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How to Calculate Moving Truck Gas Cost

A driver fills up his moving truck with gas.
Alexandru Nika / Getty Images

Moving to a new home requires budgeting for many different costs, not the least of which is renting a moving truck. Although truck rental fees make up a large portion of total moving expenses, the quote you get from a rental company doesn’t include gas. So, you might forget to add the moving truck gas cost to your overall budget.

To help you plan for every moving expense, use a moving truck gas calculator to predict what you’ll pay at the pump. Want to do that calculation by hand? No worries — we’ve also included that equation below.

How to budget for gas during a move in 3 easy steps

Step 1: Estimate your costs using a moving truck gas calculator

Online moving truck gas calculators are the easiest way to estimate the cost of gas during a move. For example, Penske offers a free fuel savings calculator that shows you approximate gas costs when you enter the number of miles you’re planning to move. Penske will also show you the difference in cost between diesel and gas, showing you how much you’d save with diesel. Depending on current gas prices, this difference could be minor or significant.

Using the Penske moving truck gas calculator, we can estimate that a 50-mile move would cost approximately $15 to $16 in gas. For a long-distance move of around 500 miles, you would need to budget $150 to $160 for gas.

There isn’t currently a Budget or U-Haul gas calculator equivalent. However, since many of the trucks in their fleet get similar mileage to Penske trucks, the Penske calculator is still a good way to get a rough estimate.

Step 2: Know how many miles per gallon your moving truck has

Not all moving trucks get the same mileage, and some trucks may be up to twice as fuel-efficient as others. Miles per gallon (MPG) depends on the size of the truck you rent and the specific make and model used by the moving company. All of those factors impact the amount of money you’ll need to budget for gas.

To help you plan, we’ve compiled a list of U-Haul, Penske, and Budget truck gas mileage numbers. Take the numbers below, and plug them into a moving truck gas calculator. That will give you a rough estimate of how much money you should plan on spending.

MPG of U-Haul moving trucks

Truck size MPG
Pickup 19
Cargo van 18
10’ truck 12
15’ truck 10
17’ truck 10
20’ truck 10
26’ truck 10

MPG of BUDGET moving trucks

Truck size MPG
Cargo van 14
12’ truck 14
16’ truck 10
26’ truck 10

MPG of Penske moving trucks

Truck size MPG
Cargo van 12
12’ truck 12
16’ truck 12
22’ truck 13
26’ truck 13

Step 3: Know the truck rental rules

One common pitfall with moving trucks is the rental company’s policy on filling the truck up with gas before you return it. Most companies note the fuel level in the tank when you pick up the truck, expecting you to bring it back at the same level or higher. If you return the truck on empty, you could face a hefty fuel surcharge that’s significantly more expensive than simply filling the truck back up yourself.

Fuel policies vary by company, so check your rental documents or ask the rental company when you pick the truck up. The penalties for returning a truck that’s low on gas could involve a flat rate refuel surcharge and/or a fee per gallon that is much higher than gas station prices.

Don’t feel like using a calculator? Here’s how to estimate moving truck gas costs by hand

Estimating moving truck gas costs doesn’t need to be done with a moving truck gas calculator. We have a simple equation that can help you plan your fuel budget by hand. This formula also serves as a more effective Budget or U-Haul gas calculator as it allows you to input the specific mileage of the truck you decide to rent.

Gas cost = (Number of miles / Truck MPG) x Cost per gallon

For example, let’s say that you’re planning a 100-mile move and decide to rent a truck that gets 10 MPG. By dividing these two numbers, you’ll get the number of gallons required to complete the move: 10 gallons. Then, you simply need to multiply this number by the cost per gallon of gas. You look this up and find that it’s $2.50, which means the total cost of gas for your move will be about $25.

What factors impact the cost of fuel for a moving truck?

Type of gas

Moving trucks can use either diesel or regular gas, depending on the make and model. Diesel gas is usually cheaper, so you may save money by choosing a truck that runs on diesel.

City or highway

The listed mileage per gallon of moving trucks typically assumes that you’ll be driving on the highway. If your moving route passes through urban areas, you won’t get as many miles per gallon of fuel. This is due to the constant accelerating and braking required for city driving. Your gas costs will go up the more you navigate red lights and traffic.

Towing a car

You may have to tow your car to your new home, using your moving truck. This will make gas costs go up due to the extra weight, which requires more power for the truck’s engine to compensate. However, keep in mind that the total cost will be less than if you were to pay for the additional gas required to drive your car separately to your destination.

The bottom line

Gas costs aren’t included when you get a quote for a moving truck rental, but they’re a cost you should take into consideration when budgeting for your move. Use a gas calculator for moving trucks to help predict what the total fuel costs will be. Consider budgeting a bit higher if you’re planning to tow a car or if you anticipate heavy traffic or urban driving along your moving route.

Frequently asked questions

How much gas will my U-Haul use?

U-Haul estimates that its trucks use between 10 and 19 MPG. Smaller vehicles like pickup trucks and cargo vans are more fuel-efficient, while large trucks (15’ and larger) get fewer miles to the gallon.

How much will my trip cost in gas?

The total cost of gas for your trip depends on three main factors: the mileage of the moving truck, the number of miles to your destination, and the cost of gas. A moving truck gas calculator can help you estimate the total cost of gas for your move.

How much gas does a 16-foot truck use?

The moving companies we reviewed estimate that their 16’ moving trucks get up to 10 to 12 miles per gallon.

Do I need to fill up the gas tank before returning the moving truck?

It’s always a good idea to fill up the gas tank of your moving truck before returning it, at least to the level it was at when you rented it. Most rental companies have a policy that enforces surcharges if you return a truck with an empty gas tank.

This article was originally published on May 9, 2018. Updated on June 5, 2020.

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