How to Pack a Moving Truck (Or Portable Storage Container!)

You've reserved your moving truck, picked it up from your local U-Haul store, and now you're ready to pack up your belongings and head to your new home. The only question left – what's the best way to load a moving truck? Like most things in life, there's a right way and a wrong when it comes to loading a moving truck.

There are several reasons to pack it the right way, too. For starters, a well-packed moving truck will keep your belongings free from damage. It will maximize your available space, too, so you don't have to make extra trips. Plus, it helps with distributing weight evenly throughout the truck which improves gas mileage and overall driving stability.

Are you ready to get moving? This guide will teach you all the industry secrets for packing a moving truck just like one of the pros!


Key Takeaways

  • Pack your items in “tiers” or stacked rows.
  • Build strong rows using furniture and larger items as the base.
  • Stack boxes on top of your rows; heavier boxes should be at the bottom.
  • Load heaviest items like your washer and dryer into the truck first.
  • Fill gaps using furniture pads and/or smaller items to minimize shifting.

First, be sure that all your items are well protected. U-Haul offers an array of moving boxes and moving supplies with industry-leading strength and stability. U-Haul moving boxes are also specifically sized with compatible dimensions to be easily stacked on top of each other.

How to Pack a Moving Truck Like a Pro

1. Develop a Plan to Maximize Your Available Space

With that said, the most important part of packing a moving truck is understanding how to organize your moving boxes and larger items into stacked rows that won't shift around during travel. The moving industry refers to these rows as "tiers."

A diagram showing how to pack furniture, household items, and U-Haul moving boxes into a U-Haul moving truck.

“Tiers” require careful planning in order to achieve the goals of maximum density and minimal damage – after that, it's just a matter of executing your plan when you build these rows and load the truck.

Think of it like a game of Tetris! By cleverly arranging your boxes and furniture, you can avoid any large gaps in your rows and further limit the movement of individual boxes (aka “load shift”).

However, you should first account for Mom's Attic -- this is an extra cargo space that is unique to U-Haul moving trucks, designed to transport fragile valuables separately from heavy boxes and furniture. Mom's Attic is on the back wall of the cargo area closest to the driver's cab, meaning that you will need to organize your items there before constructing rows with the rest of your things.

2. Build the Base of Your Row

Now, each of your actual rows will need a strong foundation to support all the things stacked on top. These base items are typically large furniture with flat surfaces, though sometimes you'll need to use more irregular shapes (like a couch). An especially large piece of base furniture may even result in a double row, meaning that you would build two rows of moving boxes on top of the one large base item.

A diagram showing how to load sturdy base furniture (a dresser, cabinet, and mattress) onto a U-Haul moving truck.

Your heaviest items (couch, dresser, washer/dryer) should be loaded into the truck first to distribute the load weight properly, and these items all serve as strong base furniture for a row. Be sure to wrap them with furniture pads and mover’s wrap for protection, and to use a dolly to move these heavy items!

When loading dressers or cabinets, make sure that the drawers/doors face the front of the truck. This way, when you lean the top of the furniture toward yourself to unload it, nothing will be flung open. Alternatively, you can use mover’s wrap to secure these unfastened pieces in place and avoid this issue altogether. However, you should avoid sticking tape directly to these wooden items – the chemicals in the adhesive may damage the wood finish.

While your mattress may not be your heaviest item, it will undoubtedly be one of the largest. So how do you pack a mattress into a moving truck? Your mattress should first be protected by a mattress bag, then be rested on its side against one of the side walls of the moving truck. This will impact the arrangement of multiple rows, so your mattress should also be one of the earliest items that you load onto your truck.

3. Stack Boxes onto Your Row

After solidifying the foundation of your row, begin stacking moving boxes and other smaller items on top of the base furniture. Lighter furniture that’s too small to serve as a base item, like a nightstand or small desk, can be used to fill out the second layer of a row too. Use additional furniture pads to prevent stacked furniture from indenting the items packed underneath or nearby. This is even more important when using a couch as the foundation of your row – you don’t want to risk ripping the upholstery if another item gets dislodged during travel.

A diagram showing a nightstand and U-Haul moving boxes organized on top of base furniture in the back of a U-Haul truck.


PRO TIP: When placing boxes onto a row, load them according to the weight of the items inside, not the size of the box. For example, a small box filled with heavy books should not be stacked on top of a large box filled with pillows and blankets.

A diagram showing a row of small U-Haul boxes stacked on top of medium, large, and extra-large moving boxes.

As you continue to stack items to fill space, avoid leaning items within your rows. Leaning will increase the likelihood of load shifting. That said, if a strangely shaped piece of furniture must be leaned, then lean it towards the previous row to prevent it from falling forward during unloading.

Once you’ve finished building up a row, there will likely be a few inches of remaining space between the top of the row and the ceiling of your truck or container. This is the ideal zone for long, lightweight items like skis and fishing rods, or flattened items like folding tables or lawn chairs if they aren’t too wide.

A diagram showing how to pack skis, fishing rods, and foldable tables/chairs in the available space above boxes in a U-Haul moving truck.

4. Rinse and Repeat for Your Remaining Rows

You’ll repeat these steps for row creation until your truck is filled. Use tie-down rope to secure each row before beginning the next one, especially if that row includes large, heavy furniture (ex. an armoire).

A perfect row can often be challenging to achieve, especially as you start running out of items to load. However, narrow openings within your rows can actually present more opportunity! Depending on the size of the gap, this can be the ideal place to slide a TV box or mirror/artwork box for a snug fit that will limit how much these fragile items jostle around.

Any smaller gaps between items in a row can be plugged by spare furniture pads to limit shifting.

Rugs should be loaded into the truck last so that they are the first things positioned in your new home before any furniture is brought in. Use mover’s wrap to keep the rug rolled up. Be careful though when leaning a rolled-up rug against other items because the gritty padded material on the bottom can scuff other uncovered belongings.

A diagram showing how to store rolled-up rugs in the available space on top of a mattress in the back of a U-Haul moving truck.

After the final tie-down is secured and rugs are loaded, you should be all set to hit the road! Drive safely! And better yet, drive confidently knowing that everything will arrive at your new home in perfect condition.

How to Stay Organized

Loading your boxes and furniture into your truck is one thing. Knowing exactly where you put everything is another. The My Belongings Organizer is a convenient and user-friendly tool designed to help you stay organized during the moving process.

Instead of using a marker to label boxes like in the old days, this feature in the U-Haul App allows you to create an inventory of your moving boxes, assign specific labels, upload photos of the items inside, and have all this information readily available wherever you go -- no Wi-Fi required.

Get the App

How to Rent a Moving Truck

If you need to rent a moving truck or container, look no further than U-Haul! As a leader in the moving industry, U-Haul prides itself on offering an array of easy-to-use DIY moving vehicles in a variety of sizes.

Where to Buy Moving Supplies

U-Haul also offers a wide selection of moving supplies crafted by our experts to make moving easier! Choose from same-day delivery, FREE in-store pickup from your local store, or standard shipping when you order online with U-Haul.

More Articles About Packing:

To Top