July 9, 2014 in Smart Money

5 moves to cut moving van costs

Do-it-yourself moves are typically stressful, backbreaking and sweaty, but here’s a look at how you can at least box up big savings when renting a moving van.

“If you do all of these things, you will save money — no question about it,” says Dain Howell, associate program manager of moving-van rental firm U-Haul International.

Howell says customers who do a little advanced planning can save time and money when they rent a moving van. “Planning ahead is the most important thing,” he says.

Following are moves consumers can make to get the best deals on moving vans and trailers.

Find the best savings account rates at Bankrate.com.

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Most people lease moving vans on weekends near the end of the month, so rental firms sometimes offer discounts if you can use a truck earlier in the month, on weekdays or both.

“We have much more equipment available during the week, so we have lower rates then,” Howell says.

And the bigger the truck you lease, the higher the rental rate you’ll pay, so you’ll want to carefully estimate how large a vehicle you’ll need.

Most major rental companies have online tools that will calculate what size truck you should rent based on how many household items you plan to move. Rental firms’ websites also usually include packing tips that can show you how to fit as much stuff as possible into each box while minimizing breakage risks.

Howell says customers focused on moving vans often forget to consider trailers, which cost less to rent.

For instance, a 6-by-12-foot U-Haul trailer to move from Manhattan, New York, to Washington, D.C., on Nov. 12 will cost you $166 versus $231 for a 14-foot truck. (How much weight you can carry will vary based on how big a car you use to tow the trailer.)

One caveat: Your automobile will need a permanent tow hitch to pull a trailer.

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Craigslist and some moving-van companies have online ride boards where people moving to the same college or city can connect with one another and share vans.

“If two people can split the cost of one rental instead of having one rental each, that will absolutely be cheaper,” Howell says.

Do-it-yourself movers also should ask rental companies about affinity discounts. Budget Truck Rental offers a particularly extensive set of such breaks, with special discounts for students, military personnel, teachers, police officers, firefighters, AAA and AARP members and more.

Some rental companies even have cross-promotions with firms that offer special deals on goods and services for your move or your new home. For instance, Penske Truck Rental customers can get discounts on everything from hotels to mortgages.

Looking for free or discounted boxes? People planning moves have long asked local grocery stores for leftover boxes, while U-Haul stores have “swap” areas where customers can drop off or pick up used boxes for free. U-Haul also has an online box exchange that lets customers sell or give away packing material they no longer need.

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Rental firms will typically offer you insurance to cover any accident-related damage to the truck, your household goods or any person injured in a mishap, but policies you have for everyday life might already cover you.

Bob Passmore, senior director of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, says some auto, homeowners or renters policies extend coverage at no charge to moving vans you rent. A parent’s policy might even cover a child who’s renting a van to move to college.

However, Passmore says that some policies cover only rental trucks below 10,000 pounds of gross vehicle weight. So, he recommends checking with your insurance agent to see what your policy includes.

If you’re permanently moving out of a house, condo or apartment, you’ll also want to make sure that your homeowners or renters insurance will remain in effect during your move.

Also, check whether your credit card company throws in insurance if you use its card to pay for your rental. Credit cards often include free coverage when you lease a car, but not necessarily when you rent a moving van.

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Van rentals usually give you a set time period to keep the truck, with extra charges for late returns, so you’ll want to keep the vehicle for as short a time as possible.

That means making sure you’ve packed before picking up the van, then getting your stuff unloaded as soon as you arrive at your destination, possibly by temporarily putting things in your new driveway or front yard.

“You might want to unload the truck quickly and take it back rather than having it sit in the front yard while you set up your new house,” U-Haul’s Howell says.”You really want to do as much as possible without the truck.”

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Always clean and refuel your van before returning it, as most rental companies will charge additional fees if you don’t.

“You’d be amazed at what people leave in trucks,” Howell says. “Sometimes it’s really disgusting.”

How clean is clean enough? Howell says a good rule of thumb is to return a van as clean as it was when you picked it up.

Most firms also require you to return the vehicle with the same amount of fuel it came with when it left the lot, usually a full tank. Otherwise, the rental firm will typically add a “refueling fee” and charge you above-market prices to refuel.

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