Friday, July 17, 2009

Are U Haul Rental Trailers/Companies Safe?


Are U Haul Rental Trailers/Companies Safe?

July 13, 2009 by Mark Polk ·

It seems like every time I turn around I read about an accident involving a rented U Haul trailer. The trailer started swaying and the driver didn’t know what to do, the vehicle was under-rated for the loaded trailer weight, the tire came off while traveling down the highway, or the safety chains weren’t connected. It makes one wonder if U Haul trailers and the companies that rent them are safe. Well, recently I had the opportunity to experience the trailer rental process first hand.


I am using U Haul because they are to trailer rentals what Xerox is to copy machines. I personally don’t know what the U Haul corporate office guidelines are for its satellite companies that actually rent trucks and trailers, but my experience renting a trailer wasn’t very good. I’m sure some rental companies are much more professional and knowledgeable than others are, but the company I rented from has no business renting anything.

I won’t say who or where it was that this happened, we’ll just call it small town USA. Their primary business was automotive repair and I am guessing they got in the rental business to make a quick buck. I hope they are better at repairing vehicles than they are at renting trailers.

I don’t want to say anything derogatory about U Haul in general. I am sure that they have requirements for routine care and maintenance of the equipment, like checking trailers in when they arrive at their final destination, or at least I hope they do. You know what I mean, checking lug nuts, tire pressure, brakes, safety chains, and checking for any damage to the trailer. But the big question is, are these maintenance and safety checks actually being conducted by the rental company that rents the trailers? The trailer I rented had a California license plate. That’s a long way to go without having some type of maintenance performed before it’s rented again!

The story begins when I was helping my sister move recently. Most of her belongings were already moved, but there was still a good 6′ X 12′ trailer load left to move. So I took my truck and a few hitches with different drops and ball sizes that I had lying around and headed to the local U Haul rental center. The first indication of trouble was when I ask the guy, who was sent to help hook the trailer up, what size ball it needed. His reply was I think it’s 2 inches. Knowing I could find the information on the coupler I wanted to see how he would handle the situation when I replied that it’s quite important to actually know the right size ball for the trailer. He said he would need to go ask somebody.

Next I slid a hitch into the receiver with a 6 inch drop. The guy helped me lift the trailer tongue and place the coupler on the ball. It was very obvious that the tongue of the trailer was too low, not even close to being level. The rental guy was tightening the coupler to the ball with little or no concern about the ball height. I stopped him and told him we would need to try a different hitch with less of a drop. I replaced the hitch with one that had a 2 inch drop and it was much more level. I don’t think the rental guy had a clue that the hitch ball height and the amount of tongue weight can contribute to poor handling and/or sway if the trailer is not adjusted and loaded properly. At this point I was beginning to understand why there were so many accidents involving U Haul trailers.

We secured the coupler to the ball and connected the safety chains. The rental guy did offer to help check the lights, but that was it. I mentioned earlier that I didn’t know U Hauls procedure concerning maintenance checks, but nothing else was checked when I picked the trailer up. He didn’t even walk around the trailer to identify any damage to the trailer that already existed. I did notice that damaged areas on the trailer had small stickers with an X identifying the damage, so I walked around the trailer looking for any damage not already identified that I might be accused of causing.

Before leaving the next day I thoroughly checked the trailer out to make sure it was safe for the 550 mile trip.

It was obvious to me that my sister could have gone in to rent a trailer with a vehicle under-rated to tow the weight, the wrong size hitch ball, the wrong height and possibly no lights connected and nothing would be said or done about any of it. That’s a scary thought. So if renting a trailer is in your future do your homework ahead of time, just in case your rental guy isn’t quite up to speed on trailer towing topics.

Watch a short video clip on Towing Safety

Happy Camping,

Mark Polk

RV Education 101

RV University



21 Responses to “Are U Haul Rental Trailers/Companies Safe?”

  1. woof on July 13th, 2009 9:12 am

    You ought to say where the company was that rented you the trailer. Warn some other potential renter that this company is not good. Your hints about checking the trailer, ball, etc were good, but the bad businesses should have some light shone on them.

  2. GreGg Brown on July 13th, 2009 11:13 am

    I rented the largest U-Haul truck available in Rocklin, CA (near Sacramento) to bring our household goods to Brookings, OR, a trip of over 400 miles. We had reserved the truck two weeks prior. When we picked it up, it was filthy dirty, in and out, the winshield was caked with baked on bugs, yet it was a fairly new truck. The guy at the storage/U-Haul rental said he didn’t have time to clean it before we got there. Of course we had to clean the winshield before loading and driving to Brookings. I made the U-Haul guy note the dirty condition. When we got to Brookings, the U-Haul guy there could not believe the condition of the truck!

