Who Haul?

I just got back last night from driving 2500 miles in a 14-foot U-Haul, loaded to the brim. For anyone planning to do a cross-country move, let me offer up my thoughts on the matter.

My wife and I struggled for a long time with the question of whether it was worth it to have someone move our stuff for us, or if we should save the movey and do it ourselves. Our first problem is that we had a lot of stuff in Atlanta. We estimate around 750 cubic feet, or about 10 linear feet. It was also very heavy. A large number of the boxes were books, and almost none of the boxes were light. The best estimate we got for a full service mover was about $5000. After paying to ship our stuff from Germany, paying another $5k for the stuff from Atlanta was not an option.

There was a middle option, however, which was very tempting. ABF U-Pack Moving will drive the truck for you, but you have to load it and unload it yourself. The quote we got for our stuff was $2500. Not bad at all. In the end, the deciding factor for us was accessibility of the origin and destination to an 18-wheeler. It just wasn't going to be physically possible to get the truck close enough to load and unload it. U-Pack does have a option called "mobile containers," which would have worked great, but there weren't any available at the time we wanted to move. (For us, it would have been $500 more to ship with the mobile containers.)

In the end, we rented a 14-foot truck from U-Haul. In reality, we should have rented the 17-foot truck, but we figured that the 14-footer would be significantly easier to handle. (I think we were right, by the way.) Our plan is to ship all of the boxes that didn't fit in the truck via Amtrak's Express service. Boxes cost around $0.50-$0.65 per pound to ship, depending on how many pounds are being shipped. The boxes take a week to get there, but for us, that's fine.

I've often heard that U-Haul trucks are dangerous. Having done this trip, I now have mixed feeling on this topic. We overloaded the truck, which was asking for trouble, and we probably drove too fast to boot. Not surprisingly, we had problems. We blew two tires in Arizona. The brakes are shot. The parking brake never worked. But, like I said, we asked for it. Given the abuse we heaped on the truck, I'm pretty impressed that we only had the problems we did. Even with two blown tires, we still made the trip in three days. (The U-Haul emergency roadside service folks were very responsive. We only lost two hours.) I honestly can't complain, but I also can't recommend that anyone else do what we did.

<sidenote>I've always looked down on rental truck drivers. Apparently, so do commercial truck drivers. When we did the same trip two weekends ago with the car, I found the truck drivers to be very courteous. They always gave me wide clearance. They signaled me that I was clear to change lanes. They would always say 'thank you' when I signaled them that it was clear to change lanes. On this trip, the truckers were down-right rude. It was a regular occurance for a truck to cut me off. I almost never got a response when I signaled a trucker that it was ok to change lanes, and only once in the entire trip did a trucker signal me that it was ok to change lanes. Very interesting.</sidenote>

Now that this part of the move is behind us, I have to say that if you can swing it, go with U-Pack or a similar company. We only paid $700 for the U-Haul, about $600 for the gas, and around $100 for hotel rooms, but the stress, strain, and risk involved makes the money we saved seem to be of questionable value. If the truck had been in perfect condition, and we hadn't spent the last 400 miles wondering if we'd even make it home, I would whole-heartedly endorse renting a truck. As is, however, I recommend thinking hard about getting someone else to do the driving. (I still don't see the value in the extra cost to get someone to do the packing as well.)


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