Moving is stressful—and expensive—even when everything goes as planned. And if you’re in an accident with your moving van, not only could your stuff be damaged, but you could be on the hook for repairs with your rental company.
Like rental car companies, services like U-Haul encourage customers to buy company insurance policies for each trip. But what do these policies cover—and are they really necessary?
Is the van protected?
According to U-Haul’s website, many reasons why people skip purchasing rental car insurance don’t apply to moving vans and other large equipment. Even if your credit card covers rentals, or you have collision and comprehensive coverage on your personal auto insurance, they recommend a specific U-Haul policy.
For example, Visa cardholders’ rental benefits exclude all vans not designed to transport people, and American Express’ exclusions include “cargo vans.” Most personal auto policies also exclude vehicles the size of moving vans, though you might have some wiggle room if you’re renting a smaller one; check your policy to be sure.
Keep in mind that if another car collides with your moving van, you may still be on the hook for damages, at least initially. U-Haul will ask for reimbursement upfront, so you may have to negotiate with the other driver’s insurance to get paid yourself.
Buying a policy through U-Haul can take a lot of the guesswork out of your rental, but does it protect you from all van damage? Unfortunately, no. Mechanical damage and damage caused by hitting an overhead object—two common perils for inexperienced van drivers—are excluded under both of U-Haul’s policy options. Cut, blown or damaged tires also aren’t covered.
Is your stuff protected?
If you have homeowners or renters insurance, odds are at least some coverage will apply to your belongings during your move. Most insurance policies protect belongings away from home, but different coverage limits may apply—it’s best to ask your insurance company for specifics.
U-Haul’s insurance might come in handy if your personal property coverage won’t provide enough protection on the road. It offers limits of up to $25,000 for a one-way, out-of-town rental, with a $100 deductible. Remember that U-Haul policies offer compensation for the actual cash value of your items, meaning they’ll pay for you to replace your 5-year-old TV with another 5-year-old TV, not a new one.
However, you may not need additional coverage for one of your most valuable personal items. Even though your car insurance won’t cover your van, it will cover your car if it’s being towed by that van. As long as you have collision or comprehensive insurance, any damages that occur to your car on your way to your new home should be covered.
Are you protected?
Even if the moving van and your personal items are protected, your move could still end up costing more than you bargained for if you’re held personally liable for any damage. Like rental car companies, moving van rental services cover minimum liability with each rental, but for most customers, this isn’t enough.
Luckily, if you have a personal auto policy, your liability limits should still apply to your rental van, even though your collision coverage won’t. If not, or if you don’t have a policy, you can choose U-Haul’s, which provides protection up to $1 million.
What are your options?
Most of the big-name moving van companies—including U-Haul, Penske and Budget—have similar protection plans. In U-Haul’s case, customers can choose Safemove or Safemove Plus. Both include coverage for damage to the rental truck and your personal belongings, as well as medical and life coverage. Safemove Plus also includes driver liability for approximately twice the premium.
The company charges around $14 for Safemove and $28 for Safemove Plus for an in-town rental. Prices are relatively consistent between larger cities, like San Francisco or Chicago, and smaller ones, like Ithaca, New York. Have a longer move? Expect to pay about $42 for Safemove and $86 for Safemove Plus if your drive is around four hours, whether it’s between larger cities or smaller ones.
Penske and Budget allow customers to select from a menu of coverage options, rather than bundling. However, the insurance option alone on a Penske truck is more expensive than buying a package from U-Haul in most cases, and the difference is more pronounced the longer your move.
Take van rental companies seriously when they suggest you buy insurance—when it comes to moving vans, there are major holes in your personal auto coverage, even if you’re fully insured. But you probably don’t need all the bells and whistles, depending on how much coverage you already have.