Move 1: DC to Denver in a Rental

In the previous post about The Argument that my wife and I had about doing a professional move (her good idea) vs a DIY move (my bad one) to get us from DC to Denver, just like in all themes in western literature: I now got what I wanted and it kinda wasn’t what I wanted at all.

To be clear from the start, I’m head of marketing at Closetbox. We have very close ties to the moving industry in general and moving agents specifically, so by virtue of my position, I know a thing or seven about the industry. However, neither myself nor Closetbox, as of this writing, have relationships with any company mentioned here unless I call it out.

My aim is to be as transparent as possible about what I did and why I did it, warts and all, so that you have the best information about what someone would do in my position.

I Took a Flyer on Plastic Tubs

There are the plastic tubs I’m talking about. When we moved from Oklahoma after our wedding back in (wasn’t that long ago, okay?), we got a few plastic tubs from Lowe’s in Stillwater (store #0241, shout out). We still have all of them. They have lasted 16 years and five moves of their own.

My thought was to put everything in them. We still had a few cardboard boxes that were still packed from previous moves, and we weren’t going to unpack them. But for everything else, into the tubs they would go.

The idea was that we would save on packing time. No tape. No worry of overloading. Easy stacking. I bought tons of these at our local Home Depot. Several trips. I’d buy all they had, fill them up, and go back for more. I literally have charges from Home Depot on three days in a row. I’m going to guess that I bought around 45 of these. We probably had another 10 laying around from the old days. And then I bought maybe 20 smaller, clear plastic tubs for books and other heavy things mainly because I kept buying all the Home Depot had.

We just tossed tons of things into one tub, labelled, done. And not to brag, but it was quick and efficient. The big tubs were around $9/per and the smaller ones about $4. So around $500 in tubs. Just a quick look around Uboxes (who we do have a relationship, as they are our box provider to our customers), you can see a similar size and strength of boxes will run about $5/per. We didn’t have a relationship with them at the time of our move, but I show this cost to display that I didn’t throw away $500. I might have thrown away about $200, minus tape and time.


Rental Truck

Where we live in DC there is a large U-Haul facility about five minutes away. And a Penske Truck Rental about two minutes away. I priced them both out for a 16 foot truck and a 1660 mile move. U-Haul was around $2200 and Penske was $1300. At least at first glance. To most consumers, this is an easy choice, and it was for me also. Saving $900 was going to make it easy to truly save money on this move.

All things being equal and having used both companies before in the past, my belief was that U-Haul trucks tended to be more beat up, not just in the ones I had used but also seen on the road and inspected at my local U-Haul shop. U-haul is a bigger brand, have been around longer, and by my estimation, a Penske truck rated to be in better shape.

Here is something weird that happened that could have been my fault, but I mention just in case there is/was a glitch when I reserved. The rate I was given—pretax—was around $1300. I rented in Maryland, so taxes were heavy. However, on the day I went to pick up the Penske Truck, I found out that the $1300 included a 10% discount for being a AAA Member. I am not a member and wouldn’t have selected that. While Penske was going to be cheaper than U-Haul even without the discount, I couldn’t help but think that this was a happy accident on their part. Because they got me in the door at $1300, and they day I needed the truck, I wasn’t going to just walk out because it was $130 more.

Penske has an online discount of 10%, and you if actually have AAA you can tack that on as well.

I took the $200 insurance, which is a scam, and in almost all circumstances, I would have skipped it. The reason I didn’t here was just on the thought of how tired I was and that I rated to have something happen, and god forbid should it, I didn’t have the time to fight with people over a dent or scratch. I was paying for my potential future convenience.

One final thing on this, moving has a season and rental trucks are a commodity. I just checked a Penske rental from my original start to my current destination and it’s $400 cheaper (sans AAA) than it was just four months ago. Prices fluctuate based on reasons unknown to the rest of us.


Move 1 Concept

The idea here was not to worry with optimization. I knew we were going to get a container for the rest, so I just needed to get around half of everything on the truck and we were set. This was:

  • Bed
  • Couch
  • Dressers
  • Dining Room Table and Chairs
  • Two Kayaks & Paddles
  • Winter Clothes & Hanging Clothes
  • Coffee Table
  • Desk
  • Some kitchen stuff

Here it was about half full:


Tons of other things too small to mention, but we were going to live in the house for another month, so I couldn’t take everything.


Buddy Helped Load the Truck

I asked a neighborhood friend who works for Clean Water Action for help loading the furniture and heavy stuff. He came over for about an hour, maybe less. He is a beast, so it went quick. (Tip: if you get help, always get beast help.) Then I loaded up boxes and whatever else I felt like. I was done in a bit less than three hours.

Here is the Lock I Bought


There are ratings on all of them and I’m not quite sure it matters past lock picking. I got one where I was reasonably certain someone couldn’t cut it open with bolt cutters. It cost $24.31. Nothing happened, but hard to say if that was from lack of circumstances or lock deterrence.

Something I did in both places was park close to a wall in WV and a bus in KS so that if someone did break the lock, that it would be hell trying to drag everything out of the back.


I drove from 20712 on the Maryland side of DC to 80211 in Lower Highlands (Lo-Hi) Denver. The trip was a boring 1660 miles and took about two days. I left on Thursday Oct 13 around 800p and made my way to I-70. I drove to Tridelphia, WV and stayed at the Hawthorne Suites. I think I got in around midnight.

Up at 600a and pedal down the whole day. My wife would call and ask where I was. I had no idea. I was going to start paying attention once I got to Denver, but I-70 was going to take me the whole way. I listened mainly to season two of Serial, Dustwun. (First season was better.) The rest is my own embarrassing business.

I stayed in the LaQuinta in Salina, KS. The lady at the counter asked what brought me to town.

“Moving to Denver,” I said.

“We probably get 20 people a week in here doing the same thing,” she said. I’ll LaKeep that in mind.

I made it into Denver at 110p. Matthew Buck, famous local attorney, friend, and also a beast, helped move me in as fast as my DC friend moved me out. We went to Highland Tap & Burger to fuel up before manual laboring.

I kept the Penske for a few more days and drove it to/from work, since I didn’t have a car. Nobody thought that was normal.

All told, Move 1 totals:

  • $443.64 in fuel to drive across
  • $22 in food (I packed a little, but was just trying to get there and skipped a few meals)
  • $24.31 for the lock
  • Lodging was $268
  • $1928.66 for the Penske
  • Total $2686.61

So Far So Good

Got the first leg done without any incidents. I flew back home on Friday. Then came Move 2.


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