Haul representative will contact you by 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 7, 2014 to schedule you at the most convenient location with available equipment.”
In other words, you might have to go somewhere other than your preferred pick-up location to get your rental truck. This isn’t a huge problem because you’ll most likely be sent nearby. But, in the case of Fort Lee, you could have to go to Manhattan or the Bronx, both of which require crossing the George Washington Bridge (which often clogs with traffic and could force you to go out of your way before the journey even begins). Ugh!
There are a few insurance options. Since most of you don’t drive a truck of such heft everyday and your credit cards and auto insurance probably won’t cover the rental, I recommend getting some sort of insurance plan through U-Haul. You can purchase the insurance after you pick up the truck at any U-Haul location, but the truck will be subject to inspection. Also, you can choose any protection package and do NOT have to provide proof of insurance to rent most equipment. Consider the possibilities:
Safemove is the basic plan, which is most popular with customers, according to the Web site. It costs $102 and protects cargo, drivers, and passengers. You will be free of responsibility for most accidental damage and harm to your goods from collision, fire, windstorm and overturn of the rental truck. And there’s no deductible on damage. It is subject to exclusions, however. When it comes to cargo, your coverage is for cash value and is also subject to exclusions, and there’s a $100 deductible. You receive up to $25,000 of coverage on a one-way rental and up to $15,000 of coverage on an in-town rental.
When it comes to the people inside the truck, you get up to $1,000 of coverage toward medical bills in case of an accident. And you are covered in the case of a fatality as well – up to $25,000 on lessee loss of life and up to $15,000 on passenger loss of life. It is subject to exclusions.
Safemove Plus offers all the same coverage as the basic insurance with the addition of $1,000,000 in liability coverage. You also get exclusion-free coverage of any accidental damage. It isn’t available everywhere (not at all in Canada, for instance), so ask about it if you’re unsure. It costs $179. Also, you will have to pay the deposit and rental by credit card if you choose this option, according to the Web site.
Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) is the only policy for in-town pick-up trucks and vans. You are free of responsibility after the first $150 of damage. It’s subject to exclusions and offers no increased premiums. If you refuse this option, you must show proof of insurance or you’ll have to leave a higher rental deposit, according to the Web site.
No coverage is an option. But the company repeatedly warns online customers about the fact that most credit cards and auto insurance policies do not cover these rental trucks. And the truck I was renting had an approximate value of $45,000.
U-Haul has more than 15,000 locations in the United States and Canada. There are no trucks older than 5, said a customer service representative on the phone. An online rep wrote that U-Haul has the “newest fleet in the industry” but was unable to offer an actual age.
U-Haul opened in 1945 as a result of the founders’ unmet needs. When Sam Shoen and his wife, Anna Mary Carty Shoen, could only bring the stuff that fit into their car on a move from Los Angeles to Portland, Ore., an idea occurred to them, according to the company Web site. During the drive, they came up with their business plan. Soon after, they began renting out small trailers from a lot in Los Angeles for – get this – $2 per day. Can you even imagine that price? The idea was that you could rent the trailer in one place and drop it off in another, which was a novelty at the time.
Still, the early years were tough. The trailers were rickety and broke down often. The repairs, according to the company’s Web site, would cost more than revenue. Convinced they had a business that would eventually work, the Shoens kept at it and even moved in with Anna’s parents when they were having trouble making ends meet.
They started building the trailers in a sturdier fashion. They slapped orange paint and a U-Haul logo on them, so they also served as moving billboards for the company.
By 1949, U-Haul rental services were available across the United States. Canada was full of U-Hauls by 1955. And the Shoens created the Fleet Owner Program, which was essentially a franchising system. Today, U-Haul claims to be the largest rental fleet in the DIY moving industry, according to its Web site.
U-Haul is attempting to be greener. The good news is that it offers alternative fuel. The bad news is that it’s not available everywhere. E85, the fuel that is offered through U-Haul, is available on the West Coast, mostly in California, wrote an online customer service representative. The rep wrote she had conducted a search to see if it was available anywhere near New Jersey, where my move would begin, and found that it wasn’t available at all on the East Coast. To get an idea of fuel efficiency, the 20-foot truck has an unleaded fuel tank capacity of 40 gallons with 400 miles per fuel tank and 10 miles per gallon.
U-Haul also charges truck renters a $5 environmental protection fee, which is spent on efforts to “reduce the negative impact of our business on future generations,” according to the U-Haul Web site. Specifically, the site goes on to explain that the charge covers things such as “aerodynamic fuel saving truck skirts, the fuel economy gauge, storage re-use centers, and environmentally friendly truck wash soap.”
It helps victims of natural disasters. U-Haul has stepped up to help the victims of natural disasters, such as hurricanes, fires, tornadoes, and the like. It provides them with 30 days of free self-storage and U-Box container moving and self-storage at participating facilities on an as-available basis.
Having been founded by a veteran, U-Haul has a number of offerings for those serving. GIjobs.com ranked U-Haul No. 53 among the top 100 military-friendly employers in 2011. It partners with the Army PaYS program to make jobs available to those from the military. It also supports Veteran’s Day parades and other events honoring former military. And since 2005 it has been a founding partner of Soldier Ride, which has wounded vets cycling across the United States.
After getting through a move between traditional homes, taking off for the moon might not seem nearly as impossible. And the annual mileage of North American U-Haul trucks, trailers, and tow dollies would move a family to the moon and back more than 9.9 times per day, every day of the year, according to the company Web site. So, who am I to say that sometime in the future you won’t be able to actually rent a U-Haul truck and drive to a lunar module in the sky Jetsons-style?
Beware, if you rent a truck with 1/4 tank of gas, and return it with less than a 1/4 tank because a 26-foot truck is not easy to maneuver and it was easier to let U-Haul put in the gas, you will not only have to pay more per gallon, but get charged a $30 surcharge for bringing a truck back with less than a 1/4 tank of gas.
Made life super simple for me.
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