View Full Version : drive a U-haul truck: can I do this easily enough

you with the face
06-21-2003, 08:55 PM
I'm about to move to the DC area to start my first real job (yay!) My idea is to pack up a 14' U-haul truck with all my junk and drive my ass on up there, with my beat up little Dodge in tow. My mother thinks this is a delirious idea. She thinks it will be very hard for me to manuver a truck and a towed car the whole 10 hour trip. But all other alternatives are expensive and/or give me a headache.

I'm pretty confident that I can do this. I'm a safe driver who can handle a variety of traffic situations quite competently. But I've never driven a truck before, let alone towed a car. So there's the inexperience factor at work.

So what do you think? Am I nuts for contemplating this? Any one want to tell me if I'm in over my head?

06-21-2003, 09:04 PM
I moved from MO to VA 10 years ago and hooked up my car to a big Ryder truck. Up until that point, I'd never driven anything larger than a standard sized pick up truck. You can do it. I'd assume most of your trip would be via Interstate?? No problem. However, with a car in tow, I'd suggest driving slightly below the speed limit.

If I can do it, anyone can. :D

06-21-2003, 09:23 PM
I haven't towed a car, but I have driven a 14-foot U-haul a couple of times. Probably the hardest part is pulling out into traffic. A few times in parking lots, I had MrWhatsit get out of the truck and spot for me (and vice versa). Without a spotter, I'd just be extra careful, and also mind your overhead clearance.

Definitely do-able. I thought it was no bigger deal than driving a full-size pickup truck. It takes a little while to get used to the size, but then it's really not that much of a problem.

06-21-2003, 09:32 PM
I drove a 17" U-haul 300 miles last summer. Normally it would have been a 5 hour drive but was about an 8 hour drive; part of that was from stopping to eat when I normally don't. It was my first time driving a U-haul; I didn't have a car in tow, but the truck was an automatic and manuevered well. I just stayed in the right lane.

I don't know if you're familiar with the roads you'll be driving on? I had made the same trip many times in my car so didn't have to worry about where things were.

The one thing to watch out for is if it's a diesel truck, not all gas stations have diesel pumps. I had to fill up at the station across the road from the one I normally stop at.

I didn't bother with a padlock; I pulled up close to the building the night before leaving, and was unloading upon arrival so no big deal.

If you itemize your taxes, moving expenses are deductible.

06-21-2003, 09:33 PM
Umm, I mean moving expenses are deductible if you're moving to start a job.

you with the face
06-21-2003, 09:46 PM
Thanks for the responses, yall. I plan to use your testimonies to make my case to my mama, who thinks this is a crack-headish idea.

neutron star
06-21-2003, 09:49 PM
I rented a U-Haul once. I placed my reservation for a 10-footer well in advance. When I called up to actually get it, though, they said they were out of trucks. I considered making humor of this (a la that Seinfeld episode where he was in the same situation), but instead I got angry and insisted on a truck. They called around and managed to find one for me. Only problem? It was 26 feet long! Damn, was that thing hard to drive!

It was a crosstown move in heavy daytime traffic and I was scared out of my mind. I was driving 25 Mph in a 50 for a while because I couldn't get the damn thing into third gear. Finally I decided to just skip it and go from second to fourth. That seemed to work. It sure wasn't like the stick shifts I'd dealt with in small cars. It was huge. You had to practically throw the stick from one side of the cab to the other to change gears.

That ordeal is not something I would want to to do again. But then, it surely wouldn't have been as bad if I'd been driving on the Interstate.

06-21-2003, 10:18 PM
I've got a um...let's just say not so clean driving record.

The road and myself are not the best of friends.

I managed to drive a 14 footer down to L.A. though, when I helped my friend move with little problems. I think you can handle it.

Good luck! ;)

Mama Tiger
06-21-2003, 10:30 PM
I've rented trucks several times, and can say without a doubt that the cheapest, cleanest, newest, most easily driveable trucks I've found are from Penske. Go through their website (actually, I believe they're owned by Budget, so you may have to go through the Budget website) and you can get a nice discount, too. I recently rented one to drive some of my grandmother's stuff from Texas to Louisiana, and it drove like a dream.

