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The Up-Selling King: U-Haul

Last weekend I rented a U-Haul to move into a new place. I was impressed with U-Haul’s amazing up-selling process. I’m going to show you some of my favorite parts.

U-Haul’s starts by planting a seed

When I thought about renting a truck, I didn’t think Budget Truck or Allied, my mind immediately went to U-Haul! Want to know why? Their constant advertisements that I see on the road displayed right on their trucks (see above). Now, compare this to the Budget Truck design.

The U-Haul ads make you feel like they are the cheapest way to rent a truck. First time truck renters, like myself, think renting a truck will cost hundreds of dollars. U-Haul knows this and so they address my #1 concern right away by  showing me their low price (“Still $19.99”) right away.

This is where things get interesting

I went to UHaul.com to make my reservation. You can’t really make money on renting a truck for $19.99/day … can you? I don’t really know – but what I do know is U-Haul probably makes most of there money on upsells.

The first upsell was the EZ loading ramp. The price I thought I was going to pay was $19.99. But I really wanted the EZ Loading Ramp, I didn’t want to have to climb up the truck with my heavy bookshelf. So… BAM! U-Haul just got another $10 from me.

Notice how they call it “EZ Loading Ramp”. They could have called it simply “Loading Ramp” but that wanted to let you know that it is EASY.

Have you ever driven a truck before?

I’m sure U-Haul scares the crap out of people on the next step. Truck Insurance! They call their insurance plans “Safemove”, “Super safemove”, or option #3 – the no insurance option is called “Immediately reimburse U-Haul for damage.” They are pretty much saying you have pay $45,000 if you damage the truck in anyway. I don’t have $45k lying around and I’ve never driven a truck before… so I better get the insurance. So BAM! I just went from paying $20 to $40.

Side Note: At first I actually decided to not opt-in to the insurance. But then they sent me an email message containing the message above. I didn’t think it was worth the risk – so I decided to pay the $14.

What type of Dolly do you Need?

Notice how they show you three types of Dolly’s and have very specific names for each one (“Appliance Dolly”, “Furniture Dolly”, etc) to get you thinking about what you actually have to move. They even show you what you can use the Dolly for to get you thinking about all the heavy stuff you are going to move.  U-Haul could have just showed you a picture of a Dolly, but that wouldn’t have gotten you thinking about the heavy appliances you have to carry.

I had no idea I even needed this stuff until they showed me it. I got the Dolly and the furniture pads. Now, I’m at a total of $57.

Anyone moving needs boxes

Ofcourse, I can’t believe I forgot to get boxes for my move! Luckily U-Haul has got my back by selling me some boxes. I added 2 large boxes to my total. At this point I was pretty mad at myself for not getting free boxes from the office. But, since I was reserving everything the night before my move – I didn’t really have the time. My current U-Haul total is now at $63.


Did U-Haul get more money out of me? YES!

Am I mad? No.

All of U-Haul’s upsells make a ton of sense. Each one of them saved my butt and made my move easier. The best upsells make sense – they help your customer out. My assumption is that U-Haul makes more revenue per customer than its competitors because of their streamlined upselling process. This allows them to lower their base price ($19.99/day) to get more customers and then upsell to make more revenue off of them. The low base prices allows for U-Haul to dominate their competitors.

Do you have any companies that do up-selling well? Let me know in the comments.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Steven Lahey March 21, 2012, 5:29 PM

    The upselling process doesn’t end there. When you go to pick up the U-Haul they upsell your boxes and more protection insurance.

    The entire Uhaul pick-up spot is a store to sell you packing supplies.

  • Jonathan Johnson March 21, 2012, 7:36 PM

    U-Haul is great…but when I moved from Houston to Denver they accidentally forgot to send myself for three weeks. I am not an angry customer/crazy person but I did ask for a little something in return for the inconvenience of living out of suitcase for three weeks. U-Haul gave me a 50 dollar gift certificate, which I can use at any U-Haul store. I planned on saving it for next Christmas to buy presents for my family. Cheap moving and Christmas presents for the family equals happy guy.

    • Rishi Shah March 22, 2012, 1:42 PM

      haha did you buy them boxes and packing tape for xmas?

  • Jeff Amlin March 21, 2012, 10:36 PM

    I think Amazon does upselling well. I often buy an extra item to get over $25 just to get the free shipping even though I don’t really need the extra item and I pay more if I just got the shipping and not the extra item.

    • Rishi Shah March 22, 2012, 1:07 PM

      Jeff – Great point! Amazon is one of the most amazing companies when it comes to sales, marketing and branding. There entire strategy is simply genius.

      The reviews really help up-sell you. Its not Amazon that sells you. Its the customer reviews. They always get my to get a more expensive model.

      Amazon Prime – I don’t want to shop anywhere else online because I know I have free shipping with Amazon.

      I could go on and on. Bezos is a genius.

  • Pete Kennedy March 21, 2012, 10:41 PM

    Awesome post, Rishi!

    I’m a huge fan of upsells because they can add so much profit.

    Often you’ll find that 20-30% of customers will take upsells. And that can really increase your average profit per customer.

    The more profit you make per customer, the more you can afford to spend to acquire a customer via advertising… and that’s how you gain market share.


    • Rishi Shah March 22, 2012, 1:10 PM

      Hi Pete – I have to be honest I think you brainwashed me on the SXSW trip.

      Your non-stop stories about up-selling and “Bridging the Gap” to get more revenue per customer got me to notice how U-Haul was upselling me.

      I consider you a co-writer to this post.

  • Anonymous March 23, 2012, 10:18 AM

    I just want to say that all your other moving companies also upsale. If you have ever checked out their prices you may find the starting price to get you in the door could be lower, but they have MUCH HIGHER upsale rates. They have MUCH HIGHER deposit requirements as well. U-Haul has many special features to their trucks that the other companies do not offer. I have a bad back and the higher decks that Penske have injured my back when I helped my daughter move.
    That STEEP Incline is hard on the back and legs. Moving is hard enough without the extra effort of getting things up into the truck then back down out of it! Also found that even though they had unlimited miles they did not have as many locations to drop off in, so had to trave over 50 miles further for drop off causing me to have higher gas cost! WILL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN! If I ever need to move it will always be U-Haul!!!! They have way more trucks and locations to select from. Plus even give you 1 month of free storage on all their 1 way truck or trailer rentals.

    • Rishi Shah March 23, 2012, 11:49 AM

      Awesome story!

      Yes, U-Haul is super customer centric. You can tell they think about the customer every step of the way.

  • Richard Thomas November 28, 2012, 2:44 PM

    Some upsells are OK, some not. Packaging, dollies etc are fair game, though the dollies are way overpriced (and I can’t understand why boxes seem to be so universally expensive for something that is regularly thrown away). The loading ramp would be a bit much for $10 but it is also a bigger truck so I think that’s fair. The insurance is something of a rip-off. You’d almost be crazy not to take it but that’s a lot per day so it seems likely that’s been used to artificially lower the “base” rate.

    You also didn’t mention the “plus 1.09 per mile”. That is the thing that’s going to push the price up quickly for many people.

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