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18 Things You Didn't Know About U-Haul

U-Haul is a company that leases moving trucks, vans and trailers for people who prefer to do the work themselves but don't have the necessary equipment. They've been around a long time and they're a popular resource for people who don't want to pay the high prices for a professional moving service. Nearly everyone is familiar with the company but there are things about them not everyone is aware of. To give you a little more information about them, here are 18 things that you probably didn't know about U-Haul.

1. The U-Haul company was founded in 1945

We've seen U-Haul trucks all over the country in their tell-tale white and orange simple design and the name displayed prominently across their trucks. There is no mistaking a U-haul van or truck and they've been on the road for decades. Leonard Shoen is the founder and he built the company for a very personal reason. When he and his wife attempted to make a move from L.A. to Portland, they couldn't find any company that would rent a trailer to them for a one-way trip. This was discouraging, but it gave him an idea. He knew that there were other people in similar circumstances and so he founded the U-Haul company that same year.

2. The founder called U-Haul trucks "covered wagons"

When you look at a modern U-Haul truck, none of them really look like covered wagons, but back in the 1940s, they looked a lot different than they do now. Sam (Leonard) Shoen thought that they looked like the covered wagons which brought the pioneers out west to settle new lands. In essence, they do perform a similar function, so it's not hard to understand why he referred to them as covered wagons.

3. The orange color is for practicality

Shoen didn't start his company with orange and white equipment. Rather, they were all painted black. The trailers were a lot harder to see and he was actually hit at a four-way intersection when pulling one of them in traffic. There is a very good reason for the orange and white colors and it's simply for safety and to make them highly visible to other drivers when they're on the road. The loud paint scheme served two purposes at the same time. It was vibrant and easy to see and it also served as a great way to advertise the business. It was like having mobile billboards all across the country.

4. U-Haul first worked on the honor system

In the early days of U-Haul, they didn't have the complex tracking systems that are currently in place. They had to just trust that the people who rented their trailers for the move would be trustworthy and would return them at the designated drop off locations which at that time, were usually vehicle service stations. The owners of the local businesses were encouraged to become agents for U-Haul in its early stages.

5. The first U-Hauls were trailers

When the business first started, they didn't offer any trucks in their fleet. They started out with trailers. From 1945 to 1959, this is the way that they operated. Prior to the addition of trucks to their line, they had established more than 1000 drop-off locations and they were running a profitable business. For the most part, people would return the trailers as promised and the American public appreciated the convenience that they offered for long moves across the country.

6. Ford Explorer owners were not allowed to rent U-Hauls in the 2000s

There was a period of time in the history of U-Haul when the banned owners of Ford Explorers from using these vehicles to pull a U-Haul trailer. The ban took place in 2003. The reason that they imposed this rule was that of the high number of accidents that were taking place with this model of vehicle when they attempted to pull a U-Haul trailer. It was for the sake of safety that the rule was implemented. The biggest complaints were because of frequent rollover accidents but there were other types as well. There were also accidents that were determined to be caused by faulty tires that were stock on 1998 models of the Explorer and there were multiple fatalities involved in the crashes. U-Haul was taking this action as a preventative measure not only to protect their customers and the safety of their fleet of trailers but also to avoid litigation over victim lawsuits in the event of more crashes that may have been indirectly caused by pulling their trailers.

7. U-Haul rented VHS tapes

U-Haul opened up a subsidiary business that they called Haullywood Video Rentals. This was during the time when VHS tapes were the in-thing. They opened the video business. The rental stores opened in 1985 in the State of Michigan in seven locations. It made sense that they get involved in this type of business because they certainly understood how the rental and return business operated at this time. The biggest reason for the opening of this business was because there was an ongoing oil crisis that had caused many of the service stations that they had contracted with for pickup and dropoff services to close their doors. They had to do something to keep the revenues coming in until they could figure out a way to solve the current dilemma. When video rental stores began to pop up in large numbers throughout the United States, U-Haul went back to what they did best with a new plan for retrieving their rental vehicles and they abandoned their video rental services.

8. U-Haul rented other items in the 1980s

For the same reasons that U-Haul had opened their Haullywood Video Rental stores, they also offered other rental items. During this time you would see their bright orange trademark colors displayed upon jet skis, RVs, paint sprayers and even lawn mowers. They also rented out party supplies. One thing that you can say about U-Haul is that they were proactive and they were also willing to do whatever it took to keep the company head above the rough waters they were encountering.

