5 Tips For Hauling Big Items When You Have A Little Car

If we had a dollar for every time someone incredulously asked “wait, you guys do all this DIY but you don’t own a truck?” – let’s just say we’d be able to afford a big ol’ truck. But we love being a single car household and owning a modestly sized Nissan Altima (can’t beat the gas mileage). And it has definitely taught us to get creative when it comes to getting large furniture items home (along with giant pieces of lumber and hardibacker) over the years. Heck even when it comes to getting rid of stuff we’ve had to be strategic. So here are a few ways that we approach occasionally hauling away the stuff that we no longer need or picking up that rare Craigslist find (or the Ikea bookcase) that just won’t fit in our car:

Haul It Tip #1: Many people are surprised to hear that you can rent a truck from Home Depot for just $19. This was a great solution for us when it came to getting oversized bathroom reno materials home (and transporting some breakfast bagels while we were at it). We even suggested this solution to someone who was trying to buy a mattress from us via Craigslist without access to a truck… and it worked like a charm for them. They were able to swing by, grab the mattress, and swiftly get the truck back to Home Depot with plenty of time to spare (the $19 fee covers 70 minutes of rental time).

Haul It Tip #2: Look no further than a man with a van on Craigslist. This can be just the thing when it comes to hauling a ton of demo junk to the dump (storing it in your garage until your pickup will save you thousands that you could have spent to rent a dumpster). And of course a man with a van can also come to your rescue when you’re attempting to pick up a large Craigslist item that you scored for a major steal (bonus: the man in the van can help you load and unload your supersized item).

Haul It Tip #3: Get a charitable donation center like the Habitat For Humanity ReStore to do a free pick-up (this is great because it doesn’t cost a cent, they come to you, and it’s even a tax break). We recently donated our old sink and faucet along with a few extra pieces of plywood and hardibacker from our big bathroom makeover this way. We just called to arrange a pick-up and they arrived right on time to grab everything (and even left a receipt for our “tax write-offs” folder). And of course you can always list things as “free with pick up” on Craigslist and Freecycle to clear out your clutter in a snap (no driving necessary).

Haul It Tip #4: Ask a friend to borrow their bigger car/SUV/truck/etc. We are no strangers to this method either. John’s sister Emily happens to have a large Explorer and we definitely bribe her with food or gas to switch cars for a few hours (or even a full day) so we can make an Ikea run or take a bunch of items to the local recycling center when it’s garage clean out time. And every once in a while we take on a personal challenge without the help of Em’s larger car (like when we were determined to get two bifold doors into our tiny ten year old Maxima last year (mission accomplished!).

Haul It Tip #5: Rent a trailer or even a flat bed truck from a place like UHaul (which can run you just $19 an hour like Home Depot- but you have more size options to choose from). It’s just one more way to get things from point A to point B that we’ve definitely relied on in our four years as DIY obsessed homeowners.

So that’s how we take home the occasional supersized item, haul a slew of things off to the recycling center from time to time, or even get a local thrift store to do the hard work for us after we tackle some pretty major renos – all without owning a big SUV or a truck. Do you guys have other haul it tips to share? Any especially creative ways that you’ve gotten something huge back to your house (in a not so huge vehicle)? Tell us all about it.


  1. Tiffany T. says

    Now I could be mistaken but I think that the UHaul charges like 50 cents per mile after a certain mileage right? Which is still a deal..

    • says

      Good question! It totally depends on what you rent and how far you’ll be going (we know lots of people who haven’t topped the mileage limit so $19 was their total rental fee). And some UHaul rentals can be considered “local” if you’re staying within a certain zip code or area (and won’t charge for mileage at all) so it’s best to check with your local rental place to see what deals they’re currently offering.


  2. elizabeth says

    That makes a lot of sense! I’m happy driving my tiny Yaris, but my husband supports his large vehicle habit with two trucks and a huge trailer. He claims it saves money when we have to move, but so far we’ve only moved once and our choice of rental housing is dictated not by cost, but by which has the most parking area. :/

  3. Vickie says

    I used tip #2 not so long ago, when I finally found an Ikea Expedit 5×5, the color I wanted, for just 100$ on CL. Victory! Having a tiny car and no relatives near by, I called a random guy with a van found again on CL. He meet me at the seller’s place on a 30 min notice (!) and within an hour the bookcase was at my place. The best part is that I didn’t move a finger at both places (my place and the seller’s was on a second floor). 40$ oh so well spend! And it still cost me way less than a brand new one at Ikea, which I would still have to get to my place.

  4. says

    Great post! I always find it amusing when people purchase a car based on what they’ll be doing with it 10% of the time.

    I have a tiny Saturn, so I joined U Car Share, details here: https://www.ucarshare.com/secure/Home.aspx It may or may not be in your city, but it’s worth a look. There is a fee of $25 to join, but then it’s only $5 an hour and they even cap the amount after a certain time. They have anything from a Prius to an F-150! Definitely cheaper than owning and insuring another vehicle!

  5. Clare says

    We’ve had Zipcar for a few years, and while we don’t use it regularly (yay public transit and walking), we’ve been known to grab a Honda Element or Toyota Tacoma for an Ikea trip or a pre-moving truck move. While it’s only available in some urban areas, it’s been a great way to avoid owning a car for 5 years while living in big cities.

  6. says

    Great tips!! I might have to call the nearest ReStore to see if they can pick up so many things we have stored in our garage from our recent kitchen and guest bathroom remodels. I had NO idea they could do pick-ups. As long as we’re not too far away for their pick-up service, you may have just saved us a huge headache (and unfortunately for the hubs, this means we can clean out the garage soon after all). ;)

  7. Laura W says

    I have a Honda Fit. It’s a pretty tiny car, the gas mileage is GREAT, and the seats fold all the way down to create a large cargo area in the back. My personal best large-item transportation victory was buying and transporting an 8-foot ladder in the Fit. Needless to say, it fit!

  8. Lucy says

    Many cities have cars you can rent by the hour (Zipcar in DC) and they have trucks or SUVs available, usually within a few blocks of our house. Zipcar rates are around $8/hour when you have a subscription for the year ($50). It is a great way to haul big stuff without buying the big car!

  9. Corrie says

    For those that live in or near cities where they are available Zip Car is always a great option. They have SUVs and trucks. An especially great option when (like me) you don’t own a car at all.

  10. Chelsey says

    My tip is to own a hatchback with seats that fold down! We have tiny cars (VW Golf and Honda Fit) and we have hauled SO many large items. Just last week I fit a 3X5′ foot bookcase in my car (the guy I bought it from said he had never seen anything like it!), and a few days before that I hauled a lot of compost in tubs, and before that 4 kitchen chairs. I also volunteer for my food co-op, and I think I maxed out the VW at 9 full-size ice chests.

  11. Annette says

    I once bought a french door (32 x 80) from Home Depot and was able to take it home in my 99 Honda Civic!! I lowered the back seats and pushed the front seats as far up as possible and was still able to close the truck. What was so funny was while I was putting the door in the car a small group of men stopped and watched in amazement! “I gotta see this!”, “Cant’t be done!, then “Damn, can’t believe it!, “Wow!” Yep…still have that car!

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