Image of a happy couple in a moving truck loaded with furniture.

Driving Tips for Rental Trucks

Updated January 1, 1 . AmFam Team

Whether you’re hitting the road and driving a rental truck across town or across the nation, there’s a lot to learn about rental truck insurance and getting the job done safely. Take a look at these great moving truck tips, you’ll be driving like the long distance moving companies in no time!

If you’ve chosen to save a little money and move yourself across the city or across the nation, odds are you’ll be using a rental truck to get the job done. And if you’re new to driving a big truck, there’s a lot to learn before you get behind the wheel. Take a look at these important tips and you’ll be driving like the long-distance moving pros in no time!

Understand Your Rental Agreement

Long before you hit the road, review the rental agreement you’ll be signing. If possible, ask for a copy at the rental group’s office to bring home. Once you understand the basics, you can build a customized insurance plan that covers you best, so be sure to contact your agent (Opens in a new tab) to discuss how to carefully insure yourself for the trip.

Know what’s covered and what’s not. Don’t count on your current auto insurance policy to cover your truck rental since there are likely exclusions that rule out certain rental vehicles. It’s important to be aware that using your credit card will probably not cover you for rental trucks, even if it does provide some coverage for rental cars. You’ll need to get separate insurance for your rental truck.

The Basics of Driving a Moving Truck

Here’s a quick beginner’s guide to driving a moving truck safely. Before heading out on the road, take some time in an empty parking lot and get a feel for how the truck moves.

Know your height. One of the biggest mistakes drivers who are new to rental trucks make is that they forget that the truck extends higher than an average car. Often, the height of the roof is posted in clear view, either through a rear-view mirror or in the cab. Be on the look-out for low-clearance warning signs while driving, and approach gas stations, drive-through overhangs and bridges with caution.

Secure your load. Don’t assume that twine or thin cord will be enough to tie down your items in the truck — use ratchet straps for a more secure hold and moving blankets to cover furniture or belongings you want to keep from getting scratched during transit. Remember, just because you've got your belongings in a box doesn't mean they won't be damaged. Take a look at our smart packing tips to be sure you’re getting the job done correctly.

Start by loading the heavy and large furniture into the truck first, placing it towards the back. This will spread the weight more evenly across both axles. If you’re unsure about your ability to safely secure your load, hire a local moving company to load your truck for you. More details on selecting movers and planning for your move can be found in our section on stress-free moving tips.  

Driving Your Rental Truck

In addition to always wearing a seat belt and paying close attention to road signs, there are a lot of other important things to keep in mind when you’re driving your rental truck.

Approach intersections carefully. Because you’re going to need more time and room to stop, use caution when you’re moving through intersections. 

Practice the five-second rule. Driving is very different in a fully loaded moving truck than it is in your car. Keep a wide distance — five seconds worth — between your truck and the vehicle in front of you. Pick a spot on the road as the car ahead passes it, and your truck should pass that spot five seconds later.  This rule helps because you’re going to need time and distance to break if traffic suddenly comes to a halt.

Make frequent stops. Take advantage of rest stops to get out and stretch. Go for a quick walk every three or four hours and be sure to change drivers regularly. Pay attention to signs of fatigue when you’re driving too. Make the safe choice for you and other drivers and stop when you first start to feel tired.

Gas up at a quarter-tank. One great way to be sure you’ve got enough fuel is to stop for gas when your tank’s at one-quarter full. This is really important on more remote stretches of highway.

Pass vehicles carefully. Check your mirrors often when passing and be sure to use your turn signal. Don’t pass when approaching a curve or while going uphill.

Travel in Your Rental Truck Strategically

Before you hit the road with your truck take some time and be sure you know where you’re going. And definitely have a plan for moving safely in to and out of parking spaces.

Map out your trip. Instead of just relying on your phone to guide you on your trip, take a look at your route on an online map so you’re aware of road conditions, construction delays and other issues. Think about where you’re going to stop for the night along the way.

Park like a pro. Consider how you’re going to get out of a parking spot before you get into it. Taking a little time before you park can save you a lot of trouble when it comes time to exit. Will you be comfortable backing up? Is another spot available that allows you to just pull forward and get back into traffic easily? Be sure to have answers to these questions before you dedicate yourself to a parking spot. If you’re going to be towing a car or trailer behind the truck, take a look at our segment on how to back up a trailer for some great pro tips.

Congratulations! You’re well on your way to mastering the fine art of driving a moving truck. Best of all, you made informed, up-front decisions about your coverage that protected your investments along the way. And once you’ve decided to move to a new location, remember to inform your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) to update your coverage and contact information. You’ll be glad you did with every mile you drive.

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    The Deadliest Driving Distraction: Texting and Driving

    It should come as no surprise to you that texting is the most common distraction while driving as well as the most dangerous. It’s so deadly in fact, that it gets its very own section.

    It’s easy for us all to see the dangers of texting while driving, but even with that knowledge, so many of us fall into the temptation of sending off a fast text message while behind the wheel. But even a quick text can have horrible consequences.

    Just think, when you look at your phone, your focus is on the screen, not the road; one hand is off the wheel to hold your device, and your mind drifts to the message instead of the task at hand: driving safely.

    Why texting is distracting

    To put it into perspective, if you’re traveling at 55 MPH and you take your eyes off the road and onto your phone, you’ve traveled about 100 yards – the length of a football field! That’s quite a distance to cover driving “blind.”

    The National Safety Council reports that one out of every four car accidents in the United States is caused by a distracted driver who was texting. They also reported that texting and driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than driving while intoxicated.

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    Is it Illegal to Use Your Phone While Driving?

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    Types of Distracted Driving

    The first step to preventing distracted driving is understanding what it is. In a nutshell, anything that occupies your attention while driving is a distraction. Here are a few notable distractors that should be eliminated while behind the wheel.

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    Sifting through your music device

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    Checking social media

    Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, you name it – all of them bide for our constant attention. Don’t fall prey to this when you’re driving. That post, tweet, or message can wait. Avoid checking social media when behind the wheel.

    Eating behind the wheel

    You may be a pro at eating your burrito on the go, but ingesting your lunch while driving is a big no-no. All it takes is one wayward waffle fry to take your attention from the road to your lap. And it’s not just the mess that distracts; it’s the smell, taste, you name it – that makes eating one of the most distracting things you can do while driving.

    Other types of distracted driving

    There are a few more forms of distracted driving that could cause an accident. If you’re in the driver’s seat, try to avoid these altogether:

    • Taking selfies
    • Talking on the phone
    • Drinking coffee or another beverage
    • Putting on makeup
    • Using an app
    • Loud music

    Top 5 Ways to Prevent Distracted Driving

    There are easy ways to prevent distracted driving. Try using making these five simple changes distracted driving safety tips to have a safer driving experience.

    Use a text-blocking app

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    Have a passenger navigate for you

    If you’re driving with a passenger (of an appropriate age), hand the directions to them. Even a not-so-great navigator in the passenger seat is better than the person behind the wheel being responsible for both driving and navigating. If you’re driving by yourself, take the time to look at the directions before you set off. Then turn the volume up and let the AI lead the way.

    Make music selection easy

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    Don’t text while driving

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    Eat at home or while stopped

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    How Does Distracted Driving Affect Insurance?

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