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Tips for Packing a Moving Truck (2024 Guide)

Author Image Written by Shane Sentelle Updated 05/02/2024

Many people rent trucks rather than hire professional movers to reduce moving costs. It’s an economical option, but it requires you to pack the truck properly so that your items don’t shift and break during the drive. In this guide, we’ll offer tips for packing a moving truck, from loading heavy items safely to filling empty space.

This video from The Home Depot offers some tips on the best way to pack a rented truck for your move.

For a smoother process, take these steps before you start packing your moving truck.

Ensure You Have the Right Size Truck

Confirm your truck is the right size for the amount of stuff you’re moving. A truck that’s too small can result in multiple trips or force you to leave things behind, while a truck that’s too large can lead to wasted space and higher fuel costs.

To determine the right size truck for your move, consider the number of rooms you are moving, the size and quantity of your furniture, and any other large items you’ll be transporting. Most truck rental companies post size guides on their websites.

Gather Necessary Packing Materials

In addition to purchasing materials such as furniture pads, boxes, and packing paper, think through what you’ll need to load and secure your items in the truck. Your future self will thank you for adding lifting straps and a dolly to your truck rental. You will also need tie-down ropes or ratchet straps. If you expect the moving process to take multiple days, consider investing in a padlock to secure the back of the truck.

Take Inventory of Your Belongings

Create a list of your items, including their size, weight, and any special considerations. For instance, you should note which items are delicate or expensive. If you plan to transport anything that moving companies typically won’t move, check with the truck rental company first. Your rental agreement may prohibit transporting certain items, such as hazardous materials or extra-large items.

Label Boxes Clearly

Use a permanent marker to label each box by its contents and the room where it belongs. This will tell you exactly where each box goes when unloading the truck. Additionally, you can use color-coded labels to help you quickly identify which boxes contain fragile items or need to be unpacked first.

Create a Clear Pathway

Before you load the truck, clear a pathway from your home to the truck. This will make carrying items to the truck easier and help prevent accidents or injuries. Remove any obstacles or tripping hazards, and ensure the pathway is well-lit if you’re loading during the evening or early morning.

When You Pack the Moving Truck

A strategic approach to packing will help you avoid unpleasant surprises on your moving day.

Load Heaviest Items First

By loading heavier items first, you can ensure they’re properly secured and won’t shift during transit.

Start by loading appliances and large pieces of furniture like sofas, dressers, and bed frames if you’re bringing them. Place them toward the front of the truck, near the cab, and along the sides.

Once you secure heavy furniture, move on to large but lighter items, such as box springs and headboards. Then, load boxes. Start with the heaviest boxes and stack lighter boxes on top. Avoid stacking heavy boxes on top of fragile items, such as TVs.

Use Furniture Pads and Blankets

To protect your furniture and other large, unboxed items, tightly wrap each piece in furniture pads and blankets. Secure the pads or blankets in place with packing tape or straps. This will help prevent scratches, dents, and other damage during transit.

Secure Items With Straps and Tie Downs

As you load items onto the truck, secure them with straps and tie-downs. Tighten the straps and tie-downs securely, but do not overtighten them, as this can damage fragile items. This will help prevent items from shifting or falling during transit, which can damage your belongings or the truck itself.

Fill Gaps Between Items

Leaving extra room between items makes it possible for things to shift during transit. Stack items tightly to avoid gaps, and fill empty spaces with boxes or packing materials.

After You Pack the Moving Truck

Before hitting the road, ensure your items are secure and the truck is safe to drive. Here are a few tips:

  • Double-check your packing: Make sure everything is packed securely and won’t shift, including the doors and drawers on furniture. Confirm all the straps and tie-downs are tight and that there are no gaps between items.
  • Test the brakes and lights: This includes testing the truck’s headlights, taillights, brake lights, and turn signals. If you notice any issues, report them to the rental truck company.
  • Drive slowly and carefully: Take turns slowly, maintain a safe following distance, and avoid sudden stops or sharp turns. Moving trucks are larger and heavier than most vehicles, making them more difficult to handle on the road.
  • Take breaks as needed: Take breaks every few hours to stretch your legs, grab a snack and drink, or take a quick nap if needed. This is especially important for interstate moves requiring a half-day or more driving when you aren’t using state-to-state movers.
  • Plan your route: Plan your route in advance to avoid traffic, tolls, and other potential obstacles. Use a GPS or map to find your destination’s most efficient and safest route. In addition, be aware of any low bridges, narrow roads, or other hazards along your route.

Importance of Packing a Moving Truck Properly

Properly packing your items on the moving truck can save you time, money, and hassle. Here’s how:

Space maximization: If you have a solid packing plan, you can maximize the space in your moving truck. This can reduce the number of trips you need to make for a local move or allow you to rent a smaller, less expensive vehicle for a long-distance move.
Less risk of damage: When items are packed improperly, they can shift and collide with each other during transit. With the right packing techniques, you can reduce the risk of damage.
Efficient unloading: Properly packed items are easier to unload, saving you time and effort during the move-in process.
Cost savings: By reducing the number of trips you need to make and minimizing the risk of damage to your items, proper packing will help you avoid costly repairs and replacements. You will also save money on fuel and rental truck costs, freeing up space in your moving budget.

Our Conclusion

Renting a U-Haul truck or other vehicle for a DIY move can be a cost-effective alternative to hiring a full-service moving company, but packing it properly is essential to keep your items damagefree. Pack the heaviest items first, tie everything down, and fill any gaps between items. Then, double-check your load, plan your route carefully, and test the truck’s lights and brakes before hitting the road. Finally, drive slowly and carefully and take breaks as needed during the driving portion of your move.

FAQ About Packing a Moving Truck

What do you pack first in a moving truck?

Pack the heaviest items first in a moving truck so that they are on the bottom and towards the front. Then, pack bulky items, such as couches, bed frames, and mattresses. Place these against the walls of the truck to maximize space. Next, pack boxes, starting with the largest and heaviest. You can place them on top of furniture and other large items. Fill gaps with smaller boxes and pack fragile items last to avoid crushing them.

What cannot be packed in a moving truck?

Some items cannot be packed in a moving truck due to safety concerns, legal restrictions, or the potential for damage to the truck or your belongings. Here are a few common examples:

  • Hazardous materials, such as flammable liquids and explosives
  • Perishable items, such as food and plants
  • Irreplaceable items, such as family heirlooms or items with sentimental value

How long does it take to pack a moving truck?

It can take anywhere from a few hours to a full day or longer to pack a moving truck. The exact amount of time will depend on several factors, including how many belongings you have and how well you have prepared. The size of the truck, your level of experience, and how much help you have will also affect how long it takes to pack the moving truck.

What should be the last thing to pack in a moving truck?

The last thing to pack in a moving truck should be fragile items and any essentials you will need immediately upon arrival at your new home. This includes cleaning supplies, toiletries, bedding, linens, a box of clothing, and important documents. 

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