U-Haul Truck Rentals Suck But They Are The Cheapest Around
Published 4/8/08 (Modified 3/8/11)
A quick visit to a few internet forums and online review sites and it's evident that there is a common shared consensus when it comes to truck rental experiences from the U-Haul moving company - they're all negative. You're be hard pressed to find a company with more pissed off customers that enjoy griping about the company than U-Haul (except maybe Comcast). It's rather hard to come to the defense of a company that has such a consistent history of delivering rickety equipment and bad customer service. Their cranky trucks are woefully under-maintained, driven well into old age, and their rental reservation policies are terribly unreliable. Even the media has targeted the company, accusing it of running an aging fleet of extremely high mileage and ill maintained trucks.
There's only a few positive U-Haul attributes I can point to. Their moving truck rental fees and prices are definitely one of the cheapest around, if not the most inexpensive choice. Also, you don't need to worry about being extra gentle or careful when using their vehicles. The dilapidated and run down condition of their trucks makes it easy for a beginner truck driver to break them in. You don't have to worry about scratching up the vehicle's paint or putting a stray dent in the fender. Even if you were to knock off a rear tail light by accident, who would notice? I'm joking of course - however, every U-Haul truck I've ever driven has always been covered with widespread dents and scratches, and equipped with barely working headlights and questionable dashboard electronics.
My U-Haul Do-It-Yourself Rental and Truck Driving Experiences
While I've never actually ended up upside down or in a traffic accident while driving a U-Haul truck, I've had several close calls and near missed due to faulty steering controls. Despite the mechanical troubles, what got me started with U-Haul originally was simply - affordability. Since college, I've moved frequently - more than six times. As a cash strapped student, I didn't have much money to spend on moving so I had to do it frugally - thus most of my moving operations have been do-it-yourself jobs involving a beat up U-Haul and a small team of cheap labor buddies.
While I had other truck rental options such as Penske or Budget at my disposal, it's hard to deny U-Haul's lower prices. For most people, U-Haul is the only truck renting game in town as the company seems to have franchised locations everywhere. They also don't seem particularly picky about maintaining uniform quality control or appearance among its franchisees. I've rented from U-Haul locations that looked more like abandoned gas stations or junkyard lots than a well oiled business establishment. They say you can't tell a book by its cover - but with U-Haul you can. The appearance of their franchised stores and uncaring staff speak volumes.
The first time I ever made a reservation for a U-Haul truck, I showed up with my reservation paper in hand only to discover that the U-Haul franchisee no longer had my particular truck size on reserve. All they had left was a vehicle one size larger than I had requested. What was the point of making a reservation if they had no intention of honoring it I demanded? They offered to give me the larger rental truck as consolation. Rather than fight it out, I took it. For many, this might have been a great bonus, except in my case, I purposely ordered a smaller U-Haul size model because I did not have that much stuff to move. Ultimately, most of the extra space went to waste and I ended up paying more money for gas. U-Haul trucks are terrible gas guzzlers - the bigger they are, the more they consume. I literally could see the oil gauge creep slowly towards empty whenever I drove.
However, my most harrowing U-Haul renting experience happened during my busy weekend move from Washington D.C. to Baltimore for graduate school. The U-Haul truck I received was an ancient and disgusting mess. Half eaten potato chip packets, along with empty soda and water bottles littered the floor. The seats were dotted with cigarette burns and covered with mysterious grease stains. Not only that, the exterior shell of the vehicle was dented and scratched like it had been through an Iraqi war convoy. The radio and air condition were completely busted, and the side mirrors wobbled precariously and uncontrollably. The vehicle was simply a breakdown or blown tire waiting to happen. The worst part didn't hit until I pulled the clanking U-Haul contraption off the lot. Immediately, I realized the power steering was shot. Without power steering I had to manually use both arms and hands to forcibly guide the steering wheel towards where I wanted to go. It was like trying to steer a bumper car or a go kart - not an easy task. Navigating the narrow and tight turns of local downtown streets was next to impossible but somehow I managed to bring the vehicle there and back in one piece, but not without a lot of sweat. I complained angrily to the manager afterwards but got nothing back except for a simple - "yeah we'll have to look into it and fix that."
The Only Reason Why I've Stuck With U-Haul - They're Cheap
The greatest and perhaps the saddest reason why I've stuck with U-Haul over the years despite my experiences is because they help me save a lot of money on moving costs. I've compared their prices to that offered by their competitors such as Penske, Budget, Ryder, and Hertz, but U-Haul is still the more affordable choice. In the world of do-it-yourself truck rentals, U-haul is still the K-Mart choice. Even though the company sucks, if you want the cheapest of the cheap and don't mind toughing it out, then U-Haul is your obvious death trap, I mean - low priced winner. Now that I'm working and no longer a student though, I can thankfully afford to go elsewhere.