Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2013 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Moving trucks and self storage go together like gin and tonic. As a storage owner, you have tons of options for how to market and offer moving trucks to your renters, and the good news is, there is no right or wrong answer. It all depends on your unique business needs, your tenants’ needs, and your market.

If you’re currently exploring the idea of adding moving trucks to your storage business model, you’re in the right place! This blog post goes over the pros and cons of offering free moving trucks, and the options for buying trucks, leasing, dealing, and more. Let’s jump in!

Assess your market and business model

Like boxes and moving supplies, moving trucks are a great reciprocal item to add to your storage business. But they aren’t right for everyone - your moving trucks’ profitability depends on both your market and your business model. Things like projected growth and housing market trends in your area are important factors to consider, as well as your unique unit mix and current storage offerings.

Before you start crunching the numbers, check out our blog post on how to boost your revenue with moving truck rentals. We go over market research, assessing your business needs, and potential changes you’ll need to make to your business when adding moving truck offerings. It’s a must read!

A moving truck in front of red storage units.

Should you provide a free moving truck?

If you're looking for a way to convert more leads into storage unit rentals, offering a free moving service is a great way to hook more renters. Free moving trucks give you a big competitive advantage without having to discount rent or give away first month’s rent for free – and it still offers a $100 value or more to the new tenant. Through the principle of economies of scale, you can save your customers money without spending much yourself!

Research local moving companies and storage competitors in your area who are offering moving trucks. Figure out what their deals are and if it’s possible for you to match or beat their offerings while maintaining profitability. If you’re working with a dealer like U-Haul, work with them to find the commission rate that works for your market and your business model.

The logistics of buying, leasing, and becoming a dealer or partner

Maybe you're investing in your own company's truck to be a step above your competitors or are simply trying to keep up with the Joneses. Whatever your reasoning, if there's a need for moving truck services in your community, there's no better time to start than the present. Although offering a free moving truck will hopefully drive in rentals on its own, the upfront costs of ownership can be a big barrier to entry for many owners. Purchasing or leasing a vehicle with your own branding isn't your only option. Check out the following options and methods of offering moving trucks and trailers before choosing what’s best for your business’s needs.

Purchasing your own moving trucks

As a storage facility owner, you have a few options when it comes to purchasing moving equipment like trucks and trailers. If you have the capital, you can buy brand new trucks and trailers under warranty from a local business. With a good repair and maintenance warranty, you won't have to worry about maintenance issues and repairs will be covered. However, this peace of mind can cost upwards of $100,000. And as any vehicle owner knows, as miles are put on your vehicles, their resale value will decrease and your maintenance issues will increase. Moving truck companies like U-Haul, Penske, and Budget all sell their used, high-mileage vehicles for reasonable prices. If you find a good deal on used moving equipment that fits your business’s budget, be sure to snag it up!

Before purchasing new or used moving equipment, consider the amount of driving your tenants will use your moving trucks and trailers for. If you only allow local moves (which most facilities do), customers will only be making a 10-20 mile round-trip, averaging about 16,000 miles per year. Be sure to work in the cost of depreciation of the equipment, as well as vehicle insurance, and regular maintenance costs into your business plan. You’ll also want to have a plan in place for more expensive maintenance like engine, door, and floorboard repairs.

Leasing a fleet of moving trucks

Another way to offer moving trucks and trailers is to lease equipment through a dealership. Just like a car or vehicle lease, moving truck and trailer leases provide you with brand new, zero-maintenance equipment at a predetermined annual or monthly fee that you’re locked into for a certain amount of time.

When you lease a truck through a company like On the Move, you can also pay to have your vehicle or trailer to be wrapped with your own marketing material - just like a moving billboard! On the Move claims that this kind of advertisement, just from having your tenants drive your truck from their home to your facility, garners up to 600 impressions per mile and 16 million per year. These companies will also include everything you need to get started with the moving truck process, from rental forms to affordable truck and trailer rental insurance.