Driving a truck towing a car isn't difficult. These days, all the rental trucks are automatic and use regular gas, not diesel, so finding a place isn't hard to fill up (except in back boondocks West Texas, but that was a problem of geography!). You definitely want to drive slower than you're used to, and you want to really get comfortable with using the side mirrors -- it's very disconcerting to not have a center rear-view mirror at first. And if you can plan your drive for all daylight hours, it will be a LOT easier; darkness just adds one more extra factor than you really need. Also, allow plenty of extra stopping room since you've got a lot more weight to deal with.

Last but not least, if you're planning on driving where there are any hills, you'll want to remember to downshift rather than use your brakes. A full truck towing a car, if you're going on a long downhill (like a mile or so), you can burn out the brakes quickly. Again, it's not that difficult. I drove from Texas to L.A. with a 20-foot truck towing a car, and coming down out of the high desert in a rather startling and rapid downgrade, I had to shift down until I was crawling down the hill at 25 mph. But I made it with no difficulty.

06-21-2003, 10:30 PM
If you're towing a vehicle, a 19-footer is probably the smallest one they'll put you in. I drove one, towing a car, about 800 miles one time. It was an automatic transmission (I suspect they all are now), and it had a governor that wouldn't let me go over 67 mph, which sucked.

The actual driving wasn't too difficult. Be very careful changing lanes, as those things have blind spots big enough for a herd of elephants to sneak up on you. Also do not try to back up anywhere at all for any reason. Not even two feet; you've got two joints between you and the car (assuming you get the same kind of towing dolly I had, which lets the car's back tires roll on the road while the front ones are up on the dolly), and the car can twist around and do major damage to the car's steering. Don't ask how I know this. *ahem* The no backing up thing means you have to be very careful in parking, of course.

That said, it wasn't really that hard. They're a nice smooth ride. Oh, and if I'm allowed to plug a company here (with which I have no connection at all), I found Ryder to be far and away the cheapest truck-rental company.

If you still have doubts, remember: People far, far stupider than you use rental trucks every day. :D

06-21-2003, 10:30 PM
you with the face, one of the cool things about U-Hauls and the like is that they ordinarily have a governor in the engine (on the engine?) that prevents the truck from traveling any faster than, I think, 50 mph. So that's one less thing you need to worry about; you don't have to fret in traffic about going 70-80 mph. You just sit in the right lane at 50 mph or so and you'll be fine.

By the way, if you're moving to this area and need help with the actual unloading and such, start a thread here asking for volunteers. There are plenty of us in the area, and I'm sure some of us would love to help if you need it.

06-21-2003, 10:46 PM
I remember driving a 28 foot (?) UHaul towing a car more than 1,000 miles.

A few thoughts:

1) Your acceleration is very slow. Keep this in mind when starting from stop signs, green lights, going uphill, merging into highway traffic, etc.

2) You are very long. Keep this in mind when turning, changing lanes, merging into traffic, etc.

3) Your deceleration is very slow, even in an emergency. Keep this in mind all the time.

4) No matter how you position the mirrors, and use them regularly there will always be blind spots and some joker will always be in a blind spot.

5) The only drivers who may be considerate of you will be semi drivers, bus drivers and anyone who has done what you are about to do. Assume everyone else is an asshole driver (most times you will be accurate). Defensive driving to the max.

6) Never drive into a place you cannot drive out of that place. Forget any backing up whatsoever. Be prepared to drive around surveying the landscape before entering a gas station to fill it up. If you cannot drive safely in and out without reversing, don't go there. Ever.

7) Corollary to #6. Watch your fuel gauge. Better to fill up often along the way than try to squeeze every last drop of fuel just to save a few cents. You need the buffer.

8) Make sure you have truck lights attached to the back of your car for brakes and turning. Drivers cannot see your truck brake lights / turning signals.

9) Anticipate, anticipate, anticipate. You were probably taught to look ahead while driving. In this case, look way ahead and anticipate.

10) Avoid driving through any metro area during morning or evening rush hour. For your sanity as well as your fellow drivers.

