U-Haul is the most recognized name in moving-truck rental. When I needed to move some furniture from Ohio to Pennsylvania, I checked prices and discovered that while the base price was relatively cheap at $40, I would pay around $300 in mileage charges. Appalled at this estimate, I checked prices at Budget (identical), Penske (much higher), and Enterprise (doesn't rent trucks for personal use). I was stuck with U-Haul or Budget, so I chose U-Haul because it had more pickup locations near me. I strongly regret this decision.
I made the reservation and paid my $40 online. After I was charged, I was informed that my reservation times were not guaranteed, and I wouldn't be given a pickup location until the day before the reservation. Let's start with the first problem: my times weren't guaranteed? Isn't that what a reservation is supposed to reserve? I requested 8 hours on a Sunday, and it was entirely possible that I'd be given only 4 hours, or nothing until Monday, or nothing for a week. Thanks, U-Haul, that's a very assuring reservation.
They were supposed to call me by 5 PM on the day before the reservation to tell me where and when to pick it up. I called them earlier that afternoon, but they said they couldn't give me that information yet and that they would definitely call me by 5 PM. Of course, they didn't, so I called at 5:30 and waited on hold for 25 minutes. Thanks, U-Haul, some people only have cellular phones now and these minutes aren't unlimited. I was given a location and a phone number to a local auto mechanic's garage to pick up the truck, but they couldn't tell me the hours of operation, any particular time I should pick it up, or how long I could use the truck. I just guessed, and picked up the truck at 9 AM. The guy there said that I could have it until 7 AM the next day. The first concrete information I received was from a guy who didn't even work for U-Haul.
The truck was a disaster. I wasn't expecting luxury, but I had no idea that it could be this bad. It had one big bench seat that couldn't adjust to a comfortable distance from the pedals, and it ran on diesel. It didn't even have a cassette tape player, so I couldn't use my tape adaptor to listen to music from my laptop. The cigarette lighter didn't actually work, so I had to use battery power. I ended up wearing open-cup headphones (I know this is illegal) and I could barely hear my music over the incredibly loud noise of the engine.
Driving this truck was difficult. Pushing the pedals required a lot of physical effort, and of course it didn't have cruise control, so I had to brace my left foot behind my right while "cruising" to keep my right foot from falling off. Visibility was awful, and the mirrors were no help because their adjustable rods were broken. I had to make a lot of "faith merges."
The truck had a speed governor on it, but it never activated. It wasn't capable of traveling at more than about 70 MPH, and that was only when going downhill. I had trouble getting the engine to push the truck any harder than about 50 MPH when going up slight inclines. And the truck was still empty.
Diesel fuel is an interesting experience. There apparently isn't a standard valve width and design for diesel, so you must endure the wonderful process of pumping gas without automatic-shutoff valves. The gas tank on the truck was literally a big basin with a tube coming out of it and a screw-off cap on the end. That's it. The pump just rested loosely in the tube, and I had to guess when it was full. Knowing that it might inform me that it's full by blasting diesel out of the tube, I pumped very slowly and barely let any spray out.
I was curious about their profits on these trucks. It was a modified Ford F250 from 1990 with 171,000 miles on it. They order giant fleets of these, so they probably had a much better deal than the $17,000 each that these cost in 1990. At the current rate of $0.59 per mile, they've made $100,890 on this truck so far, minus maintenance costs. I don't know what they charged in 1990, but I think a $0.45-per-mile 14-year average is conservative, which would give them $76,950 total. The $40-per-day rental fee probably covers maintenance, administration, and overhead with plenty of room to spare. They don't have to pay for gas or insurance, since customers pay extra for both. If I was the last person to rent this truck before its replacement (which I strongly suggest), they've made over $60,000 on it. And if they spend $29,000 on a 2005 Ford F250 at retail to replace it tomorrow, they've made over $31,000 on one vehicle for doing almost nothing. That's a smart business plan.
My total cost was $343, plus about $90 worth of gas. It was barely worthwhile.