U-Haul Sucks

Given the great success of my Hotmail sucks blog entry (number four in google at the time of this writing), I thought I’d take a stab at U-Haul. My writing doesn’t appear to have had a huge impact on Microsoft, but maybe I can start a movement with U-Haul. (Query whether blogs can help fix market dysfunction).

My experience with U-Haul has been bad. I don’t quite understand how they can continue to exist as a company.

I needed to rent a small truck for a day to move a couch a couple of months ago. I only needed it for a Saturday, and U-Haul was the only option that would let me do a one-day rental on the weekend and return the truck in a fairly convenient location. (For a rental starting on a weekday, I recommend Penske, which has never caused me any problems.)

The first thing I discovered is that you can’t actually “reserve” a truck with U-Haul. Instead, you “request” a truck. Although the email confirmation comes from “reservations@uhaul.com” it includes the following disclaimer:

Your pickup location is a PREFERENCE ONLY. The U-Haul regional office for LYNN, MA is now in charge of your reservation. They will call you by 5PM on the day prior to your pickup date to schedule your exact pickup location and time. To change or cancel your reservation, please contact us no later than the day prior to your pickup date. Our phone number is (800)344-2212. Reservations cancelled on the day of pickup are subject to a $50 cancellation fee.

So they won’t guarantee you any pickup location, but they will charge you a $50 day fee if you decide the location they pick for you doesn’t work. What if airlines worked this way? “We’re sorry, your ticket to leave from Boston was only a request; your flight is actually going to take off from Providence.”

It strikes me as terrifically poor logistics that they can’t figure out which trucks will be at which locations until the end of the day prior to the rental. I’ve heard stories of people thinking they had a secure reservation on U-Haul and in fact ending up with nothing at all the day they needed to move. I suggest that if U-Haul (1) shouldn’t allow people to reserve trucks it doesn’t have and (2) should be willing to drive trucks where they need to go the night before if they figure out they don’t have the trucks at the correct location. Others have complained similary about U-Haul’s lack of dependability in this area.

As a side note, their price scheme is screwy: it’s cheaper to do a one day one-way rental across a 20 mile area rather than a one day round-trip “in city” rental. Someone at the pickup location told me that this was because they had recently raised their round-trip prices but the one-way prices hadn’t caught up. I suppose this wasn’t a big problem for me, but it does encourage irrational behavior (choosing different pick up and drop off locations) and reflects poorly on U-Haul’s corporate intelligence.

The day before the rental, I got a call telling me I could pick the truck up, and they gave me an address. A while later, I checked the address on Mapquest, and it was nowhere to be found. So I used the caller ID memory on my cell phone and called the place back to ask them exactly where they were. It turns out they were not in Lynn, but in Lowell, which would have been about an hour out of my way (for a 15 mile rental!).

I called back the national office and they were a little confused about the difference between Lynn and Lowell, but ended up switching me to a pickup location in Lynn. (The pickup location I had originally requested in Lynn apparently doesn’t exist at all).

In any case, we got the truck, which was in shoddy condition—poor shocks, dirty cab area, and a non-adjustable radio (no cassette or CD, of course). In fact, after I tried changing the channel on the radio too much, it turned off entirely and refused to turn back on.

At the end of the day, I went to return the truck at the destination location, which was supposed to be a Texaco in Roslindale. As it turns out, there was no Texaco in Roslindale. I called the national phone number, and they were rude and unhelpful. They kept insisting that the truck needed to be returned to the Texaco in Roslindale. They also told me that there would be a fee for dropping off the truck after 5pm, so instead I should wait until the next morning so I wouldn’t have to pay the fee. (So, I return the truck later, and pay less?)

The next day I discovered the gas station, which was no longer a Texaco, where the truck was supposed to be returned. I didn’t bring my contract with me, as I assumed these days everything is computerized. When do you actually need physical pieces of paper anymore?

The drop-off location would not, in fact, accept the truck without the contract, and said I would have to go to a location about 5 miles away if I didn’t have the contract, because they had no computer at their location. Huh?

So I went home and got the contract, returned the truck, and thought that was the end of the sad sad story.