    I will rent from Budget or Penske (they took over Saturn, maker of my toad) in the future.

    Thanks, now I feel better.

  3. Charles Anderson on July 13th, 2009 11:32 am

    WITH TRAILER OR TRUCK RENTALS ,YOU GET WHAT YOU PAID FOR.Usually the U-Haul co is cheapest,but runs nothing but junk.Of course the other problem is that U-Haul has many more locations to rent from.Here in the Ozark foothills we have several U-Haul agents in this small town,but with my past experance and the nightmares with U-Haul junk,I will to travel 40 miles to rent Penske,who has better equipment and has been maintained to a higher standard.Most u-haul equipment will not pass federal DOT standards and does not belong on the highway.But,then again,this is ONE MAN,S OPINON.

  4. Diane on July 13th, 2009 11:54 am

    When we moved our daughter to Chico, Ca from San Diego County we used a local U-haul trailer. The whole trip she followed us in her car and although she never saw any problems with the trailer, people would pass us pointing to something happening with the trailer. We pulled over a couple of time to check and see if there was a problem, but, we could never figure out what it was. After we got to Chico and unloaded and delivered the trailer to the local U-haul agent (who told us that they should never have rented us that trailer, but was not specific why) did we breathe a sigh of releif that the move was over. We never knew what the problem was, but, I learned my lesson and I will never rent from U-haul again.

  5. Chris O'Rourke on July 13th, 2009 12:30 pm

    Go on U-Haul website and try to rent any trailer using a Ford Explorer as your tow vehicle. You get the following response:

    Towing vehicle: 2009 Ford Explorer
    * U-Haul does not rent behind this tow vehicle.
    Use an alternative towing vehicle (i.e. - U-Haul truck or personal). See a local U-Haul center for details.

    They rent JUNK but will not rent you their JUNK if you drive a Ford Explorer!

    But if you drive a Ford Taurus they will rent you their largest trailer!

    This is why I drive 30 miles one-way to a local rent-all to rent a trailer when I need one.

  6. Rob Robinson on July 13th, 2009 12:59 pm

    More to the point we should be asking if the tow vehicle is safe. The plastic palaces with stick and staple construction should concern us more. The Flounder, Travel Cream and Bago all fall apart when laid over. I think Uhaul makes a better trailer than most RV manufacturers make RVs. If the Uhaul is unsafe it is usually the fault of the tow and not the towed.

  7. Vulpine on July 13th, 2009 1:29 pm

    A very good article, and too true in many cases. Rental agencies for trucks and trailers rarely have the rental as their primary business. I do remember a place in Chattanooga, TN, that was an actual U-Haul-owned operation, and they always kept their trucks and trailers clean. But if you even went a couple miles away to another ‘authorized rental dealer,’ you could tell they only cared about the paperwork and the money, not the service.

    My last experience with U-Haul was terrible. I needed to move and I needed a truck for a full 24-hour day. I reserved a truck for a 1-day local move and when I went in to pick it up at 8am, they told me it had to be returned no more than 6 hours later… at 2pm in the afternoon. When I tried to explain I needed it for 24 hours, they wanted to charge me three times the clearly-marked one-day rental rate.

    I walked out and put a chargeback on the credit card I used to prevent them from hitting me with a penalty fee. I traveled barely a block down the road and got a Budget truck for $10 more than the U-haul, but didn’t have to return it for 24 hours. And they had one available right then.

    On the other hand, when my wife’s grandmother died, the U-haul dealer in that town gave me excellent service on a trailer, showing me everything about the hookup and safety chains and even checking the lights, performing a full walk around with me.

    Really, it all depends on the vendor. Too many are greedy franchise holders who care nothing for the product; it’s not their concern. But others truly pay attention to what they’re doing, and it tends to show in whatever their primary business is.

  8. nushagak on July 13th, 2009 1:36 pm

    I have needed to move quite often. My last move was going to take me some time to load a trailer. There happened to be a utility trailer dealership in the area, so I checked them out. Checked out all they trailers they had for sale, talked with the owner over what my needs were, and what vehicle I had that would be towing the trailer. Mulled this over for quite some time, and decided to purchase. For me this was the best solution with my many moves, cost of purchase versus cost of constant rental, plus being assured I now had a trailer that is under my control for maintenance. Because I always have a place to park this trailer on arrival it was a good move. Obviously not the answer for everyone, but I was pleasantly surprised to find the cost of purchase so low compared to rental. I had considered selling the trailer when I got to my destination, but decided against it. I guess as an RVer I like having my trailer.

