U-Haul U-Box Review - Box of Lies

Mark Stevenson
by Mark Stevenson
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u haul u box review box of lies

Kleenex is to facial tissue as Google is to searching the web; as Coke is to any soft drink in Metro Atlanta; as Nintendo was to video gaming in the ’90s.

In that vein, U-Haul is the Kleenex of moving vans.

At the beginning of each month, you’re bound to see at least five orange-and-white U-Haul misery machines piloted by sweaty-faced individuals attempting to transport their belongings, which they’ve hoarded over the last X number of years, to their new abodes. Their faces tell the tale: Moving is horrible. Everything about it is a nightmare. And U-Haul is intrinsically part of that nightmare.

But U-Haul doesn’t do just moving vans, trucks, and trailers.

During our move from Nova Scotia, on Canada’s Atlantic coast, to Oshawa, Ontario, some thousand miles to the west, we decided to give U-Haul’s newest product a whirl. It’s called U-Box and it promises to alleviate the needless torture of long-distance moving.

Promises are made to be broken.

Why is this on TTAC?

The Truth About Cars has always devoted itself to cars, the car business, and the passion behind both. Regardless of who’s been steering TTAC’s vehicle of automotive truth, one commonality exists that connects each person who’s had the pleasure and honor of sitting in this chair: we all love driving.

However, sometimes driving is an aggravating chore at best (see: commuting), or a long slog where one attempts to beat the clock and the primal human need for sleep at worst (see: long-distance driving records, moving). While we’ve devoted much coverage to autonomous vehicles as a way to ease the morning and afternoon/evening commutes, we haven’t talked nearly as much about the available alternatives to ease long-distance driving stress.

Why U-Box?

After many changes to our moving plan, U-Haul’s U-Box came out on top for multiple reasons.

The biggest draw of U-Box is you don’t need to haul the box yourself to your final destination. Similar to its competitor Pods, one only needs to fill the box, trailer it to the closest U-Haul location, and tell the people in the orange shirts you’d like the U-Box to arrive at its destination by such-and-such a date.

Or at least, that’s how it’s supposed to — but more on that in a bit.

We picked U-Box over renting a moving van for two other reasons, both related to cost. U-Box was cheaper (for us, your mileage may vary) than a standard U-Haul truck rental. Also, because we weren’t the ones driving it across the country, we didn’t need to pay for gas — the price is fixed. There’s no need to cringe about filling up a V10-powered cube van that gets 8 miles per gallon highway.

In the beginning, U-Box showed promise.

Picking up the pieces

A few days before our scheduled U-Box pickup time, we went to the U-Haul store to gather boxes, tape, and other essentials. We mentioned to the professional-but-disconnected fellow working the counter that we were getting a U-Box in a few days but were disappointed with the limited, 24-hour packing window that U-Haul’s website insists you have to fill the box.

“You can keep it as long as you like,” he said. “If there is one available, you can take it today.”

“Great!” I replied, and we began the process of changing our reservation, which we initially made online, to change the pickup date a few days in advance.

This is where our problems began.

We were passed to another young man, a recent college grad seemingly without an ounce of customer service knowledge, who then tried to alter our reservation. No dice.

“We need to create another reservation,” college grad said.

Over the next hour, we stood at the counter repeating information as we attempted to take possession of a box. The system wouldn’t let us.

“Well, this wouldn’t have happened if they made the reservation 24 hours in advance,” a third, red-haired lot schlub said under his breath. “People shouldn’t expect to get these right away,” he continued within earshot of us. “This is f—ing crazy.”

Remember, we already reserved the U-Box a week or so in advance. We were told we could get a U-Box early. In the end, U-Haul told us to come back the next day to pick up a U-Box, which the staff promised would be ready for pickup when we arrived.

Upon arriving the next day, everything went to plan. The U-Box was waiting for us on a trailer. We rented a pickup to haul the box from the U-Haul store to our home. As soon as I unhooked the trailer from the pickup, this happened.

The U-Box had separated from itself. The only thing holding it together was some adhesive. No screws. No clamps. No hardware of any kind was used to keep the mainly plywood structure together. This is what we’d be using to protect all of our things, yet it could barely hold itself together.

Thankfully, after some prodding over the phone, the red-haired lot schlub arrived at our home to drive some wood screws into the U-Box. Crisis averted.


U-Haul was supposed to deliver our U-Box to Oshawa. Upon its arrival, we contracted movers to deliver our U-Box from the Oshawa U-Haul facility to our new apartment building.

A couple of weeks before our move, I called U-Haul to make sure everything was on the up and up.

It wasn’t.

For some reason, our order was messed up in U-Haul’s system. After spending an hour on the phone trying to pay for storage of the U-Box at U-Haul’s facility in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and confirming the U-Box would, in fact, be delivered to Oshawa, I was still skeptical. Why was our U-Box still in Dartmouth? It had been in U-Haul’s possession for a couple of weeks at this point. Surely, it should have been sent to Oshawa. However, the kind Arizonian woman on the other end of the line assured me everything was fixed and there was no cause for alarm.

A few days before the move, my spidey sense was tingling. I should call U-Haul in Oshawa, I thought — so I did.

“Is my U-Box in Oshawa?” I asked

“We have you booked for a delivery on Sunday. Did you ask for it to be delivered?” the counter worker at U-Haul in Oshawa asked in return.