Johnny L.A.
06-21-2003, 11:17 PM
I rented a 12-foot Ryder last December to move some stuff into storage in Washington (state) from L.A. (It's cheaper to store there, and I want to move there eventually.)

My current vehicle is a 1999 Jeep Cherokee. It has more-than-adequate power with its straight-six engine, and it will get up and move. Before that, I had a Porsche 911SC. That one would really move! Go past 4,000 rpm and it's like kicking in the afterburner. And of course, I ride the hell out of my motorcycle which has the best power-to-weight ratio of them all.

So here I am in a smegging truck. First: It's huge compared to what I'm used to, if not compared to trucks others in this thread have rented. Rear visibility is poor. I like to look when I drive, not rely on mirrors. And power was lacking. Really lacking. Even a small hill reduced my speed. Big hills made me crawl along. Traffic was torture owing to the lack of visibility, the lack of accelleration, and the poor maneuverability. (In fairness, I should say that the truck did have adequate power for the mission; it just was not what I was used to.)

But then, I'm a "tactical" driver. I try to get the feel of the machine and match my abilities to it. I was extremely cautious driving this behemoth. Fortunately I was not towing a vehicle.

Duckster gives good advice. You'll have to plan well ahead and keep a weather eye out in traffic. You won't accellerate as well as you're used to, and you sure as hell won't stop as quickly. As Duckster says, "Anticipate, anticipate, anticipate." Remember in Driver's Ed. when they said to do everything smoothly? Smoothness counts in a truck.

And the gas is important as well. I'd get over 20 miles per gallon in the Porsche when I was cruising along at 80 or 90. At 75 in the Cherokee I can usually count on about 18. The bike gets 50 mpg. The Ryder? Eight to ten at 65. I really hated refueling.

I always parked such that I could pull forward instead of backing up. I stayed overnight at a place that had no abutments between the parking spaces. It's much easier to drive forward in an unfamiliar vehicle than to back it up.

I bought the insurance from the rental place. Ordinarily when I rent a car I do not bother. IMO it's a bit of a scam. But the truck was a type of vehicle I had had no experience with, and I was embarking on a 1,300 mile trip. Insurance would provide a piece of mind. It covered everything except the "box". (I guess people have a habit of hitting overhangs.) Before I got to Bakersfield I heard a crack. Semitrailers often throw rocks at other motorists. After a couple hundred miles I noticed the windscreen was cracking low on the driver's side. It was spreading. I reported it to the rental return place in Washington. The guy seemed impressed that I "fessed up" to having damage occur on my trip. Since I had bought the insurance, I avoided having to pay a few hundred bucks for a new windscreen.

06-22-2003, 12:15 AM
You're used to that rear view mirror on your windshield. Forget it, the truck won't have one. You'll probably have 2 mirrors on each side to rely on. Set the flat mirror so that you can just see the side of your truck by turning your head. Don't set it so you have to lean forward or backward to see the side of the truck. Tilt it down enough so you can see where the rear tires hit the ground.

Use the convex mirror to watch what you're towing as you make a turn. You want to avoid rubbing or running over curbs, so make your turns wide. When you're going straight, you'll probably never see the car you're towing.

Making a left turn: Pull STRAIGHT into the intersection until your left shoulder comes even with the yellow line. Then start your turn and stay as far to the right as you can without hitting anything on the right (and constantly check your left convex mirror to make sure you're not clipping someone with what you're towing)

Making a right turn. Pull STRAIGHT into the intersection until your right sholder comes even with the white line on the right side of the road (or the left side of cars parked along the curb). Then start your turn and stay as far to the left as you can without hitting any oncoming traffic (and keep a good eye on that right convex mirror to watch your trailer).

When making any turn don't worry much about driving over any lane marking. It's better to bend a law like that than to cause an accident or property damage.

Don't worry about acceleration. You won't have any. Accept that and stay in the right lane. Be really careful changing lanes. You won't be able to see where the end of your towed vehicle is.

Backing: DON'T. Maybe if you have a spotter who knows how to guide you but it's better if you just don't do it.