Skip forward a couple of months. I just notice an additional $150 charge from U-Haul on my most recent credit card bill, charged from a U-Haul store in Somerville exactly a week ago. I haven’t set foot (or car) in Somerville for months, so I was sure it was a mistake, maybe someone gave the wrong credit card number to the Somerville U-Haul or they made a typo.

So I called the Somerville U-Haul. They told me they couldn’t help me; I would have to call an 800 number. I called the 800 number, and they told me that number was for emergencies only and gave me another 800 number to call. I called that number and they told me “they only deal with trucks” and I would have to call my regional 800 number. So I called my regional 800 number and they asked me what my reservation number was. I told them I didn’t have a reservation number, I had a billing complaint. So they told me to call the national something number. I called that number and they told me I had to call the Somerville U-Haul.

At this point, I told them I had just called five numbers, and they were trying to send me back where I started.

Finally, they agreed to hear my issue. I explained that I had a charge on my credit card from one week ago from the Somerville U-Haul, where I had never set foot in my life. They brought up some records on their computer system, and insisted that what had happened was that I had rented the truck two months ago and kept it until last week, at which time I had returned it to the Somerville U-Haul.

I explained to them that I had actually returned the truck less than 24 hours after I rented it, to the Roslindale “Texaco.” The person on the other insisted (1) that my one way rental was from Lynn to Somerville, not Roslindale, and (2) that I had kept the truck for two months. She also insisted that the only way to resolve this was to call the Somerville U-Haul, where I had started. She was absolutely convinced that there was no way the computer could be wrong. (Wouldn’t you think they might have asked for their truck back if I had kept it an extra two months without asking?)

After a few more rounds of the same conversation, she finally put me on hold to talk with her supervisor. A few minutes later, she returned and said that “the computer had crashed” in Roslindale and they had lost all the information. There was a note that someone was supposed to call me about this more recent charge, but apparently no one had. She told me she would fix it, and within a week the credit card would be refunded.

It’s hard for me to believe that this operation survives at all. There must be other people who were also in the “computer that crashed” who were charged for returning vehicles two months late that they had actually returned on time. It didn’t sound like U-Haul was going to do anything to try to locate those people; instead it was just going to wait and see if they would complain.

If anybody reading this has any connections with management at U-Haul, I’d suggest you pass this blog entry on to them. Although some of the problems I experienced may have been anomalies, many of these issues are clearly systemic. If U-Haul ever stops sucking, I will at that point correct this entry.

(finally, I am perhaps not the first person to think of this. We have out there uhaul-sucks.com, “UHaul Sucks”, dontuseuhaul.com, etc..). In fact, I think U-Haul maybe even knows it sucks, since it owns uhaulsucks.com—I was going to link to the whois information for uhaulsucks.com, but all of the whois servers now apparently require you to type in the numbers in a graphic image first).

(update: #6 in google at this time)

Updates 1/22/05: whois information for uhaulsucks.com without captcha, thanks to Benjamin Carrell; #7 in google for ‘uhaul sucks’—and, amazingly, #8 in google for ‘u-haul’, #7 in yahoo for ‘u-haul’. See also this more recent discussion.


  1. TJM Oct 4

    I agree not to use U-Haul or work for them. I was a general manager in New York State. They do promise bonus but it is so hard to get and they find every way not to pay. They reduce staff but want you to do more and then ask when you are the only one working and you have a truck to get, a trailer to hook up and pump propane, how come the phone is not getting answered. They work their managers hard, put them on salary and have them work 60 hrs plus. U-Haul appears to be having financial problems, the marketing company I worked for ‘laid” off 8 people in two days and shifted managers around reducing pay. But actually seeing how it works from the inside no wonder they are having problems. Instead of investing the money where it belongs in the staffing of centers it appears that the top people in the company want to keep ahold of their share and not let it filter down…gee much like other companies I guess.

