How to Drive U-Haul Van

A U-Haul van is like any other car but much larger and heavier; therefore, you have to do everything slowly. Turn slowly, and slow down over a longer distance giving yourself more time to stop. You need more space when you go round a corner so that the rear tires don’t run over anything.   

Driving a U-Haul van shouldn’t be different from driving an ordinary vehicle. However, you must realize that these vans are designed to carry heavy luggage. The first thing you’ll notice about these vans is that you can’t look through any side or back windows to check any blind spots; you’re restricted to using only the side mirrors.  

Therefore, the first thing you have to set in place is the side mirrors, and more often than not, you’ll be forced to lean back or forward a little to check your blind spots.  


Before You Drive a U-Haul Van 

Before you get behind the wheels, you must ensure everything is loaded on the van properly. A safe way to load a U-Haul van is to ensure the heaviest items are in front of the van.  

The next thing is to adjust your mirrors and familiarize yourself with the controls in the van. It is much safer this way than trying to figure them out while driving. Ensure you know how to operate transmission shifts, windshield wipers, headlights, parking brakes, and other basic operations.  

Often, there are different variables involved with any vehicle, particularly when driving a long distance.    


Slow Down When Driving a U-Haul Van 

If you’re used to driving a pickup truck, you’ll immediately realize U-haul vans are almost the same, but they are slightly bigger.  

You’ll have all the conveniences you’re used to in other vehicles. You need to reduce your van’s speed, especially on a bumpy road or in harsh weather conditions.  

Also, you have to slow down if you’re driving on icy or wet roads. Additionally, you need to follow all the posted speed limits on the road. 


Plan Where You Will Stop for Gas

If you are on a long-distance, it’s advisable to try and stop at gas stations and truck stops that have lots of room, and a Quick Trip (QT) would be ideal. Before you get to a gas station, ensure you know the side the gas tank is located on the van.  

Always keep an eye on your fuel gauge, and it may not be accurate. Therefore, ensure you don’t run on anything less than a quarter of your fuel tank.  

You may need to refuel once your tank goes halfway. To be on the safe side, especially on long-distance, divide the miles you’ve driven by the gallons you’ve put in, and you’ll get a rough idea of how far you’ll go before refueling.  

For instance, if your van is a 25-gallon tank, then dividing 300 miles by 16 gallons, you get 18.75 mpg or 468 miles maximum on a tank.  

From this example, you’ll need to fuel after every 375 miles.  


Get U-Haul Van to the Desired Speed Gradually 

You will almost immediately realize that a U-Haul van is slightly different from your ordinary car in many aspects. A U-Haul van will require some time to get up to speed due to its weight and size.  

Unlike your car, a U-Haul van will always feel sluggish and slow in terms of speed and acceleration. If it’s your first time driving these types of vans, you’ll gradually need to build to the desired speed.  

Avoid the temptation of accelerating too quickly because this will significantly increase fuel consumption and may cause the luggage in the back of the van to shift.  

Remember that U-Haul vans are not like racing cars; they are the opposite.  


Applying Brakes to U-Haul Van 

Due to their weight, you need to apply breaks sooner than you’d do in your car. Do not brake quickly when driving heavy vehicles, especially when loaded with cargo, because they don’t behave like your typical car.  

While it’s not a good idea to accelerate a U-Haul van, you’re also strongly advised against braking suddenly and too hard. 

If you slam the brakes on a U-Haul van, especially when they’re loaded, you will most likely damage the cargo in the back of the van and could also throw the van off-balance, and you’ll lose control.  

With bad weather conditions such as strong winds, ice, snow, or rain, sudden braking could result in a road accident.    

Therefore, ensure you slow the van gradually when you intend to stop. Go easy on the brakes, applying them early to give you enough time to brake smoothly before approaching an intersection, turning, traffic lights, or crossing.  

Your U-Haul van would always cut corners, especially on turns, and therefore you need to turn, giving enough room between you and the curb, which is often the case for the right turns.  

You have to turn slowly while looking ahead for any traffic jams if you have to brake suddenly.   


U-Haul Van Safe Distance on the Road 

When driving a U-Haul van, remember to keep a safe distance between you and other vehicles on the road. The distance between you and the vehicle in front should be a space of five vehicles. Tailgating is an absolute no. 