Here's a tip that'll save you some money. The rental place will rent you a truck with a full tank of fuel. They want it back with a full tank of fuel. If THEY top it off, they'll charge you some outrageous price per gallon. So be sure to top it off on the way to returning it.

06-22-2003, 03:57 AM
I remember a comedian point to a U-Haul and said, "Beware. These are people who have driven a truck - NEVER."

I always drive carefully when I see one ahead or behind me.

Also, there was a huge scandal and lots of lawsuits a few years ago with these types of trucks that had no brakes, horrible tires and blow outs, and numerous other dangerous factors. Rent it the night before and drive it around, empty of goods, for awhile!

That said, we rented a huge one in our move from LA to Las Vegas. A friend drove it for us and I drove my car behind him the entire way. No problem.

On the other hand, when my parents moved they got twenty miles out of Phoenix on the freeway and the damn thing broke down. They had to wait forever for a replacement (be sure to take a cell phone!!!!!), then they had to move all their crap from one UHaul to the next on the side of a freeway and got no discount when they turned it in.

Your mother isn't that far off the mark with worrying, but hey...life is a crapshoot. Go for it. Drive slowly and safely.

06-22-2003, 09:14 AM
Just in case you haven't heard it enough, do not ever try to back up with the thing. Consider it an emergency-only maneuver. I had a small Ryder with no trailer and I almost took out a light pole with it backing up. Backing up with a trailer is a difficult and confusing thing, screw up and you'll break the hitch.

Here (http://woodalls.com/rvs/advice/rvdrivng.html) is a tip on how to actually back up with a trailer, just in case that emergency comes up. Back up with care. By placing your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel, the trailer will move in the direction you turn your hand. To move the trailer to the right, move your hand to the right. Once the trailer is moving in the proper direction, avoid any sharp movements of the steering wheel. Slowly steer the vehicle into its desired direction. It is also a good idea to have someone outside the vehicle assist the driver in backing up to avoid any obstacles not seen in the mirrors. If another person is not available, the driver should inspect the area behind the vehicle. By evaluating the situation before backing, drivers can avoid surprises and accidents.Know that if you screw up, something will be destroyed, so don't put yourself into a situation where you'll have to back up.

06-22-2003, 09:59 AM
From Duckster

6) Never drive into a place you cannot drive out of that place. Forget any backing up whatsoever. Be prepared to drive around surveying the landscape before entering a gas station to fill it up. If you cannot drive safely in and out without reversing, don't go there. Ever.

I was going to post the same thing, but Duckster beat me too it. You have not driven a truck before, and it sounds like you have not towed before. Think about how you have to back up a vehicle towing something. The short story is that every thing is backwards at first, and then you try to follow the trailer as you back up. This can take a lot of room. And can be confusing as hell if all you have to work with are mirrors (in a pick-up, you can look over your shoulder).


Cheesesteak beat me to it to.

I'd say good advice from every one. Go for it. You will save some money, learn something new, and have an 'adventure' on top of it.

Johnny L.A.
06-22-2003, 10:03 AM
DMark: That's why I rented a Ryder. I'd heard too many people say too many bad things about their U-Haul rental experiences.

06-22-2003, 10:23 AM
Panel trucks have a huge wind cross section, so if it happens to be a windy, gusty day it can get quite tiring having to constantly correct the truck. Driving across Kansas = not fun.

On the Bash U-Haul topic, the one we rented had an exhaust leak into the cabin. There wasn't much risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, though, as the air-conditioning didn't work.

Johnny L.A.
06-22-2003, 10:30 AM
Panel trucks have a huge wind cross section, so if it happens to be a windy, gusty day it can get quite tiring having to constantly correct the truck.
The liveliest weather we've had in a long time happened to be when I was making my trip. There were times when it was raining so hard I could barely see out of the windscreen. Fortunately, the wind was mostly from the front. When it was from the side it was not blowing hard. Unfortunately, trucks have a lot of frontal area. As I mentioned, the truck did not have the power I was used to; and fighting a strong headwind was tiring.