  9. GMAs on July 13th, 2009 2:22 pm

    While you may blame U haul for the bad equipment… it really is the people who rent it that abuse and miss use them most of the time. I saw a U haul going down the interstate at over 80 mph… in tow… later we stopped due to the accident… seems the trailer fishtailed and tore off the micky mouse hitch on the honda… and spread it all over the roadway…

    The owner of the car was saying he was going to sue them for the damage their trailer did to his vheicle… when in fact I commented… well going 80 mph is not really what they have in mind… he got real defensive and pissie… so we saddled up and went on… leaving him to his BS

    You get what you pay for.. but most people want to take it to the limits… if it was their own.. would they overload it, travel too fast… etc..

    The kids who are paid peanuts for hooking these things up… are not experts.. matter of fact the last time I rented one… (and no they won’t rent to exploders due to being sued by some idiot no doubt … yet they will hook one up to a ranger truck… which is the same frame and all as the exploder.. go figure) The kid knew nothing about wires, electrical or towing… as he said I only work here to get money to go to school… the amount of training they got was mainly watching others that had been their longer…

    Never the less… you have public trying to pull 6000 lbs with a toy of a car… who were told that it was going to do the job… hardly… so who is at fault… the nut behind the steering wheel most of the time…

    I think the RV and rental industry should have a class that one should take on the correct way to get down the road… but, then again how do you educate a dummy that knows it all… or says they do… grin… So the insurance company takes the hit most of the time… when the accident occurs…

  10. GMAs on July 13th, 2009 2:26 pm

    Now you known why most are opting for the toyhauler kind of trailer RV… its multi purpose… giving it more useage…

  11. Casey Donovan on July 13th, 2009 3:11 pm

    I reserved a U-Haul trailer on their Web site, to be picked up by my friend who was moving from central Florida to our home in the Houston area. The designated agent, who was primarily a rental storage operation, pointed to a trailer, saying “take that one”. My friend hitched the trailer to his truck with no help from the agent, who then said “you’re good to go”. We loaded the trailer, hitched it to my Class C RV, and drove to Texas. After unloading, we turned in the trailer to my local agent, Steve, whom I knew socially. We met his question “where is your paperwork?” with “what paperwork?” The renting agent hadn’t bothered to give my friend a rental contract. Steve outlined the sort of problem I might have had if I’d been stopped by a law officer for any reason, for example to tell me the trailer had two broken clearance lights. U-Haul’s computer showed the trailer to be still in Florida; it could have been considered stolen. The good news: since there was no contract, Steve persuaded his contact that I shouldn’t be charged for the rental. About two weeks later, a charge initiated by the renting agent appeared on my credit card statement. I successfully contested it to the card issuer.

  12. Tom Moore on July 13th, 2009 3:13 pm

    I rented a small U-Haul several years ago. I got home and noticed that one wheel was leaning. Close inspection revealed that the nut on the end of the axle was missing. If I had driven even another block, the trailer would have been on the axle. I had to wait 36 hours for a replacement trailer when a dealer was 3-1/2 miles down the road.
    I will not rent from U-Haul again.

  13. Earl on July 13th, 2009 3:15 pm

    WELCOME TO DUMBDED DOWN AMERICA !!! CYOA

  14. mayorofwoolerton on July 13th, 2009 5:18 pm

    I have had dealing with a few u-haul dealers in both countries after finding no other that could handel a problem. Be it propane fill, trailer wiring or what ever, they have done it profetionaly and corectly every time. When I have been there I have get to see a truck or trailer that is in good shape. Also I remeber a CBC News invetagation last year into u-haul and head office looks to be at falt. I hope they can get there house in order for the many good outlet they have.

  15. Chris Burton on July 13th, 2009 5:50 pm

    I’ve rented from U haul dozens of times in my life, and always found that many of the above comments are true, (well except the one that said Ranger’s and Explorer’s share the same frame, they don’t, Rangers have a perimeter frame, and Explorer’s are unibody construction). It’s my opinion that if you are going to rent a trailer and tow it down the highway, you better darn well know how to hook it up yourself, load it correctly, check the ride height, lights and other equipment, and drive at a safe towing speed. Everyone should keep in mind that the franchise owner at the U-Haul lot has no real skin in the game of your life expectancy on the road. He probably doesn’t care that the tires are under inflated, and you’ve loaded the trailer tail heavy, because he isn’t the one risking his life towing a poorly configured rig.

