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Ask Chicagoist: Moving Truck Rentals?

By Thales Exoo in Miscellaneous on Jun 2, 2006 2:53PM

I used to live in New York and Uhaul and Budget were notorious for being dicks. Like you'd reserve a truck far in advance of your move and then the day of your move you'd go to the rental center and there'd be no truck. The horror stories I could tell you, but that's for another time..

So I've lived in Chicago for a few years now and am going to be moving apartments in a few months. I was wondering if Uhaul and Budget are generally known to be reliable here. Or, even better, if you or your readers have any suggestions for independent, cheaper truck rentals.

Wary of Moving

2006_06_askmoving.jpgDearest Wary,

We feel your pain. Short of bludgeoning ourselves, there's not much Chicagoist wouldn't rather do than move. The process of looking for a place, procrastinating packing all our stuff up, finally packing in a hurry in order to ensure most things break, and then finally going through with the actual move in 95-degree heat always seems to make staying in a less-than desirable apartment somewhat worthwhile. And although each time we move we declare, "next time we're hiring movers," it never has managed to work out that way -- we're always lugging boxes. Luckily in the end you have a new space to claim and make your own (or, you can let the boxes stay piled up for months as you swear, "I'm never moving again!" into your vodka lemonade.).

But that's enough about our general disdain for moving. Unless we're moving across state lines (where we've used Penske quite successfully two times), Chicagoist has relied on the trucks, vans, and SUVs of friends and family to get our stuff from the old place to the new place. As a result we don't know too much -- firsthand -- about what specific companies are the best for local moves.

One thing we do know is that the internet is jam-packed with bad reviews of U-Haul and its bad customer service and lack of trucks on move day (there are even entire websites dedicated to warning people about the company). It seems that even though you make a reservation, that doesn't actually guarantee you a truck. So they know how to take the reservation, they just don't know how to hold the reservation -- which is the most important part of the reservation (anybody can just take them).

Interestingly enough, the Better Business Bureau doesn't have too many qualms with U-Haul, allowing them to keep their member status, and stating that all complaints have been either resolved or there has been a good-faith effort to resolve them. They do mention in their report that "many complaints allege unavailability of reserved equipment." On the flip side, some people say that in order to make a successful reservation with U-Haul you have to directly call a local U-Haul dealer, and not reserve via the web or the 800 number.

Regardless, we'd probably stay away from them -- unless some of you have specific good stories, we have never heard anything but bad things. Why risk not having a truck on such a stressful day? Budget, perhaps since it's smaller (relatively), doesn't seem to have too many vocal opponents. The question remains if that's because they really do a good job with their customer service or if there are simply fewer instances of botched moves than with U-Haul.

So what do you do? We really like Angie's List, a website that focuses on rating and reviewing things like local home improvement contractors, plumbers, animal and house sitters, and, of course, movers. It relies on the reviews and opinions of its (paying) members. It costs about $6 to take a look for a month, but we've found it quite valuable in the past and well worth the fee. Or, talk to people who have moved recently. Pretty much any company will have a bad review or twelve, you just need to figure out if those bad reviews apply to your situation. And once you make a reservation, regardless of the company, keep on top of it, get something in writing, and by all means show up on time (early) to pick up the truck. Call the actual branch where you're picking up the truck if you're using a national company.

We did find a couple of independent truck rental companies in Chicago, but we're not sure about their reputation. Hopefully our readers can share some experiences about Elite Truck Rental on Western at Randolph, or Lawrence Super Truck Rental on Wentworth.

If you decide to use movers, be sure to check out the Illinois Movers' and Warehousemen's Association to find out if the mover you are looking at is a licensed mover and to get some general moving tips. The Federal Department of Transportation also has a website, Protect Your Move, where you can research movers to help protect yourself against fraud. They have more good moving tips too.

How about you? What local truck rental or moving company would you recommend to Wary?

Image via harmfulguy

Feeling boxed in? Need some advice? Email ask(at)chicagoist(dot)com.