How to pack a moving truck

Don’t get stuck playing Tetris with boxes on moving day! Here’s how and where to place each item in the truck.

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Prepping for your upcoming moving day can be tough, what with all the logistics, documents, and finances involved. Good thing, learning how to best pack a moving truck and planning your move step-by-step can make the process much easier. In this guide, we’ll cover what items to put first in a moving truck, how to fit odd-shaped items, and where to store your more fragile belongings.

The best way to pack a moving truck 

Step 1: Figure out what size truck you need

Depending on the professional movers you’re working with, you will usually be presented with the following rental truck choices:

Type of truck

Best for

Approximate dimensions in feet 

Cargo van

Studio apartments 

12’ x 4.5’ x 6.75’

Small moving truck

Studio or 1-bedroom apartments

9.9’ x 6.25’ x 6.08’

Medium-sized moving truck

2-3 bedroom homes

19.5’ x 7.6’ x 7.2’

Large moving truck

3-4 bedroom homes

25.9’ x 8.08’ x 8.08’


Need help to figure out the best moving truck for your home? Feel free to consult a local truck movers service!

Step 2: Gather the necessary packing materials

Tools for moving house. Tape, scissors, gloves, boxes

As you get ready to move, you’ll need to buy or rent the following items:

  • Dollies - To move boxes around without lifting
  • Furniture pads, moving blankets, old newspapers, packing paper, or bubble wrap - To pad sensitive parts of your furniture or fill spaces in your boxes to avoid damage. You can also use towels, blankets, or clothes to pad around items.
  • Boxes - These can be new or recycled as long as they’re sturdy enough to store and protect your items.
  • Markers and labels - These necessary packing supplies help you identify the wrapped-up and boxed-up items and where they need to go.
  • Packing tape - To hold the padding together and keep boxes closed
  • Moving straps - Keeps your furniture from shifting around while in transit
  • Large tarp - To spread on the floor of the truck; This prevents your furniture from getting dirty

You can also check out this comprehensive moving checklist to help you plan what, when, and how to pack.

Step 3: Start packing your items

Woman carrying a moving box in living room. Preparing for relocation

Once you’ve got your truck rental company settled and supplies at hand, it’s time to pack! 

  • Disassemble your larger furniture and appliances, such as dining tables, dressers, and drawers. 
  • Sort through each cupboard and closet, and assemble an “essentials box” for your last few nights in your current home. 
  • Identify what items you’ll have the movers handle and which ones you’ll transport yourself (i.e., if you’ll be transporting items ahead or in your own car). You may also want to take this opportunity to sort through things you want to keep, toss, or sell/donate.

If you don’t have the time or resources to do all this on your own, you can reach out to family or friends to help you pack. Don’t have loved ones living nearby? You can also hire a packing service to assist you!

☞ Also read: How to pack boxes for moving

Step 4: Start loading your moving truck

Family packing boxes in a moving truck

The most important part of how to pack a truck for moving is the order in which to load your items and where to position them during the trip. 

  • Largest and heaviest items first: Start loading your heavy items towards the front of the truck (near the cab where the driver sits) and against the walls. These include bed rails, table tops, table legs, coffee tables, and large appliances, such as your refrigerator and washing machine. 
  • Medium-heavy items next: Place your medium-heavy items on top of the heaviest objects or in the center of the back of the truck. These include your headboards, chairs, and heavy boxes. Other large furniture, like filing cabinets, can fall under this category, too. Make sure you store headboards in an upright position to prevent damage while in transit.
  • Secure longer items along the longest walls: Place your box springs on the side of the truck, making sure to secure them with moving straps. Position your couch on the opposite side against the wall. Doing this maximizes the space in the back. You’ll want to add paper padding for extra protection around your couch to avoid damaging it during the trip.
  • Light, fragile, and odd-shaped items last to save space: Next, load light, fragile, and odd-shaped remaining items into the empty spaces. These include smaller boxes with kitchen appliances, collectibles, and clothing. Make sure to load the boxes in layers, with the heavier items at the bottom and the lighter boxes at the very top. This keeps the weight evenly distributed.
  • Pad fragile items and don’t put anything on top: Fragile items such as long mirrors should be well-padded before you place them on their side in the truck, with nothing stacked on top.
  • Fill the gaps with non-fragile items: Now that you’ve figured out where to place the bulky and fragile items, you should be left with various “cubby holes” that you can fill with soft, non-fragile items such as garbage bags with clothing, bedding, linens, and shoes. These items are easier to squeeze into the truck and provide extra padding for everything else, so packing them last makes perfect sense.

☞ Also read: How to use moving blankets

Where to load valuables and documents when moving

Important documents and valuables, such as jewelry, are best stored in an overnight bag you’ll keep during the move. Even if you’re making a DIY move, doing this means you’ll have an eye on your valuables, and they won’t get mixed up among the other boxes.

Tips for packing a moving truck 

Securing your belongings

  • Long mirrors and paintings can be placed between mattresses or couch cushions for extra support.
  • If you’re moving dressers and desks without disassembling them, place them against your mattress to stop drawers from opening.
  • Is the truck you rented bigger than the space you need? Maximize the floor space of the truck and keep the layers of items close to the ground. This prevents your belongings from jostling around.
  • Fragile items can be kept in a box in the truck cab or transported separately (e.g., if you’re driving ahead of the moving truck).
  • Keep your small electronics, such as your computer and tablet, with you in the cab.

Keeping your things accessible

  • Keep a separate essentials bag while packing. This should have enough food and toiletries for you to survive a few days without having to unpack boxes or buy new items right before moving day. You can keep this essentials bag with you in the cab when you move. 
  • Use separate boxes for items from different rooms to stay organized while packing and unpacking.

Saving space in the truck

  • Use properly-sized boxes to save space. To maximize space, you can also use soft, non-fragile items as box stuffers/padding. These can include clothing or towels.
  • Have too many bags and suitcases? They can double as “moving boxes,” too!

Don’t be shy about asking for help when you move! Nowadays, you can easily find packing and moving services near you.

Need a hand with your next move? Hiring movers is easy with Airtasker!

Packing a moving truck can be easy as long as you remember a couple of rules:

  1. Load heavy items first.
  2. Make sure the weight is distributed evenly.
  3. Pack and pad your belongings!

But the sheer amount of your belongings and the other decisions you need to make when moving can be overwhelming. Good news! With Airtasker, you can easily hire experienced, cost-efficient movers who can make moving day less stressful! 

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FAQs on packing a moving truck

It depends on the size of the truck, the kinds of household items you have, and the number of people involved. A typical 10-foot truck may take an hour to load, while the largest consumer moving truck (approximately 26 feet) can take as long as 4.5 hours. 

To pack a sofa into a moving truck:

  1. Start by padding the edges to avoid damage during the trip.
  2. Use a dolly to roll the couch onto the truck and prop it up against one of the walls.
  3. If you have two similar-sized sofas, place them opposite each other to balance the weight.

You can book furniture movers if you’re only moving a couple of couches and not your entire house. 

You shouldn’t pack the following in a moving truck: 

  • Valuables - Jewelry, important documents
  • Flammable/hazardous items - Flammable or corrosive materials like aerosols, paint cans, and cleaning products 
  • Frozen food 
  • Plants or pets

It usually takes less time to unload a moving truck. For example, loading a 10-foot truck can take up to an hour, while unloading it may take only 45 minutes. This is because it’s easier to move boxes through a near-empty house with clearly-marked bedrooms and bathrooms than through a maze of packing paper and half-empty cupboards.

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