  16. Richard M. Clark on July 13th, 2009 6:31 pm

    On every uhaul I have rented i had to redo the wheel bearings-tighten them . Most yards didn;t even know haw to check or adjust them. All you have to do is grab the top of the tire and shake. This will show how loose theuy are.

  17. Dan Davis on July 13th, 2009 6:42 pm

    We have a company-owned UHaul nearby, and have almost always been treated well. My one out of the ordinary experience happened in Oregon with a UHaul franchise when we were closing my recently-deceased mother’s house.
    I walked into the office in a driving rain, looking for the biggest covered trailer they had. The agent offered a 6×12 closed trailer. We hooked it up, tested everything, then went inside to take care of the paperwork.
    It was a computerized operation, so he asked me questions about my tow vehicle. When i told him it was a 4wd Yukon XL with an 8.1 liter engine, he stared at the keyboard a few seconds then started to giggle.
    I asked him what was up and he said, “I’m looking for the ‘massive overkill’ button.”

  18. Mike on July 13th, 2009 7:00 pm

    U haul trucks had such a bad reputation in Ontario Canada that the Provincial police started siezing them as unsafe motor vehicles. They had holes in the floors and body parts that you could see the road
    They have started to update the fleet but many are still gettting pulled off the road
    The trailers have also been pulled off, not only are the drivers getting charged but the company as well

  19. JayAre on July 14th, 2009 6:46 am

    Personally I don’t think it is fair to place a blanket categorization on U-Haul as being unsafe. I feel much of the responsibility falls on the individual “driver” renting the equipment. If you don’t know what you’re doing, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it. I think U-Haul has done a very good job of designing equipment that is rugged, dependable and as safe as it can be. You can’t expect someone idiot proof everything. I’m sure you’ve all heard the legend of the person who thought “cruise control” was like “auto pilot” and got up from the drivers seat while the vehicle was zinging down highway. True or not, that level of incompetence / ignorance exists on the American roadway. How many times have you seen a tractor trailer wedged underneath an overpass or in a tunnel because the driver obviously didn’t realize he exceeded the height restrictions for the road he was on. Whose fault is that? The trailer manufacturer? The trailer leasing company? U-Haul franchises are responsible for maintaining the equipment yes but, that doesn’t absolve the individual of any responsibility to inspect it for themselves. If you are driving it, you are the one most responsible. How many people have read the brochures they get when renting a trailer or for that matter, how many people read towing section in their own vehicle owners’ manual? Most if not all U-Haul tow trailer’s Max speed is 45mph. How many people exceed this by more than 25mph? Improperly loaded/over loaded trailers…who loaded them? Come on. And as far as “road worthiness” is concerned, how many personally owned vehicles on the road are “road worthy”? Would your own car or pass a vehicle inspection if given with no advance notice?

  20. Maria Palmisano on July 14th, 2009 2:05 pm

    My name is Maria Palmisano and I work for U-Haul International and can assure you U-Haul standards for maintenance are above any State or Federal requirements. We set these standards high because we wish our customers the safest move possible. Each U-Haul location is required to perform a Ready to Rent inspection on all equipment prior to the next rental. The Ready to Rent inspection consists of specific areas we feel could be a safety issue.
    We need to also consider, as with anything mechanical, when a problem arises, it will be when in use. U-Haul, therefore, provides a toll free number for Road Side Assistance 24/7. Immediate assistance can be obtained at this number.
    We welcome and appreciate customer feedback. This allows us to realize which programs are working or not and which areas need attention. We have a regular program for counseling with our Independent Dealers to give them the benefit of our experience in successful U-Haul service.
    Please contact me at maria_palmisano@uhaul.com if I can be of further help and please forward me the address of the “small town USA” location you rented the trailer from so I can personally follow up on the situation. I want to ensure our customers are receiving the quality of service they have come to expect and deserve from U-Haul.

  21. John Paylor on July 16th, 2009 8:06 pm

    I think you are wrong about needing to know the ball size. U-Haul trailers have a screw-on coupler which seems to adapt to any ball size. You just keep on tightening until it fits the ball. The rental assistant should have noted that the hitch height was wrong, but he no doubt didn’t know you had recievers with other drop distances.

1 comment:

Cecilia said...

After reading so many blogs about the dangers of renting a Uhaul truck, I think that I have been persuaded to use a different service for my moving needs. It scares me to know that this company is telling their customers that their trucks are safe, and are held to high standards, when the majority of their customers are having trouble with their trucks and trailers.
I am moving at the beginning of August, and I will be using a moving pods service from Door to Door. This way- I don't have to worry about pulling a trailer behind my little car! If this move goes well, I will let you all know so you have an alternative to Uhaul!