Danny, Sandy, and Ryan helped us pack the truck and we left
Georgia towing our little Taurus with a car dolly.
The trip was long (1600 miles) and hard. If you are considering a similar move, here is some advice.
My advice to you (advice I will follow if I move again) is this:
Loading the truck takes a lot longer than unloading. We had a very simple move - very little furniture and only two big heavy things. I expected to load in one day. Even with the help of some good friends, it took two.
We had a breakdown along the way which, even though it was minor, delayed us about 5 hours.
Everything takes longer with a big truck, especially when towing something. It takes longer to get in, get out, start, stop, turn, merge, climb hills, and all the rest. Often we tried several exits before we found a place we could park for a meal or to spend the night. To buy gas, we used truck-stops when available but once we settled for a gas station with a sign that said they had diesel. We didn't need diesel but guessed they had room for big trucks. They didn't and we arrived there at the same time as a school bus and a big rig that both had trouble getting in and out and blocked us until they were finished. It took about an hour to buy gas that time.
If I had been more careful I would not have accepted the truck. I just took it and drove off and over the next week discovered the following:
These are all things I could have asked the renter to check before I went there and/or noticed myself if I had looked carefully.
- Left rear wheel hub was spraying differential fluid and had to be repaired before the trip.
- There was no lighter socket (couldn't keep my cell phone charged).
- The air conditioner did not work at all.
- The radiator was about a gallon low on water.
- The oil was two quarts low.
- The gas tank was not full (by about 30 gallons) but the rental contract said it was.
- The rear tires were dried and cracked and almost bald.
- The stack of 24 blankets contained only 23.
A tow-dolly is one of those cute little trailers that carries the front wheels of your car and lets it ride on its own back wheels. It seemed like a good idea to me especially considering that a full trailer that carries the entire car was about twice the cost. Here's why the tow-dolly is a bad idea:
You can be sure that next time I'll rent a trailer that holds the entire car and it will be cheaper and better overall.
- You can't back up. Maybe you can back up a normal trailer and maybe you can't. If not, somebody will to do it for you in a pinch. But, if you have a car on a tow-dolly, nobody can back it up. In essence you are towing two trailers - the truck tows the tow-dolly and the tow-dolly tows your car. If you try to back up, each one goes a different way.
- Your car wheels are turning. This is bad in many ways. Obviously it puts wear on your tires, but it also spins whatever the wheels are connected to - your axels and drive shaft and some of the internals of your transmission if you have a rear wheel drive car. Mine is a front wheel drive so I figured I had nothing to worry about. Still, with the front tires securely tied to the tow-dolly, I realized they would be turning back and forth just a little as the car went over bumps and dips, so (just as if I had a rear wheel drive car) I didn't want to leave it in Park. In order to put it in Neutral I had to turn the ignition key to the first position. This meant the steering wheel was unlocked and over the miles it gradually turned causing the straps that held the front wheels to shift and loosen and cause more steering wheel turning making them looser still. Finally, I tied the steering wheel so it wouldn't turn. After a few days when I tried to take the car off the tow-dolly, it would not start. It seems that even that first notch on the key had turned on something that drained the battery.
- As I drove that 30 hours or so, I had lots of time to think about that tow-dolly pulling my car by its front wheels. You might think that's how a front wheel drive car always runs but this is much different. The tow-dolly has straps around the front wheels and it pulls and pushes on them (and all the front end linkages) with the full weight of the truck and all our worldly possessions every time there is a little bump in the road. It was a bumpy ride from GA to ME and, at each of those thousands of bumps, the truck gave an extra tug and push on the tow-dolly which gave a tug and push on the car. Then the tow-dolly wheels went over the bump causing another tug and push and finally the back wheels of the car bumped causing another. Now, the car seems fine but I have to guess that it is closer to needing ball joints and wheel alignment than when it left GA.
U-Haul was difficult to do business with from start to finish. There is nobody taking responsibility for your entire rental (except you). There's a company that rents you the equipment and can do nothing for you once you have it. There's an 800 number with people you can talk to only if you have an emergency. There are independent companies that U-Haul uses to repair their equipment. There's a company that takes the equipment back when you are done. Wherever you are, whoever you talk to about whatever is on your mind, it is not their problem - it's yours.
I would like to tell you the story about how indifferent and unhelpful and just plain nasty the U-Haul people I dealt with were, but it would take too long. Here is somebody else's remarkably similar experience.
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