Is It Better to Hire a Moving Truck or Use Your Car?

green moving van photo

Photo via Merelymel 13 @ flickr

There’s no question: moving is a hassle. But while packing, loading, unloading, and unpacking are far from fun, they don’t have to be bad for the environment—though sometimes it’s hard to figure out which choices are better. From transportation and packing materials to hiring movers and making donations, click through for the greener options.


Photo via veganstraightedge @ flickr
What’s the fuel economy for moving trucks?
Deciding how to transport all your furniture, books, dishes, and boxes is the first decision you’ll need to make when moving: rent a van or use your car? If you’re moving a lot of big, heavy stuff then a van is a necessity—though you still have a choice between gasoline or diesel engines. Diesel engines, like those on 22 and 26-foot Penske trucks, cost more to fill but are 35 percent more efficient, so you’ll need less fuel—and, if there’s a biodiesel station in your area, you can use that. Gasoline moving trucks, on the other hand—the big 26-footers, fully loaded with a house-ful of furniture—get about 10 miles to the gallon at the most; U-Haul’s comparably sized truck promises only between 6 and 8 mpg, for a full-tank distance of 420 miles.

What about using my car?
If you’re moving a relatively short distance, or don’t have a lot of stuff, then using your own vehicle (or borrowing from a friend) may be a reasonable option. A pickup truck, like the Ford F-150, offers 14 mpg; a Honda Accord (one of the more efficient cars out there) gives you 22 mpg; and the 2009 Toyota Prius clocks in at 48 mpg in the city. Still, you’ll need to make multiple trips since each of these has a capacity that’s much less than a traditional moving van—and if you’re moving furniture, the smaller cars aren’t even an option.

What’s the verdict?
Moving 10 miles with a 26-foot U-Haul that can carry up to 7,395 pounds will require about two gallons of gas, and take only one trip. Moving the same distance in the Ford means you only need one gallon of gas, but with a capacity of 1,650 pounds you’ll make 5 trips—nearly tripling your gas output. And remember: Fuel economy in your car decreases by 2 percent for every 100 pounds you’re carrying, so if you put 1,600 pounds in that Ford the mileage drops to about 10 mpg—almost the same as the moving truck.

But if you own a car, you’ll be using it to move some of your goods anyway—especially irreplaceable breakables like your grandmother’s china, and expensive electronics like your husband’s 42-inch flatscreen. Try to load up your car with enough small items that you can rent a smaller moving truck: the truck will weigh less, so you’ll use less gas, and you won’t make a gigantic dent in your gas mileage.

The carbon footprint of moving
Each gallon of burned gasoline produces 19.4 pounds of carbon dioxide, according to the EPA, while diesel produces 22.2 pounds per gallon. So, burning two gallons of gas in a moving truck will net about 39 pounds of CO2; five gallons in your passenger car, on the other hand, nets 97 pounds.

Burning diesel fuel creates more carbon emissions per gallon, but you get further on a gallon of diesel than on a gallon of gas. So, if you can get 10 miles on less than a gallon of diesel, the carbon emissions will be less than gas; if the 35 percent efficiency upgrade holds (depending on your truck, how big the load is, etc.), then those 10 miles would produce about 14 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions -- less than the 19.4 produced from burning a gallon of gas.

More about eco-friendly moving
Quick Tips for Green Moving
Green Your Move: Get Recycled Boxes Sent Right to Your Door
Move Across the Country the Eco-Friendly Way
More This vs. That
Read Online or In Print: What’s the Greener Way to Get Your News?
Online Shopping vs. Driving to the Mall: The Greener Way to Buy
Pellet Stoves vs. Wood Stoves: Which is Greener?
Think Bottled Water is Bad, Could Bottled Orange Juice Be Even Worse?
Built In Dishwashers vs. Hand Washing: Which is Greener?
How Bad Is Taking a Cab to the Airport, Compared to the Flight Itself?

Related Content on