9. The family went to war with one another

Most people are not aware of the fact that Sam Shoen and his wife had 12 children together. When the elder Sam Shohen made his son Sam the CEO of the now large company, two of the other sons named Mark and Joe were upset and quit the business. Things went from bad to worse and ugliness ensued over the disagreements. At once point, there were accusations made against the two brothers who left disgruntled, alleging that they tried to murder Sam's wife whose name was Eva. The accusations flew in 1990 and Eva was killed with a bullet during a foiled robbery. The killer was caught in 1994 and it was neither of the brothers who had been accused.

10. Eva's murder was re-enacted on a TV series

The Murder of Eva, Sam's wife was the subject of an episode of the television show "Unsolved Mysteries." It was from a tip that came in after the segment aired, that led to the arrest and conviction of Frank Marquis. He confessed to the murder during his trial which took place in 1994. While it was a positive thing that the real killer was identified, it didn't solve the problems or the hard feelings that were caused by the family over the previous allegations.

11. There were physical fights at stockholder's meetings

U-Haul held a shareholder's meeting in Reno, Nevada in 1989. It was reported that Mark Shoen was arguing with his brothers Michael and Sam. The three men reportedly became so angry with one another that a physical fight erupted. Michael was beaten by two brothers named Mark and Joe. It was a disgraceful display that showed the dysfunction of the family and the leadership of the operation had become a messy affair with the founder already retired by this time.

12. Edward Joe Shoen was CEO at U-Haul and gave out his personal phone number

This is a bit unusual for a CEO but when the problems started happening with some turnover accidents involving U-Hauls, Joe Shoen was brave about stepping up to the plate. He refused to hide behind the corporate shield. He even gave his personal phone number out so concerned people could contact him directly. He didn't mind answering questions about customer's safety concerns via his personal telephone.

13. Leonard (Sam) Shoen used to throw money out the window

Leonard Shoen, who also went by Sam had a peculiar habit. He would take $1,000 in cash and throw it out the window. He did this when he was chairman of U-Haul. He would do this in the plain view of the employees and if there were those who were offended by the act, he made them watch it regardless. It was reported that Shoen had an armed guard placed at the door. We're assuming it was to prevent the employees from going out and claiming their share of the windfall. It's never been determined why Mr. Shoen would do this. It's obvious that he had plenty of money but the behavior was a little on the bizarre side.

14. There is a space in U-Haul trucks called Mom's attic

This is true! If you've ever rented a Uhaul you've probably seen the space. We're not sure how it came to be called this or why, but it definitely exists. It's in the space that acts as a cabover and there's a lot of room in the area for packing selected items above the others to prevent them from being crushed by some of the heavier things that are being moved. When asked about the safety of the Mom's attic space, U-Haul made the assurance that this space is just as stable and secure as any other part of the moving truck.

15. U-Haul has trucks in several sizes

The trucks in -Hauls massive fleet come in a variety of sizes. There are times when you only need a small truck or trailer, other times when you need more pace and U-Haul has a size for practically any size of moving job. Their larger trucks are 26 ft with the next size down at 20ft. They also have smaller trucks that are 15 ft, 10ft, 8, and 9 ft. sizes. It doesn't really matter what kind of move you're making whether large or small, U-Haul has the ideal truck size to meet your moving needs.

16. U-Haul sells moving supplies too

To make your move more convenient, you can also purchase moving supplies from U-Haul when you rent your moving truck. They offer a variety of supplies including moving boxes, packing supplies, rope and tie downs, bike racks, RV and boat accessories, covers, bags, labor to assist with the move, and a variety of add-on services as well. It's worth noting that the packing material that they offer is also edible. While it's not recommended that you give it a try, this is to prevent any accidental poisoning if children or pets ingest the materials. It's good that U-Haul has taken precautions to ensure the safety of their customers. Also, there are many people who are not aware of the fact that U-Haul, in selected locations can also arrange for the add-on service of labor to assist you physically with a move. You can also rent a hand truck for your move to help when you transfer bulky or heavy items from the inside of the truck to your new home.

17. You can rent a U-Haul if you're 16 years of age

U-Haul will rent their trailers to customers who are at least 16 years of age. You must be at least 18 in order to rent a truck. All renters must possess a valid driver's license.

18. There is a right and wrong way to load a U-Haul

There are certain ways that you should load your U-Haul truck. The company has information available with useful tips on how to do this. It is for proper balance and safety while driving and to protect items from becoming damaged in transit.

Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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