How to Choose the Right Moving Truck Size

One of the toughest things about planning a DIY move is figuring out what size moving truck to get.

If your truck is too small, you won’t be able to fit everything you need to move. If you’re on the side of getting a bigger truck, you might end up overpaying. That’s the last thing you want if you’re moving on a budget, as most DIY movers are.

It’s just like in Goldilocks and the Three Bears. You don’t want a truck that’s too small. You don’t want a truck that’s too big. You want a truck that’s just right. But that’s easier said than done.

So how do you choose the perfect moving truck size? How do you know for sure that the truck size you’re getting will fit all your belongings, but without a ton of extra, wasted space that you’ll have to pay for?

It’s not an easy thing to estimate, but there are some tips and tricks that can help. The first step is understanding all the different moving truck sizes that are available. From there, you can use a number of different methods to calculate which truck size will be the right one for your move. Read on to see how.

Understanding Moving Truck Sizes

The moving truck sizes that are available to you will depend on what company you decide to rent from. All moving truck rental companies offer different sizes and types of trucks (Pro-tip: Enterprise has the best selection of different sizes, but they’re typically only available for local, round-trip moves). Widely, across the industry, though, there are some standard sizes that are typically offered. Just keep in mind that these might vary by a few feet of length and interior space. Once you’ve chosen a company to rent your truck from, you can get a full list of the truck sizes they offer on their website or from a customer service representative.

Understanding Moving Truck Sizes

Pickup Trucks

Pickup Trucks

Many moving truck companies offer pickup truck rentals, which is an excellent option if you only have a few things to move. For someone moving to or from a dorm room, or someone who only has a small studio, a pickup truck might be enough to get the job done.

Typical size: Around 76 cubic feet with a weight limit of around 2,000 pounds.

Cargo Vans

Cargo Vans

Another option for people making smaller moves is a cargo van, which is an option many moving truck rental companies offer. This allows you to get a little more space (and protection from the elements) than you’d get with a pickup truck, but without having to maneuver a large truck. If you’re making a local move and don’t have too much stuff, this option might work for you. As a bonus, cargo vans are one of the most fuel-efficient moving truck options out there.

Typical size: Around 250 cubic feet with a weight limit of around 4,000 pounds.

Small Moving Trucks

Small Moving Trucks

For a larger studio or a one-bedroom apartment, you may consider a small moving truck rather than a pickup or a cargo van. The smallest box trucks offered by moving truck rental companies usually come in around 10-12 feet long. They provide more space than a cargo van, and better protection than a pickup truck. If you’re moving a long distance, this is likely a better choice than a pickup or cargo van, which are both better suited for local moves.

Typical size: Around 400 cubic feet with a weight limit of around 3,500 pounds.

Medium Moving Trucks

Medium Moving Trucks

For those who need to move belongings from a larger apartment or a small home (think 1-2 bedrooms), a medium-sized moving truck might fit the bill. These usually fall into the range of 14-17 feet long, and are well suited to both local and long-distance moves. They’re not enormous, which means they’re still relatively easy to drive, while still offering quite a bit of space for your belongings. This versatility makes medium-sized moving trucks one of the most popular options offered by most truck rental companies.

Typical size: Around 800 cubic feet with a weight limit of around 5,000 pounds.

Large Moving Trucks

Large Moving Trucks

Moving out of a larger apartment or home (think three or more bedrooms) requires a lot of space on the moving truck for all your belongings, and that’s where large moving trucks come in. These are typically 20-26 feet long, which makes them the most spacious option you can get from a DIY moving truck rental company. If you have a lot of belongings, this might be the right choice for you.

Typical size: Around 1,500 cubic feet with a weight limit of around 10,000 pounds.

What If You Need Even More Space?

These are the options that are typically available from DIY moving truck rental companies. If you need a truck larger than the 26-foot options that are typically offered, you probably need to look into a full-service moving company, since anything larger than that may require a special license to drive and likely can’t be driven safely by someone without experience operating commercial vehicles.

How Do You Choose the Right Size for Your Move?

This is the hard part: choosing which of those many truck sizes on offer will be the right one for your move. In general, there are two standard ways people estimate moving truck sizes.

