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Changing of the guard: Big cities giving way to newer, less expensive offerings

Industry Research

Changing of the guard: Big cities giving way to newer, less expensive offerings

U-Haul truck rental costs are a good early predictor of migration trends in the U.S.


By David Malone, Associate Editor | February 8, 2016

Photo Credit: Mark Brennan, Flickr Creative Commons

The city that never sleeps and the city of broad shoulders might be getting a bit tired and atrophied, respectively. Chicago and New York, two of the three biggest cities in the country, are also at the top of the list for cities people are bailing on like a ship taking on water.

As Annie Radecki, senior manager at John Burns Real Estate Consulting, reports, U-Haul moving truck price disparities can indicate where people are moving before anything more official comes along, and these price disparities don’t look good for many Midwest and Northeast cities.

The idea behind using U-Haul price disparities makes sense; the more people there are moving to a particular city the more trucks there will eventually be in that city. Thus, the price will go down to rent a truck from that city and take it somewhere else. The reverse is also true.

For example, on average, it costs $2,455 to drive a truck to Portland, Ore., from one of the other 15 cities John Burns Consulting analyzed. However, it only costs $952 to drive a truck from Portland. That is a 61% difference. 

Getting back to New York and Chicago, it costs 119% more to rent a truck and drive it from New York than to it, and 101% more to do the same with Chicago.

All of this points to the fact that places like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia (86% more expensive), and Boston (83% more expensive) are bleeding like stuck pigs.

You may be asking yourself, where are these former Midwest and Northeast residents headed? The answer is to open waters in the South and the Northwest, where the cost of living is more affordable.

Portland may be at the top of the list, but Seattle, Phoenix, Atlanta, and Austin rank in at 53%, 47%, 42%, and 38% less expensive to rent a U-Haul from, as well.

While city living might be growing in its appeal, the appeal of these high-cost, mature cities seems to be waning while newer cities with better job markets and lower costs are growing in popularity.

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