Alternatively, if you have a problem figuring out or estimating the safe distance, you can use a 4-second rule. You stay 4 seconds behind the vehicle in front.  

The approach is straightforward: you count the seconds from the time the vehicle ahead of you passes a specific road mark until the moment you pass the same spot.  

If you’re driving in bad weather, you are required to increase the distance to about 5 seconds or more.  

Keeping in mind that U-Haul vans take longer to stop than ordinary cars is essential in staying safe on the road.  

Another approach most drivers use on the road is to keep at least double the distance you would keep while driving your car.  


Switching Lanes with a U-Haul Van 

Like any other vehicle on the road, turn on the signal if you want to switch lanes. Use the side mirror to ensure the road is clear before switching lanes. Remember that U-Haul vans are longer than your average car, and you need ample space behind you and in front, before you change lanes.      

By all means, avoid passing other vehicles, especially when going uphill, on narrow roads, or curves and corners. If you were to pass a larger truck, you would require more time and a longer distance. You can only overtake when it’s necessary. 

If you’re driving a U-Haul van for the first time, it will be so challenging because there is no rearview mirror and can present problems when changing or merging lanes.  

However, you’ll get used to using side mirrors to keep track of what’s happening behind you.   

You must stick to the right lane on the highway and allow the fast-moving vehicles to go. You’ll also find much slower vehicles at times, even when on the right lane, and you may want to overtake them.  


Making Safe Turns with a U-Haul Van 

Whenever you want to make a turn with your U-haul van, you have to slow down as much as possible. You may even be forced to come to a complete stop if the turn is more tricky. Typically, right turns can be more challenging to execute. 

Switch on the turning signals and use the side mirrors to check whether you have enough space for your turn.  

Make your turns much wider than you’re used to in your ordinary vehicle to avoid bumping into other vehicles or hitting the curb. 

Follow all the road rules and pay attention to changing speed limits on the road and the vehicles around you.    


Parking a U-Haul Van 

Always look for an ample parking space to pull into that will allow you to move in and out.  

Remember to set the parking brake before moving the shift selector into “Park.”  

Before exiting, switch off the engine. 

If you park facing downhill, remember to turn the wheels towards the curb.  

When parking facing uphill, always turn the wheels away from the curb.  

Have it in mind that there are blind spots behind all vehicles; therefore, do not over-rely on side mirrors.  

You might need a helper you can see directly or in the mirror to help guide you. Your helper should be on the path of the van.  

If you don’t have any helper, walk around the rear of the van and ensure there are no obstructions, pedestrians, or children behind the van.   

Choose a well-lit area to park your van and try to avoid backing up to reduce stressful situations. Drive-through parking is ideal, but if you cannot find one use a helper to guide you, especially when reversing.  


U-Haul Van Vs. Pickup Truck 

Typically, a U-Haul van is slightly larger than a pickup truck, and here is a comparison between the two to give an idea of the size. 

 U-Haul Van Pickup Truck 
Volume  245 cubic feet 76 cubic feet 
Maximum load 3,880 lbs 1,879 lbs 
Gross vehicle weight 8,550 lbs maximum 6,600 lbs maximum 
Inside dimensions LxWxH 9’6″ x 5’7″ x 4’8″ LxWxH 7’10” x 5’2″ x 1’9″ 
Average Miles per gallon 18 mpg 19 mpg 
Transmission Automatic Automatic 
Air condition Yes Yes 


U-Haul Cargo Van Vs. U-Haul Truck 

Although U-Haul vans are larger vehicles, they are easier to park and maneuver than U-Haul trucks. They are almost much like pickups. On the other hand, U-Haul trucks or Box trucks are much more oversized, bulky, and difficult to maneuver, particularly on narrow roads.  

Besides, parking a larger U-Haul truck in a congested city can be highly challenging, especially if you’ve not driven bigger vehicles. However, Cargo vans have sliding side doors, and therefore, it’s easier to load or upload from sidewalks.   

Unlike the U-Haul trucks, U-Haul vans can drive under low bridges and parking garages. Low bridges are restricted for the U-Haul trucks because of their heights.    