By Number of Bedrooms

The simplest way to get a rough estimate for what size moving truck you might need is by the number of bedrooms in your home. The company you rent your moving truck from will likely have a guide for which truck sizes to use for different numbers of bedrooms, but here’s a general guide:

  • Studio apartment: Pickup truck, cargo van, or small moving truck
  • 1-2 bedrooms: 15-foot moving truck
  • 2-3 bedrooms: 20-foot moving truck
  • 4 or more bedrooms: 26-foot moving truck

Remember, though, that not all bedrooms are the same size — ”bedroom” is hardly a standard unit of measurement. If your home has particularly large or small bedrooms, or if you have a lot of furniture in your bedrooms, that could affect this estimate.

By Cubic Feet

The other common way people estimate moving truck sizes is by the cubic feet measurement of each available truck size. This works best if you can get a rough estimate of the cubic feet of all your belongings (or, at least, your large items like beds, couches, and appliances). There’s also a general rule of thumb for this: Allow 150-200 cubic feet of space for each fully furnished room in your home. Again, though, remember that room sizes vary, and so does the amount of furniture in a “fully furnished” room, so this is just another estimate.

Use Calculators

Another option is to look for online calculators that can help. The internet is full of calculators and tools to help you determine what size moving truck you might need. It’s likely that most of the truck rental companies you’re considering have a tool like this on their websites. Use several different calculators to get a good mix of estimates. If there’s one truck size that comes up in the results from several different calculators, there’s a good chance that’s the right size for your move.

Getting a More Exact Moving Truck Size Estimate

Moving is stressful, and many DIY movers have had this nightmare scenario enter their minds: You’re all packed up on moving day, and you realize as you’re loading the truck that everything isn’t going to fit.

Obviously, that’s a scenario every mover wants to avoid. So if the above methods for rough estimates for the moving truck size you’ll need isn’t cutting it for you, there are a few ways you can get a more exact idea — just know that these methods will take a little bit more work.

Create an Inventory

The first place to start if you want to get more exact with your moving truck size estimate is creating an inventory of everything you plan to move.

Start with larger items like beds, appliances, and bulky pieces of furniture. Once those are all listed, move on to smaller items and things that will be moved in boxes. Unless you’re a moving professional, it’s not likely that you’ll be able to turn your inventory list into a cubic-footage estimate on your own, but you can take your list to the company you’re renting your truck from, and it will help them be able to more accurately assess what size truck you’ll need.

Cluster Your Items Together

In each room of your home, move large furniture items so they’re clustered (or even stacked) as they will be on a moving truck. This takes a fair amount of elbow grease, but it will really help you begin to visualize how much space your belongings will take up when they’re in a small area. Measure the cluster in each room and add them all together, and you’ll have a good starting point for how much space your larger belongings will need on the truck. Just remember to add more space to your estimate for small items and boxes.

Start Packing Early

One of the hardest things to estimate about moving is how many boxes you’ll need for everything in your home. One way to get a better idea is to start packing as early as possible. Once all your non-essentials are boxed up, you’ll have a better basis for estimating how many more boxes it’ll take to pack all the things you’ll be using up until the day of your move. Add up the cubic square footage of all those boxes (plus furniture and large items that you aren’t planning to box up), and you’ll have a good starting point for how much space you’ll need inside your moving truck.

Consider How Far You’re Moving

If you’re making a long-distance move, you’ll likely want to err on the side of caution and book a larger truck, since you have to make sure it’ll fit everything you own. If you’re just moving a short distance, like across town or to the next county over, it’s possible you can get away with a truck on the smaller end of your estimate, since you can make multiple trips if needed.

Consider fuel prices and the fuel efficiency of the type of moving truck you’re considering when making this decision, though — it may end up being cheaper to size up to a bigger truck and move everything in one trip than it is to pay for fuel to make the move in two or more trips.

When In Doubt, Go With the Bigger Size

If all your estimates put you in between two different sizes of moving trucks, it’s a good idea to go with the bigger size. After all, on moving day, it’s better to have a little extra space to work with than to be trying to cram your belongings into a truck that isn’t quite big enough.

The Next Step: Choosing a Moving Truck Rental Company

If you haven’t already, it’s time to start researching moving truck rental companies — it’s never too soon before your moving date to know your options and start seeing what’s available. Plus, are you sure you want to rent a truck and do all the work yourself? Have you considered full-service movers or container companies to help save yourself some of the hassle?

Want to compare instant price quotes from multiple moving companies — truck rentals, containers, full-service, and more — all in one place? Start your search for the perfect moving company with moveBuddha.

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