Moving Questions: How Big a Truck do You Need?

Time to attack another of the questions that plague you when you’re planning to move. Whether you’re moving across town or across the country, a DIY move usually involves renting a truck. But how big a truck should you rent?

Size Matters

Goldilocks knew what she was talking about. You are aiming for “just right” with regards to the truck size. If you get a truck that is “too small” you will end up having to make tough choices on moving day — not the best time to make decisions. If the truck won’t hold all your stuff your choices are usually to leave stuff behind or to get a bigger truck. This increases the cost of the move in both money and lost time. If you’re moving locally you may have the option of making several trips, but since rentals usually charge for mileage and time, your bank account will take a hit. As for deciding to leave things behind, that’s always a tough choice to make on the fly.

On the other side of the equation is the “too big” option. If you pick a truck that’s larger than you need the obvious downside is that you’re paying for more than you need. Large means lower gas mileage, which can add up on a long move as the vehicle consumes fuel at a faster rate. The risk of damage to your belongings also increases. Trucks are designed to be packed tightly so that stuff doesn’t rattle and slide around in the back. If you overestimate the size of the truck needed, there will be gaps between your boxes and furnishings that can lead to scratches, rips, and breaks. Lastly, there’s the inconvenience of size. The larger the truck, the harder it is to maneuver in traffic and find parking along the way, let alone getting into your driveway to load and unload.

What Size Do You Need?

The majority of moving companies will be happy to provide you with guidelines to help you select the right size truck. These will usually take the form of an equation or a size chart. For example, some experts say that you need 150 cubic feet of space for every room in your house. Others will tell you that you can fit a studio apartment in a 10′ truck and will need a 14′ truck for a 1-2 bedroom house, etc.

Remember that these are just guidelines based on averages. If you live in a home with rooms that are bigger or smaller than average you may run into trouble. Likewise, there will be issues if you have a three-bedroom home but also a full-size basement or attic full of stuff. If you live a minimalist lifestyle, your two-bedroom will have considerably less stuff than a hoarder in the same space.

Start by taking an inventory of the big items in your house. Furniture, appliances, shelving units, large artwork or rugs, etc. Then, count the closets in your home. Include measurements whenever possible. A sectional sofa will take more space than a small couch and a double walk-in closet is not the same as a simple box closet. Take that inventory to the rental company and discuss your options.

When you are choosing a truck based on cubic feet, remember that the measurement includes height as well as width and length. How you plan to pack it will make a difference. If the truck you are renting is eight feet high, will you be able to stack boxes and furniture that high to take advantage of all the space? If not, remove a few cubic feet from the truck’s capacity and reassess whether that truck is actually big enough for your needs.

One last rule. More is actually better, as long as it isn’t too big. For example, if you calculate that you need 1000 cubic feet of moving space but the only trucks available are 1100 or 950 it’s better to get the slightly larger truck. It is easier to load with one less layer in height than to be deciding on the street which belongings to abandon.

Take the extra time in the planning stage of your move to figure out how large a truck you need. That way, you can focus on packing and moving with confidence.

Posted in Moving and tagged .