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How to Get Shorted by U-Haul

Summary: Before you rent a truck from U-Haul, you should know how big it really is, not the size that they falsely claim it is. You can either look at the size on the U-Haul website or the link below which highlights the sizes which conflict with U-Haul's claimed size. The normal way to measure a truck is on the floor, from front to back, but this is not what U-Haul does. In fact, I am not sure of how U-Haul measures the truck since the longest measurement of the 26' truck on the U-Haul web page is under 26', perhaps U-Haul rounds up, who cares if you just lost 6" of length. Also, consider that when you pick up the truck, often U-Haul puts in a dolly and packing blankets, which is nice, although expensive, if you need it, but if you don't need them it is just more space which you have lost in the truck. If you remove these items to get more space, you get charged. I am not sure that I would suggest that you get U-Haul to remove them since I am not sure that they will do that, plus unless you get it documented that U-Haul removed them, you will get charged for using the items and losing the items. Often the wheel wells intrude into the box of the truck, which further limits the available space, depending on what you are moving, plus it can also make it harder to pack the truck. Also, make sure you go over the truck and have them note any and all damage to ensure that you don't get charged for previous damage. A digital camera is also a good idea so that you can take pictures from all sides and inside the truck, both the cab and the box.

Now, on to the rest of the story ...

A friend recently moved to another state (due in part to the wonderful state of the economy in California because of Grayout Davis). He reserved a U-Haul truck quite some time in advance, yet had problems getting it on time due to the truck not being returned. If he changed trucks he would have had to pay much more money (typical business practices, if they force you to change plans you get nothing, but you have to pay if need to change anything). As a side note, it turned out the truck he rented had many problems. Power in the cab was only around 11v, which made his inverter beep if he tried to use it. The speedometer/odometer did not work at all, which was fun since the U-Haul at the other end wanted to charge him for excess miles, perhaps that is a typical scheme even though a one-way rental is supposed to include all the miles. Since the truck was defective and the fault was U-Haul, there was nothing that could be done to charge him. A good truck rental company would not have let the truck out like that and would have given him a different truck.

That is not the point of this article though. My friend thought that he had rented a big enough truck for all his stuff, but when he went to put it in the truck he ran out of room. I think he said that he got a 24' truck and based on his calculations it should and would have been enough, had he not gotten shorted by U-Haul. I laughed when he told me that and told him why. U-Haul does not measure the same way as most reasonable people. He told me that he paced off the truck and came up short, but just thought that he made a mistake. How many people have wondered why U-Haul puts "Grandma's Attic" in the boxes of the truck? I am sure that it adds extra cost to the truck box, but they make money from that space. Most normal truck rental companies measure the truck box on the floor of the truck. U-Haul measures it from the ceiling so as to include this space. While many people might think that this is extra free space, it is actually what is used to short them. Obviously, it is not the full height of the box, nor can you use it to put really heavy items. It does allow U-Haul to claim a size different than what you are expecting when you call around at ask prices for a given size truck.

This is not to say that U-Haul is all bad. A U-Haul truck (assuming it is a good shape, which often has not been my experience) is great for a short local move. The daily charges are pretty cheap, but the mileage charges are fairly high (I think the highest I have seen from any truck rental company). This is great for a very short move. Also, U-Haul is a great place to get propane. Their prices tends to be one of the best and they don't have minimum amounts, which can save a lot of money. You get charged for what they put in, which is not always the case with other places.

Addition: I recently called U-Haul in order to get a price of renting a truck in order to move a refrigerator. It is was not a positive experience, to say the least and it does not show U-Haul to be a very good company to deal with. When I asked for the rental rates of a truck that would work, I was asked for my name. Since none of the other companies had asked this, I asked why they needed to know my name in order to tell me the rates. Do they give different rates depending on your name? When I said there was no reason to know my name in order to give me the rates, the person said "I guess you really don't want to rent a truck then" and then hung up on me. Complaining of the rude behaviour to U-Haul did not go anywhere either. At one point I was told that it was company policy to do this (like Radio Shack asking for information when you bought things until they lost enough customers). The bottom line is that it is really hard to complain to U-Haul and in the end the person was correct, I really did not want to rent a truck from U-Haul. I found a cheaper place and also who treats customers MUCH better.

I just looked at the U-Haul web page and it is very funny and seems clear to be false advertising and fraud. The first entry is a "26' Super Mover", but when you look at the measurements I have no idea of why they claim it is 26' since the outside dimensions listed is 25' 6" and the inside listed dimension is 22' 3". This means you are getting shorted by 3' 9", over 14% of the claimed length of the truck. The next truck listed is a 24' truck with an outside dimension of 23' 8" and an inside dimension of 20' 10". With this truck you get shorted by over 13%. The 17' Easy Loading Mover is 16' 6" outside and 14' 1" inside. The 14' Thrifty Mover is 13' 9" outside and 11' 4" inside. The 10' Mini Mover is what they actually claim it to be. The 10' Mini Mover (previous model) is 9' 10" inside. It is clear by the web pages that U-Haul knows the claimed size of truck is not what they claim it to be. At least with the web pages you can see what the true dimensions are, but when you go in you will not be so informed. For an example of the deceptive sizes of their trucks and trailers click here. The inconsistant sizes are marked in red.

Other information regarding U-Haul, specifically regarding safety aspects: Consumers Against U-Haul Negligence (C.A.U.N) Considering the condition of the trucks that I have rented, I am not suprised that in addition to the poor business practices, which amount to fraud in my opinion, that they would also have serious safety issues.

Another site of interest is Don't Use UHaul

I just came across a LA Times article, which is a couple of years old. One part of this series which is really interesting is the ability of U-Haul to "lose" physical evidence (Part 3 Missing evidence).

One thing to consider when thinking of renting from U-Haul is to go and look at their vehicles, specifically the speed limits they impose. For a trailer, most are marked as to not exceed 45 mph. As I recall, the trucks are also limited in speed, which says something about the quality of the products.


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Written: 29-Oct-2003

Updated: 16-Jun-2009

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