A decent barometer Americans’ movement in real-time is to check on the cost of moving trucks in their area and, oh man, are people getting the heck out of cities in California.
To spot the trend, look for one-way travel from the largest west coast cities. Let’s say you’re fleeing Los Angeles for the sunny freeways of Houston, Texas, for instance. One of the fairly large U-Hauls could run you over $4,200:
The reverse journey, from Houston to Los Angeles is much cheaper. The largest truck on offer, a 26-foot giant, is $3,410 cheaper than the same truck in LA right now:
Los Angeles isn’t the only city seeing what could potentially be a mass exodus. Here’s what a do-it-yourself move from San Francisco to Dallas will set you back:
It’s not just U-Haul. Truck Rental companies across both LA and San Francisco are charging more. Like Budget Rental, which seems to spread the high cost across its various sizes of vehicles. Here’s the same route, LA to Houston, on the same day:
Penske, which rents its trucks out of Home Depot as well as independent retailers, has a 22-foot truck renting for $6,204:
This is why it pays to shop around people! I asked U-Haul about the pricing surge and a spokesperson sent me the following statement:
Our management team considers many factors when determining pricing for equipment rentals from one location to another, not the least of which is supply and demand.
We strive to make our equipment available at the lowest cost to everyone, regardless of where customers are traveling in the U.S. or Canada. However, managing the allocation of our fleet and seeing that DIY moving equipment is available at all our 22,000-plus rental locations can, and does, lead to lower pricing when traveling to certain markets at given times.
When there is a substantial difference in pricing for the same one-way equipment between two markets for the same dates, it is reasonable to conclude there is far greater demand for one-way equipment in the market reflecting higher costs for departures.
So while one-way travel with a rental truck is always more expensive, U-Haul admits that the price increase in moving trucks could be viewed as a barometer of who is moving out of where, in this case, a lot of one-way travel out of California. I reached out to Penske, which confirmed its business runs on a similar model to U-Haul’s distribution-based system and that the company is seeing a high demand for trucks heading one way out of California. Both companies are working towards rebalancing the national fleet to handle the increased demand. I also tried to contact Budget Rental but, true to its name, it looks like there hasn’t been a press contact there since 2015.
If I had to guess, I’d say people are leaving California due to the heartbreaking wildfires that seem to get worse and worse every year. This year is already the worst in California history, and the season isn’t close to over yet. The west coast of the United States currently has the worst air quality on Earth. As of this writing, 3.1 million acres have burned and 20 people have died. Judging by the nightmarish images of burning forests and orange skies from San Francisco and Los Angeles in particular, I can’t say that I blame anyone looking for greener pastures.