Pros: Great customer service, competitively priced, guaranteed truck
Cons: Not a diesel
We recently moved from South Texas (McAllen) to Boston for graduate school. We had only ever been moved as part of a corporate relocation package before, but knew we couldn't afford that ourselves.
We considered a U-Pack type move where the company drops a trailer for you to pack over a couple days, then drives it for you, but the minimum prices were outrageous because we lived so close to the border (insurance issues, I guess).
So then we turned to the do-it-yourself companies. I narrowed it down to Ryder/Budget or Penske. I made online reservations with both, but quickly decided to cancel my Ryder/Budget reservation. Here's why:
1. Penske is the only do-it-yourself truck rental company that actually guarantees that you will have a truck ready and waiting for you to pick up on the day of your reservation (or so they say). Penske claims that the other companies will try to have your requested truck available, but if they don't, then you have no recourse and are out of luck.
2. Penske will allow you to make your reservation early and then re-check their prices as often as you want. If their price drops below your reserved price, you call them up and they will re-issue your reservation at the lower price. You can do this as often as you want. I did it twice!! My original truck reservation (with moving pads and a car carrier) was about $1350. After 2 calls I was down to $1040. And they are even nice about it on the phone.
3. Free mileage
4. AAA partner. I joined AAA just to take advantage of the discounts that Penske offers to AAA members. I paid $49 for a 1 year membership and saved about $300 on the rental. You just have to show your membership card when you pick up the truck.
I made our reservation for pick up in McAllen TX on a Monday morning. I had originally wanted to pick up on Saturday evening so I would have all day Sunday to pack and be able to hit the road on Monday morning. But all the rental locations in the area closed up at Noon on Saturdays, and weren't open on Sunday. Due to some other constraints I wouldn't be able to pick up by Noon, so I had to settle for Monday. I actually called the gentleman at the storage facility where I was scheduled for pickup and begged him to stay open a little late, but to no avail - he said Penske has a pretty strict policy about that.
So Monday the 4th of August rolled around and we had our work shoes on and were ready to go. The storage facility opened at 9 am, so we were there at 8:45. The manager didn't arrive until 9:05 and was not excited about having to deal with the paperwork for a truck rental until after he had finished some business associated with the storage facility. But, with a little gentle persuasion we were able to get our truck promptly.
The rental requires 3 IDs for the renter and 3 for anyone else who plans to drive the truck. You also need to pay a $100 cash deposit if you aren't planning to pay for the rental by credit card - that didn't apply to us.
We got our 25' moving truck and our car carrier. My only annoyances with the pick-up were these:
1. The truck was clean and new enough, but not a diesel. I guess Penske has just started buying and putting into operation some brand new diesel trucks. You can't request them, it's just the luck of the draw. We didn't get lucky, but I guess not everyone can.
2. We had reserved 3 dozen moving pads and there were none available. The storage facility manager called another location in the same city and found out that they had some available, but I had to go pick them up (about 6 miles away.) But he cut me a break on the price. He charged me for only 1 dozen instead of 3 dozen (a savings of about $30.)
3. The car carrier was hitched up (good), but we weren't shown how to unhitch/rehitch it. I guess for liability issues, they can only give you a brochure with pictures for instruction. Luckily my husband is mechanically inclined, so we had no problem with the unhitch/rehitch (and we did it many times, as you will read about further down.)
So then we packed it up and headed out on our way. We had hoped to be able to move pretty fast, and weren't overly disappointed. You can travel about 60-75 mph even with a car carrier attached. The truck was a real gas guzzler though. I think we were lucky to get about 6 miles per gallon.
Also, we were told that you couldn't back up the truck while the car carrier was attached. I guess there is some kind of inertia brake on the car carrier. This made us more than a little nervous because we weren't sure we'd be able to find many places that could accommodate such a long load. If we had been in a diesel it wouldn't have been an issue (except for hotels I guess.) Well we ran into a bad situation - we turned down a little street and found we had nowhere to go. With no other choice, my husband put the truck into reverse. He hoped to be able to push the carrier back on the gravel. To our amazement, the carrier actually backed up - wheels turning and all! We figure they told us not the back up with the carrier because they were afraid we would hit something, or jack-knife it.
Our only real problem happened about half-way through out trip. We were exiting the freeway to fill-up and my husband noticed one of the wheels on the car carrier wobbling. We pulled off onto the shoulder to inspect. The wheel had only 2 of the 5 lug nuts still attached. We saw a gas station just a block off the exit and pulled around VERY slowly. Even so, we lost the wheel. It went flying when we made the gentle turn. Luckily a guy traveling behind us in a pickup was able to recover it before it could do damage to anyone or anything else on the road.
I called the Penske Help Line right away. I gave my info, the truck info, the carrier info, and a description of the problem. The guy I spoke to called me back with a plan of action within 15 minutes. He said that a new carrier would be brought to our location within an hour. He was wrong . . . it was there within 45 minutes! We had to unload our car, unhitch the carrier, rehitch the new carrier, and reload our car. All in all we lost about 2 hours of travel time. But I think it could definitely have been a lot worse. I think Penske handled the situation really well.
The truck handled as well as can be expected. It feels like you are riding in a really big boat. The turning radius is awful and you feel like an idiot when you pull up to a unleaded gas pump made for cars. The height was a little un-nerving at first, but now that I'm back in my Honda, I feel like I'm "Flintstoning" it.
WHAT WENT REALLY WELL:
We arrived in Boston and didn't need the carrier anymore, but the truck wasn't due back for 4 more days. We didn't have anywhere to put the carrier, so we drove it over to the Penske drop off location. The guy there was great about letting us drop it off early while keeping the truck for a few more days. And dropping off the truck was just as painless. The guy gave it a quick once-over, made sure it was full of gas, and gave us our copy of the agreement.
Overall, the experience was almost painless. Riding in a 25' truck isn't a lot of fun, and driving it was even worse, but it was a necessary evil. The move had to be made, and Penske was the best way for us to go. Hopefully we just don't have to do it again. I still have bruises from unloading all our stuff.