06-22-2003, 10:57 AM
I had bad luck with UHaul too. I reserved a truck via their website and, a week later, hadn't gotten the call telling me I could pick it up. Finally, I called the customer service line for the area and, when I connected, I heard lots of loud rap music blasting and what sounded like a party(!)...I decided to run down and grab a Ryder instead. It was a little more expensive, but the truck worked.

I enjoyed driving the truck, but it's gonna suck to tow without someone to help you. If it's going to be lots of Interstate driving, then it probably won't be so bad, but if you're going to be in lots of city traffic, ye gods it'll suck. My advice would be: find out the major traffic times in the area and don't be there for rush hour or any heavy traffic periods.

Johnny L.A.
06-22-2003, 11:12 AM
A correction. I had reserved a 12-foot truck from Ryder, but I am unfamiliar with truck rental. I didn't know that after reserving online, I still had to phone them to confirm; so I made the online reservation and then just showed up on the day I needed it. They didn't have a 12-foot truck, so I got a 14-footer. And they let me have it for the 10-foot price.

Anyway, it was 14 feet; not 12 feet. (Not that it makes any difference.)

06-22-2003, 11:57 AM
Originally posted by dantheman
you with the face, one of the cool things about U-Hauls and the like is that they ordinarily have a governor in the engine (on the engine?) that prevents the truck from traveling any faster than, I think, 50 mph. So that's one less thing you need to worry about; you don't have to fret in traffic about going 70-80 mph. You just sit in the right lane at 50 mph or so and you'll be fine.

Uhh, nope. I just brought myself, my car, and my things over with a Budget truck, and I'd still be in Arizona if that was the case. I've had the rig up to 80 mph, and there were Penske, and U-haul rigs on the road going just as fast.

Also, I've seen 10 foot trucks pulling vehicles, but a 14 or 15' is generally the recommended size. When I moved from Oregon to New Mexico (1,800 miles), I put my car on a full platform trailer, which was great, but added length to the rig. It was maneuverable for backing up, though I have experience hauling horse trailers, and wouldn't recommend much backing to inexperienced people. My recent move was from New Mexico to California (about 1,000 miles), and I decided to save $100 by renting a tow dolly instead of a full car trailer. It worked OK, but it made me nervous not being able to see my car, and it's also far from ideal for backing up. One of the straps got wrenched loose when I had to back up on an arc at a gas station, and I ended up with a small dent in my car from the wheel fender of the tow dolly hitting it.

If you decide to go for it, just plan your trip very carefully in advance. When you get gas, try to do so at truck stops, which have lots of room so you won't have to back up. Also, allow plenty of time. 10 hours in a car could turn into 12 or 14 in a truck, especially if you'll be going over any hills/mountains. Take it slow, remember to make wide turns, and when in doubt, stay in the right lane.

06-22-2003, 12:00 PM
Oh yeah, I've had good experiences using Ryder/Budget both times. The truck I just rented was a 2002 with only 35,000 miles on it, and ran perfectly.

06-22-2003, 12:22 PM
A note on backing: as has been mentioned, avoid this if possible. However, if you are forced to try it, the advice cited by Cheesesteak neglects to mention the cardinal rule. If your trailer starts to jacknife on you, stop. Pull forward till you're straight. Try again. There's no rush. Trying to un-jacknife yourself by steering sharper and continuing to go backwards will virtually never work. The advice also assumes a single pivot point at the trailer hitch. If you have a dolly that pivots at the hitch and at the car as described by jackelope, you have to reverse the direction of steering in relation to where you want the ass end of your outfit to go again, and it's next to impossible to avoid jacknifing unless you've had a lot of experience. I'll back a regular trailer no problem, and I don't have a ton of experience, but I'd hesitate to try backing with two pivot points behind me. If all this talk worries you, feel free to find an empty parking lot somewhere and back up a short distance a couple times to get a feel for what goes where when you turn the wheel this way or that. Just never, ever forget the cardinal rule.

06-22-2003, 12:35 PM
I had an experience similar to neutron star. I had reserved a 14 footer and when I got there, they only had a 28 footer which they rented to me for the lesser price. The rental center was located in a fairly dense urban area and manuvering the vehicle out of the lot was very intimidating--I remember how much I perspired. I think the rig had at least six speeds--one just for starting.