“Yes, is it there and ready to be delivered to our apartment in Oshawa?”

“We have you down for a delivery on Sunday.”

“That’s not what I’m asking. I’m asking if you have the U-Box in your possession in Oshawa.”

“Well we have you sched—”

“Can you check to see if the box is there?”

“Oh, one moment.”

She put me on hold, then came back with the news.

“We have not received your U-Box. I’ll call the Dartmouth location to confirm when it will be here.”

Another hold session. She returns again with worse news.

“It looks like the box is still in Dartmouth. Let me call traffic to see what’s going on. They’ll call you back.”

With just a day before our scheduled move, and two days before our U-Box was scheduled to be delivered to our apartment, our U-Box was still 1,000 miles from where it needed to be.

A half-hour later, I received a call from a chipper gent from U-Haul in Dartmouth.

“Hi sir, I am with U-Haul. I am really sorry, but we won’t be able to deliver your U-Box by the scheduled delivery date. In fact, there is no scheduled delivery date in the system at all.”

Remember that recent college grad who had to recreate the reservation? Well, he forgot to transfer the scheduled delivery date to Oshawa. Now I was boned.

The U-Haul guy continued: “We can get it on the next truck out of Dartmouth, but it likely won’t arrive until Thursday or later.” That would make the box’s arrival at least four days late, if not longer. That’s four days we would spend in an empty apartment. No bed. No kitchen ware. Nothing. Just two camping chairs from Walmart and take out.

I suggested something: “Why don’t you just give me a truck at a discounted rate, I’ll transfer all the contents from the U-Box to the truck, and I’ll drive the sucker myself?”

“Oh, that might work,” U-Haul guy replied.

And that’s what we did. We spent the last day before our move transferring the contents of our U-Box to a truck. I then spent the next day driving said truck for 18 hours. The worst part: because of U-Haul’s mess-up, we paid more for the truck and fuel than the U-Box. Thanks, U-Haul.

The U-Box is far from being U-Haul’s killer app for moving. If anything, due to the massive frustration mentioned above (and those not mentioned to keep this article somewhat brief), employees’ lack of knowledge on the U-Box product and corporate software, and the utter contempt displayed by employees toward customers, U-Haul has outdone itself — it’s created a product and service worse than the U-Haul moving van.

So, if you must move across the city, state, country, or continent on a budget, remember this: if it seems too good to be true, it likely is. While you’re cursing that last 18th hour before you arrive at your destination, know that your belongings will at least arrive when you do.

Long distance moving isn’t going to get any better anytime soon.

Hey, Elon — I have an idea for you.

Mark Stevenson
Mark Stevenson

More by Mark Stevenson

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2 of 106 comments
  • TomT TomT on Aug 21, 2016

    Three years ago, I reserved a UHaul 14' box van for a local move. When the day came and I got there, all they had was a 10'. I made do with the 10' but it was a significant inconvenience, making the packing difficult and time consuming, and causing some damage to my stuff. After coming across this article, I gather my experience is the rule and not the exception. Never again, UHaul.

  • Kizmist5 Kizmist5 on Mar 02, 2022

    I thought it would be good to get up update as of 2022 on U-Boxes. I know there was confusion on the U-Boxes when they first really hit the market. I can attest that U-Haul has really stepped up the training as well as the process to make U-Boxes much a much better product for customers. They are very in demand now, especially as a storage option. They are indoors and less expensive than a storage unit, yet each one holds a studio apartment's worth of items, including furniture. If you haven't had a look lately, please do. The Customer Service Reps are much more knowledgable, and are able to assist their customers much better. Considering the millions of moves U-Haul does every year, the complaints are relatively SMALL. Of course, never small when it's YOUR ordeal, but hopefully it will set some minds at ease that it is not rampaont.

  • Tassos Unlike Tim, I don't use this space as a wastebasket for ANYTHING BUT a proper used car.If you seriously need a car AND you are as destitute as Tim's finds imply, HERE IS A PROPER ONE FOR YOUR NEEDS:You can probably get it for only $4k, WITH Leather, Factory Navigation, plenty of room and a V6.https://www.cars.com/research/toyota-camry-2005/I even considered getting it myself as an extra reliable car.
  • Jeff Of all the EV trucks I like the Rivian the best but I am still years away if ever from buying an EV.
  • Kwik_Shift I definitely like the looks of the newest 300s over the Chargers.
  • SCE to AUX "Should car companies shack up with tech giants in order to produce legible infotainment systems and the like? Or should they go it alone?"Great question(s).The River Rouge days are gone, where Ford produced whole cars out of raw materials entering the plant at the other end. Nearly everything is outsourced these days - sometimes well, sometimes disastrously.But the problem with infotainment systems is that they are integrated with the car's operation. VW has delayed entire products for issues with infotainment.For me, the question boils down to a contractual arrangement - who owns and maintains the code forever? Since more and more of the car's function is tied to the infotainment system, I'd argue that the car mfr needs to own it - especially the larger ones.Do mfrs really want to share intellectual property with Huawei just to fast-track some code they've managed themselves in the past?
  • Kwi65728132 I always did like the styling of the 300C and it was on my short list for a new (to me) rear wheel drive, naturally aspirated V8 luxury sedan but I found a Hyundai Equus that was better optioned than any 300C I could find and for several grand less.