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Hidden Charges When Renting a Moving Truck

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Like any other company that operates with the intention of turning a profit, rental truck companies want you to believe that renting a moving truck is inexpensive and easy. That's why every time you pass a truck or van from U-Haul, Penske or Budget on the highway, you'll see something like "Rentals starting at ONLY $19.95" advertised on the back of the truck. Of course, these rentals do start at only $19.95, but it's rare that you'll actually pay that little, unless you plan on renting the truck for 10 minutes.

The way that these rental companies recoup their costs is by adding on a lot of little "hidden" charges and fees, which are not very hidden if you know where to look. Read on to find out some of the more common hidden charges you'll come across when renting a truck and how to avoid them.

What are the hidden charges?

Hidden charges don't have to necessarily mean "surprise" charges, especially if you familiarize yourself with some of the more common ones rental truck companies tend to hit you with. The more prepared you are for these charges beforehand, the less of a surprise it will be when it comes time to pay.
  • Extra charges for renting during a peak time. As with moving companies, truck rental companies also have peak times when their prices rise. For example, it will cost you more to rent a truck on the weekends, at the end of the month, around holiday weekends and in the summer. Rental companies can charge customers more during these times because the demand for trucks is higher.

  • Don't forget about paying for gas. One of the things rental companies don't advertise when they tout their low rates is the gas you'll have to pay for. You'll have to return the truck with the same amount of gas that was in the tank when you rented, and filling up the tank in rental truck isn't cheap, so make sure to fact that cost into your budget when you think about renting.

  • Your mileage matters. As with the gas charges, you'll also be charged a flat rate per mile for driving the truck. If you are making a short local move, you'll pay less than you would if you were to rent the truck to drive several hundred miles. These mileage fees can add up pretty quickly-- be mindful of this when planning your move.

  • Beware of "cost recovery fees." Depending on where you rent your truck, different companies may add their own fees. One such fee is a "cost recovery" that can be tacked on to your final bill when you return the truck. These fees are not often advertised before renting the truck, so inquire with the rental company about any possible charges before you decide to rent.

Saving money on your truck rental

Just because rental truck companies will hit you with hidden charges and extra fees doesn't mean you can't plan accordingly and avoid them to the best of your ability. Here are some tips on how to save money when you rent a truck and what to look for in order to get the best deal possible:
  • Know when to reserve your truck. You can save a lot of money on renting a truck if you know when to rent. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your move, you may not have the option of being flexible with your moving dates. However, try to rent your truck during the week, in the middle of the month. Also, avoid renting during the peak summer months, which typically extend from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

  • Compare prices from several different rental companies in your area. Rental truck prices can fluctuate just as frequently as prices for airline tickets, so your best bet to avoid paying too much is to compare prices from as many different companies as possible. It's common to have prices that differ by as much as $150-200 from one company to the next, so compare quotes and pick the one that fits best with your moving budget.

  • Be flexible with your dates. Having flexibility with your moving dates will benefit you greatly when it comes time to reserve a moving truck. By changing a few of the dates around, you can find prices that are often significantly cheaper, much like you would if you were searching for plane tickets online.

  • Play around with different combinations of pick-up/drop-off locations. A little-known trick that many people miss out on is choosing different pick-up/drop-off locations for your rental truck. This trick won't apply to short distance local moves, but it can benefit bigger moves where you'll be traveling more. Sometimes, you'll find that a certain rental location one town over from the city you're moving to is in need of inventory in their lot and your price will be cheaper if you choose to drop your truck off at that location.

Robert Moreschi  Posted by Robert Moreschi on January 9, 2014

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