  2. dcm Nov 21

    I agree with you TJM, currently I am a Uhaul GM and payroll budget at my center is down so much that I am working an average of 50 hours a week by myself, by the way I am still installing hitches, leveling all the rental equipment, pumping propane,cleaning storage and handling all customer service. I have enough payroll to bring a single employee in to close from 5pm to 7pm Monday thru Thursday every week, and Friday and Saturday I have to work midday from 10am to 4pm alone again, I do get Sunday off if no one calls in but I suffer the next week for having 2 employees there for the 8 hours that the store is open. By the way, the store is open for 81 hours a week, which leaves 31 hours of employee hours with a payroll budget of less then $435 per week and with 3 employees that give each one about $145 per week.
    Oh and By the way, My store is not in the nicest of neighborhoods and no one should be in it by them selves, even during the day.
    Enough with what sounds like complaining,,, Because I am not, I love the customers and the help I am able to provide them. My point is that, Yes I feel every day like a whipped puppy and that I know that I will get as little support as possible from my MCO. But my customers are exactly that, “MY CUSTOMERS” and it is my personel goal to make everyones exsperience with myself and my crew an exceptional one. My hands are tied when it comes to the quallity of equipment and the speed of service that my customers get, and the single most common complaint that I do recieve is that the store is understaffed but I do make do with what I have and so does my crew.
    So my point is to everyone that has made comments above. Please do not blame the employees at your local Uhaul center, they are working with their hands bound, the majority of them just want to make sure that every customer leaves happy.

  3. Steve Dibble Dec 5

    This was not a good Uhaul experience. They initially were going to send me all the way across the city in morning rush hour traffic to pick up the truck (to be picked up at a real estate office no less) instead of letting me get a truck at a large well staffed center 10 minutes from my house. This even though I made my reservation days in advance. It took several phone calls and a lot of wasted time until they finally let me get a truck closer to my house.

    I should not have to fight for what should be common sense service.

    And the truck was terrible. I have driven many mid to small size moving trucks over the years and this one bordered on unsafe. It sounded like it had an exhaust leak and was extremely noisy in the cab. The front end and shocks were worn out, had a bad shimmy at 50 mph and it felt very unstable.

    Of course this was a one way move and there was no time to go back and get a different truck. Uhaul is well aware that the truck renters options are limited due to time so they pass off these junk trucks on longer distance movers who will have no choice but to make due.

    From Alabama to Florida, 2 days drive. Thanks Uhaul for a miserable driving experience. I will go out of my way to never use them again!

  4. Mark Dec 30

    you’re an idiot. If you knew how Uhaul worked, how their scheduling worked, you would not have written such a stupid and pointless blog. I’ve been in upper management with uhaul for 15+ years and never have I read or heard what you went thru. As a matter of fact, I researched your “claim” and didn’t come up with anything. Your blog is a complete lie!


  5. keep on truckin Feb 14

    I currently work for a u haul and I would like to first and foremost apologize for any problems anyone has had. One thing you do need to keep in mind is that when you are renting a truck it is a vehicle, just like your own car, you don’t know when your car is going to break down right? I know he have some shaky equipment and it can be a burden at times, but it is something that our center is trying to work on out in California. We have a highly knowledgeable staff and they know when a truck is unsafe. I can’t speak for all locations, but we take a lot of pride in our work and in our equipment. With the economy in the dumps the way it is now, it’s had for everyone to keep their heads above water. The “hidden fee’s” in which i keep seeing reference to are just not there! Ever one of the trucks you see does say plus millage on the side, I understand it’s small but that’s why it is called small print, and it is a part of life. The fueling charges that are charged are on your contract. At our center we go over the entire contract with you, but regardless if all centers do that, you are signing a legal document. Try renting a car and not bringing it back with the same amount of fuel that it leaves with, they will charge you for it and when you complain, they will tell you it is on your contract and you signed it. All of our trucks have a decal on the inside of the box stating that the truck must be returned swept out with pads folded or there is a minimum of a $25 dollar fee. That is pretty self explanatory, return it how it was rented to you, that’s all we ask. The reason the insurance doesn’t cover overhead damage is due to customer negligence, 9 times out of 10, its from a customer not paying attention to the clearance on the truck (It is marked on all U haul vehicles, and can be read through the side mirrors on the truck)they try to take the trucks through drive-thrus or parking garages, they don’t fit. As far as the few posts I have seen about not being able to have the truck for 24 hours, there is NO WHERE on our web site or in our centers that say 24 hour rental, guaranteed. We usually give 4-6 hours per rental, the reason being if you are all packed and ready to load the truck, you won’t need it for more then 6 hours. What we have found people doing, is renting the truck, going home and packing their things, then loading the truck, driving to the new house, unload the truck and all of their boxes then bring the truck back. This being the case, on thing everyone can do to eliminate these kindsof problems is to pack up your house ahead of time, then you just have to get the truck load it and get to the new house. Then once the truck is unloaded return it, you will find that doing so will only take you between 4and6 hours. Please keep in mind that those of us who work for the company don’t make the policies, but we are required to enforce them, just as any business is required to enforce the policies that their corporate office had created and implemented. We, as employees, understand that moving is stressful, and would like to help in anyway we can within our power, but please remember that we are real people with feelings, we get yelled at on a daily basis about policies that we did not come up with. Please remember that the next time you go into a U-haul and start making a fuss from the get go. Thank You for listening!