Becoming a dealer

Many storage owners offer moving trucks to renters by becoming a dealer through a well known moving company like U-Haul. As a moving truck and trailer dealer, you won’t be able to wrap your trucks with your logo, phone number, or any promotional signage, but you also won’t be responsible for any maintenance or start-up costs. Another plus of being a dealer: your tenants will have the flexibility to rent a truck from your facility and drop it off at a different dealership in another city or state.

When you become a moving truck and trailer dealer, you’ll be required to sign an agreement with the company that owns the equipment. You’ll need to work with their team and their software to manage reservations and drop-offs. In exchange, you’ll receive commissions for each moving truck you rent. Of course, commission is controlled by the company you work with, and can vary in percentage. Many owners express frustration with the commission process (especially in saturated markets where many dealers are present), so be sure to do thorough research on the marketing benefits for your facility and potential profitability vs. the time and energy you’ll be putting into managing trucks and trailers before jumping in.

Partnering with a local moving company

Partnering with a local moving company (just like you would with a national dealer!) can be another great option. Sometimes a local moving company can offer you a better commision rate, customer service, and local brand recognition than a national dealer. You’ll also get a mutually beneficial relationship with a trusted local business, which can be invaluable for a brand-new storage business trying to gain brand recognition in the community.

If you choose to partner with a local moving company, you can also mutually benefit from each other's referrals. Nearly every person moving into your facility will need a moving truck to bring their belongings over, so tenants will already be searching for a trusted source. Your recommendation will build trust between you and your customers and help make their moving process just a little easier.

A dog sitting inside an empty moving truck with a ramp.

Moving truck and trailer sizes, styles, and amenities

After you decide how you’ll be offering moving trucks and trailers to your storage customers, consider what truck and trailer sizes, styles, and amenities you’ll need for your renters’ moving projects. If your primary business is climate-controlled units, be sure to check out temperature-controlled moving vehicles. These high-amenity trucks and vans are becoming increasingly popular in affluent markets with fluctuating temperatures. If you mainly offer large units and are only offering moving trucks and trailers for a short time, be sure to find one big enough that your tenants can fit all of their belongings inside in one trip.

So what's the flipside to offering a larger truck? Many people aren't used to driving oversized vehicles or trailers, and moving vehicle accidents are common. Consider truck and trailer size versus customer driving competence carefully before signing into an equipment purchase, lease, or dealership agreement. Accidents can range from small dings to large, potentially costly problems (think knocked over mailboxes, hitting your facility's entry gate on the way in, backing into one of your units, etc). If you do offer a larger truck, consider requiring a trained employee to drive the vehicle in and out of the facility to prevent damage. You may also feel inclined to provide an educational brochure with oversized truck driving tips.

If you have the staff time and don't want to worry about paperwork, insuring tenants or accidents caused by bad drivers, consider having your manager or another employee exclusively in charge of driving the truck. In this scenario, a staff member would drive the truck to the new tenant's house and back. Then, the tenants will drive their own vehicle to unload their belongings into their unit. Tenants will appreciate not having to fill out the paperwork, and you can take advantage of having someone you know and trust behind the wheel of your investment.

Create best practices for your new service

Just like you’d never rent a new storage customer a dirty unit, you don’t want to hand them the keys to a dirty moving trailer. Be sure to train your staff on the requirements of customer service around the new moving truck and trailer offerings. Don’t forget to go over the following items to ensure the process goes smoothly:

  • Rental insurance
  • Customer service and cleanliness expectations
  • Tracking mileage and customer usage
  • Security and safety expectations
  • Procedures in the event of an accident
  • Repair and maintenance schedules
  • Parking and storage for weather events

Remember: your moving trucks and trailers are now a big part of your renter’s overall experience. By ensuring your moving equipment is kept spotless and in good condition, you’ll make choosing your storage business an easy choice for renters and future customers looking to move their boxes, furniture, and treasured items safely and easily.

Thanks for reading! If you liked this blog post, you may also like: How to boost your revenue with moving truck rentals, 4 niche storage ideas to explore for your new build, and How to prepare your self storage facility for a hurricane.