It Is Not Hard to Drive a U-Haul Van 

Driving a U-Haul van is about the same as driving a big car. You have to remember that you are driving a much bigger vehicle, and you need to be careful making turns in confined areas like parking lots. It shouldn’t be too hard if you have any experience driving a car.  

All modern vans and trucks are automatic, and there is no more shifting or using the clutch. When they are loaded, do not accelerate so fast, and when you’re on uphill runs like in a mountainous area, you have to be on a slow lane most of the time. 

Similarly, when you’re on downhill runs, such as moving out of a mountainous area, you have to be careful not to overuse the brakes. Overusing brakes can make them heat up, and the braking capacity of the discs fade when this happens.  

Instead, use engine braking to control the van’s speed for most of the journey. You always need to be aware of the spaces around you because the van is much bigger and taller than you think.   

Shift to lower gears if you’re driving uphill to prevent jerking as a result of engine lugging. Similarly, before you go downhill, slow down and shift to lower gears so that you can control your speed. Never ride brakes on a downgrade. 

If you’re driving and your van goes off the paved roadway, you don’t have to panic and do not make a sharp turn.  

Don’t apply brakes instantly, instead slow down and gradually make your way to the road again. When turning a sharp corner, go past the corner and make a wider turn than you would do in a small car.  


When a U-Haul Van Experiences a Steering Disturbance 

If a disturbance occurs in your van, try to let off the gas pedal, and don’t hurry to control the disturbance. Avoid applying brakes and instead, remain calm and hold the steering wheel in a straight-ahead position. Turning the steering wheel will make things worse. 

After the disturbance has stopped, you can pull a safe distance off the road and stop your van. You can check if the cargo has shifted in the van, and if the load has moved, you can ensure that it is heavier in front but make sure it’s not overloaded all the time.   

Check all the tires to check if they are properly inflated and all the lug nuts tight enough. If there is a problem with the pressure, set them to the proper pressure.  

All the recommended cold pressure on tire decals are on the van. Remember that tire pressure often goes up during driving. Therefore, don’t be tempted to let off this extra pressure. 

If the disturbance persists, contact the U-Haul representative near you to check and diagnose the problem and, if possible, to exchange the van. 


If Your U-Haul Van Gets Stuck 

If your van is stuck in sand, mud, snow, or anywhere else, avoid trying to get it out by revving the engine or spinning the wheels because it can cause more damage. Try to get help from the Roadside Assistance number.    

When refueling your van, ensure no open flames or smoking materials. Be careful when opening the fuel tank. Remove the cap slowly to vent away any pressure in the tank. Don’t spill fuel because hot parts like the exhaust can ignite fire or explosion. Ensure you use the correct fuel as indicated on the van 

Make sure you check the engine oil whenever you stop for fuel, and it should always remain between the marks indicated “Add and Full.” Avoid opening the radiator cap when the engine is hot because it can spray out due to pressure. You can only check the radiator level when the engine is cold.   


Breakdowns When Driving a U-Haul Van 

Immediately you experience any mechanical problem:  

  1. Park your van in a safe area totally off the road.  
  1. Turn on the emergency flashers.  
  1. Assemble the emergency warning triangle signs on the road.  

All the instructions on how to assemble are available behind the passenger seat. 

If you have to continue on the road to reach a safe place off the road, turn on the emergency flashers and proceed slowly with caution. Keep on moving even if you have to drive on a flat tire to reach a safe place away from the road.  

However, if the problem is minor and it’s possible to drive, then proceed to the nearest U-Haul station to get help. Alternatively, you can always call Roadside Assistance.  

Also, call Roadside Assistance if the problem is a serious mechanical issue that makes the van inoperable or can’t be safely driven to a safe place. In case of an accident, call an ambulance and notify the police as soon as possible. Finally, call Roadside Assistance. 


Fuel Saving Tips With U-Haul Van 

When driving for long distances, such as going through several states with your U-Haul van, there are several approaches you can use to save on fuel and therefore save money. You have to know that U-Haul vehicles have been developed to reduce fuel consumption and wind drag. 

Some of these features may be apparent, and some may not. 