  6. TERRENCE Aug 7


  7. unknown Oct 13

    i too called uhaul a week ahead & payed for it in full , told them id be there on so & so day guess what it wasnt ready then got run over by the workers and got hurt very badly and want to doctors and doctors im still un abel to work& told uhaul about it when it happend guess what they say it never happend at all they got their money from so they dont care

  8. Trademark Search Services Nov 1

    I used U haul for moving in SF area, and didn’t have any issues. My main complaint were the number of workers that wouldn’t leave me alone about hiring them to help with moving.

  9. Hog Whitman Feb 7

    I got the truck (finally) two hours later than my reservation. I had hired help there waiting, so I had to pay them for the extra two hours. Then, on the way back to turn the truck in, I stopped at the gas station closest to the U-Haul location (about a mile away) and told the guy to fill it up. It cost me $34.91 to go 22 miles. I called today and asked if I could get a little rebate on the gas because it obviously didn’t burn that much gas to go that far. The tank wasn’t full when I got it is the only conclusion that I can draw.

    The district ‘manager’, a certain “Dean Mabe” told me that I had already ‘admitted’ to telling the gas jockey to fill it up. ‘Admitted’? I didn’t realize that I was being questioned in court, or something. I just told him what happened.

    Since this “Dean Mabe” wasn’t willing to deal fairly on that point, I asked if it was ok if I came down and siphoned MY extra gas out of the truck, but he would have none of that. I’m a disabled senior citizen on a very limited income, and every dollar counts for me.

    So now I’m out about $60.00 for the extra gas and the labor waiting around for U-Haul to get their act together.

    My question is this: How did this “Dean Mabe” get to be a ‘district manager’, and for that matter, who promoted him to that position? I’d take a peek at that person too.

    See you in court,

    Dennis Hogue

    P.S. Hi, Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul!

    P.P.S. Did I forget to mention Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul! Dean Mabe, District Manager for Uhaul!

    P.P.P.S. Just checking.

  10. Bill Aug 24

    My daughter recently got the, “sorry your truck isn’t available for tomorrow at the location you requested but you can pick it up 25 miles away.”

    This just plain sucks and really points to the fact that these people are nothing more than whores in the truck rental business.

    Next time try Penske. They can be a little more expensive but the equipment is great and well maintained and will be available where and when you want it. They are by no mean perfect but they bust their asses to fix customer issues.

  11. Lauren Sep 28

    I work for Uhaul unfortunately. It is well below my pay grade and education level to do so, but it works for my schedule and family. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to work for a place that does not adequately train their employees and basically tells you to be as vague and unhelpful to customers as possible. I don’t know why they don’t just use recordings; that’s what they want their employees to be. Anyway, I can see internally all the reasons why things work the way they do and I want you to know that not everyone who works there wants to go along with how terrible it is. I genuinely try to help people every day and have done a fair job going the extra mile to make it work for people like you, but that’s more than I can say for about 90% of the employees there. Unfortunately, Penske and Budget are really no better. Uhaul just happens to have the monopoly on self-move and probably won’t do much to make it better, despite that being preached as their number one goal. Imagine how fun it is for us to deal with all the problems, be told they want to make it better and be trained to not help at all. Excuse me while I go bang my head against a brick wall…

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