But I pulled it off without any tangible problems and felt a kind of pride afterward. I guess the lesson is that you may have to be prepared for a larger truck than you originally ordered.

Boyo Jim
06-22-2003, 03:40 PM
I want to throw out one warning about this drive. The last 10-20 miles will be the hardest iif you're actually moving into DC.

If at all possible scout out your arrival location before the trip. If you're tired when you get in, you might want to take a break before unloading. Find a place near your new home where you can park. Figure out the best place to put the truck for unloading. Know where the truch return point is, and get rid of the thing the moment you're able to.

A truck like that on big cty streets is ten times the hassle it is on the highway.

06-22-2003, 04:11 PM
Shame you have a lot of junk, or you could just rent a pickup from Enterprise to tow the car. It'd be a heck of a lot easier.

06-22-2003, 07:22 PM
I just did this two months ago. It was a breeze. Of course, I drove straight from Charleston, SC to Baltimore (566 miles) and only stopped for gas, food, and to check on my cats, who were in my sister's car. I would recommend having someone follow you if you're nervous about it. I was petrified, but somehow knowing that my sister was following me made me feel better.

I had a 15 foot truck, and I towed my car behind it. The biggest thing I had ever driven before was a small moving truck, and I had never towed anything before in my life. Follow all the suggestions given here. The biggest thing to me was to make sure I used the truck gas stations. They have the bigger bays, which made me a lot less nervous about getting in and out. Also, I put a post-it note on the dash which told me which side the gas tank was on. Made things a lot easier in the long run.

Good luck! If I can do it, being the big chicken that I am, you can, too!

06-22-2003, 07:28 PM
Oh yeah. I used a tow dolly. Much cheaper, but you have to be careful. I used Budget, and they don't put your car on the dolly. You have to do it yourself. But the guy taught me how to do it, and by the end of the journey, I was a pro.

And, most tow things now won't allow you to back up. They are on a swivel base, so you have to drive around instead of turning around. I recommend this over backing up, anyways. Much, much easier!

06-22-2003, 09:49 PM
Originally posted by fizgig
Uhh, nope. I just brought myself, my car, and my things over with a Budget truck, and I'd still be in Arizona if that was the case. I've had the rig up to 80 mph, and there were Penske, and U-haul rigs on the road going just as fast.

If you read my post, you'll notice I said "ordinarily." Thus "Uhh, nope" is an incorrect answer.

Governors are put on engines to prevent the renter from placing unnecessary stress on the engine, such as driving 80 mph or higher.

If you didn't have such a gadget on your particular truck's engine, then good for you. This does not mean it is true for every truck by every manufacturer.

06-23-2003, 01:33 AM
I think I hold the thread record; 3300 miles from Greenwich, CT to Seattle, WA in six days.

My 20-footer was towing a Honda Civic on a trailer, not a dolly. I think I got it up to 65 downhill with a tailwind in Montana. The truck was U-Haul, an Isuzu diesel cabover without AC or cruise control. I stayed in the smallest towns along the highway that I could find, as they involved less driving around.

I was driving with my girlfriend (it was her stuff) so I had a spotter. A spotter for your right side is pretty handy.

It's said that if you can drive for a week with your beloved, you have a strong relationship. She nearly left me forever the only time I tried to help her back up the truck. Never, never, never back up the truck when the dolly is attached. Never detach the dolly. Can you see where we're going here ?

If you can scout your arrival location, do so. I can't imagine trying to pull into my current neighborhood with such a rig, but I knew where the long parking zones were.

Trucks will be far more expensive than you realize; count on $1 per mile.

Best Topics: a spook secret asian subversive movies pampered chef thermometer 2 million candlepower hasidic curls 26.2 bumper sticker translate la cucaracha monster mash cartoons public dumster touching clits caliper mounting bracket cartoon factory music is first hand hyphenated why is berkeley called cal most valuable rolling stone magazines seafarers of catan 3rd edition how does the fabric softener dispenser work was r budd dwyer innocent will lysol kill mold and mildew how deadly is a .22 lowes top choice lumber sample reference letter for teacher from parent megalodon compared to a blue whale