  1. The Aerodynamic Side Mirrors-  The patented high visibility side mirrors have been designed to create less wind drag and increase while driving. 
  1. The Fuel Economy Gauge –  The gadget is on the dashboard and allows the driver to determine if it maximizes fuel efficiency. A a glance you can tell which speeds provide the best miles per gallon. It can help you save as much as 25% of your fuel intake. When the indicator is in the green area, it means the speed offers the best miles per gallon. If the indicator is in the red zone, you’re not getting the maximum fuel efficiency. 
  1. Correctly Inflated Tires – properly inflated tires will significantly increase fuel efficiency. Tires that are properly inflated can save as much as 3% of the fuel bill. Therefore, inspect your tires all the time. 
  1. Advanced Chassis Skirts – The chassis skirts increase aerodynamics and improve fuel efficiency because they significantly reduce air turbulence under the van. Turbulence can create drag.    
  1. Low Deck Height – A lower deck height creates a lower overall profile for the van, and as a result, it reduces wind resistance; therefore, increasing fuel efficiency. 
  1. Rounded Corners of the Van -  The rounded edges of the van improve the aerodynamics as the air moves around the vehicle. As a result, it improves fuel economy.  

Besides the design of the van, the driver also plays an important role in fuel economy. Some driving behaviors can lead to fuel economy that will quickly add up, especially if you’re on a long journey.  

The following tips will help you in saving fuel. 

  1. Avoid High Speeds –  Don’t operate at high speeds because it increases aerodynamic drag. The aerodynamic drag will increase exponentially as you increase speed. It is estimated that driving at 62mph vs. 75 mph will reduce gas consumption by almost 15%.  
  1. Never Accelerate or Brake Hard – Do not accelerate abruptly, but instead reach your desired speed gradually. Always avoid driving at the van’s maximum speed. Apply slow and steady braking and acceleration. Experts reckon that adopting this driving behavior can increase fuel economy by about 20%. 
  1. Keep Tires at Their Recommended Pressure – Always maintain the tire pressure at the levels recommended by the manufacturers. It is estimated that driving with one tire that is 2PSI underinflated can potentially increase fuel consumption by about 1%.  
  1. Don’t Over Use A/C -  Your van’s air conditioner (A/C) can increase fuel consumption more than any other auxiliary feature in your vehicle. It can increase fuel consumption by 20% because it causes extra load on the van’s engine. The exact load varies depending on the outdoor temperatures, interior size of the vehicle, and other factors.  

Turn off the A/C unless it’s necessary. When it’s switched on, adjust the thermostat settings and aim for a comfortable temperature instead of cold. On the highway, use flow-through ventilation. While in the city, open the windows. 

  1. Avoid Long Idles – If you anticipate a long stop, typically more than a minute, consider shutting the engine off. Restarting the engine uses less fuel than when it’s idling. When you’re on the road, maintain a constant speed for long distances. 

Finally, you can return the van with the same fuel it had when you rented. This saves you from paying extra fueling fees, especially if you’ve known the van’s fuel consumption and the distance you’ll cover.   


U-Haul Van Driving Checklist 

The following are the essentials driving checklists you may need  


Before Driving 

  • Fasten seat belt 
  • Adjust the driver and passenger side mirrors 
  • Familiarize yourself with van’s controls 
  • Check for any obstructions behind the van 
  • Secure the luggage in the cargo area 
  • Close the door and ensure its latched securely 


While on the road 

  • Drive carefully 
  • Slow down to avoid crashing 
  • Brake early when anticipating stops 
  • If you’re tired, stop and take a rest 


While Taking a Stop 

  • Ensure parking brake is firmly set 
  • Shift the transmission into park and switch off the engine 
  • Check all the tires 
  • Ensure all the lights are in good working condition 
  • Take the keys and lock the van 


Things You Should Remember 

  • Heavy luggage should be in front 
  • You need to reduce your driving speed 
  • Wear safety belt 



Before you drive a U-Haul van, you need to set the side mirrors and familiarize yourself with all the controls in the van. Adjust your seat to a comfortable position to hold the steering wheel and be in a position to use the passenger and driver side mirrors. 

U-Haul vans are larger than your car, so they do not accelerate quickly. You have to go slow on acceleration or when anticipating to stop. Before changing lanes or passing other vehicles, ensure you have enough space in front and behind. 

Always make wide turns to avoid bashing other vehicles or hitting the curb because U-Haul vans are longer and broader. Consider all the spaces around you and give enough allowance.