U-Haul Requires A Thumbprint To Rent A Van?

Does U-Haul require a thumbprint to rent a van?

Reader Dan writes:

I rented a cargo van this weekend from U-haul in Los Angeles for a local move. In addition to my driver’s license and credit card, they required a thumb print before I could rent the truck. The clerk at the U-haul didn’t know anything about the regulations behind it, only that it was “corporate policy for all cargo vans and pickup trucks.” I reluctantly gave them a thumbprint. The clerk was ignorant, but essentially wouldn’t rent to me without it.

we haven’t rented from U-Haul lately, has this happened to anyone else? We were unable to locate this policy on U-Haul’s corporate website. Do that many people get away with stealing U-Haul trucks? Is there some unseen epidemic that would require such extreme measures? —MEGHANN MARCO

(Photo: cmorran123)

PREVIOUSLY: Car Dealer Refuses To Sell You A Vehicle Without A Thumbprint
BofA Throws Out Customer Who Refuses To Give Thumbprint
Chase Refuses To Cash Check Without Thumbprint


Edit Your Comment

  1. ironchef says:

    banks do the same thing…and that policy isn’t published either.

  2. acambras says:

    Maybe they’re thinking about Timothy McVeigh renting the Ryder truck to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City. But that was over 10 years ago — why institute this policy now?

  3. Esquire99 says:

    I rented a moving truck from Penske about two months ago, and they did not require anything like that. I just showed them my credit card, my DL, and signed the paperwork.

  4. layzboy1986 says:

    I recently rented an U-Haul and they didn’t require a thumb print…. they did require a blood sample but i hear thats normal nowadays… J/K

  5. jmcclint says:

    I rented a U-Haul two weeks ago, and it was a straight-forward experience. No thumbprint. I wonder what U-Haul has to say for themselves, because I can’t imagine they want to be responsible for keeping this on record. I’ve heard of using thumbprints instead of signatures before, but not for something so ho-hum as renting a truck.

  6. getjustin says:

    Well it’s worth it just to have the pleasure of doing business with a company like U-Haul.

  7. acambras says:


    They won’t get my business, but I’ll give ’em the finger. ;-)

  8. RetroChristal says:

    Odd, I just rented a Uhaul about two weeks ago in LA (North Hollywood to be exact). It was an actual Uhaul only location, not a place that just happend to have Uhauls. We weren’t required to do anything like that at all. Then again, our truck was from the 80s and covered in spraypaint. I doubt they really cared much at this location.

  9. ADM says:

    it must be for “terrorism.”

    they obviously had such a hard time tracking down mcveigh without his thumbprint, we must give u-haul (and bank of america) our thumbprints, or else the terrorists will win.

  10. mopar_man says:

    Maybe I’m in the dark here but what exactly do these companies need a thumbprint for? It’s not like they have them on file. And if it’s given to the police, what if the criminal is a first-timer? There wouldn’t be any print on file anyway.

  11. OrangeFurious says:

    I rented a pickup last week at the West Los Angeles U-Haul and they required the thumbprint. The girl at the counter didn’t seem to care much when I complained and simply started to cancel the order (before I asked her to, actually).

  12. MercuryPDX says:

    Went with a friend to rent a truck for his move three weeks ago, and they didn’t ask for a thumb print. Just a Drivers License and any Major CC.

  13. JohnMc says:


    Real Estate agents, hazmat movers, most law enforcement, port access airline personnel, passport holders now, etc, etc, all require a print. So you would be amazed just how large a percentage of the American public have a print on file. Its over 2/3rds.

  14. stickfigure says:

    I had the same experience at the U-Haul on Hollywood Blvd. between Vermont and Hillhurst in Los Angeles. I was irate when they asked me for a thumb print, but it was too late for me to make other arrangements to move whatever it was I had to move — this was at least six years ago. I made a mental note never to rent from U-Haul again, they are so ghetto.

  15. gbgirl says:

    If I recall correctly from my days of working at in sales/reservations at U-haul International (and oh, how I have tried to block it from my memory), the cargo van and pick up truck rentals were always treated differently from moving truck rentals. You *had* to have a credit card in order to rent them; I think they may have leased those vehicles instead of owning them outright (like the wretched moving vans that the company runs into the ground). If the policy has changed, it may have something to do with that. Of course, the fingerprint requirement would pale in comparison to so many other heinous U-haul corporate policies…

  16. picturesofme says:

    re: RetroChristal’s comment:

    I rented from the U-Haul in NoHo a month or two ago as well, and had the same experience. I wonder if we had the same van…ours even had spraypaint on the windshield. classy, that was.

    I also rented a U-Haul recently from another Los Angeles (East Hollywood, to be exact) U-Haul – no thumbprint there either. strange.

  17. dead9uy says:

    I rented one over the weekend at a gas station/u haul space and they did not require a thumb print. The guy also gave me 2 extra hours to return the truck at no charge which I thought was nice.

  18. royal72 says:

    “well of course you have to give us your thumbprint, because you are obviously a terrorist. it’s very important that we can i.d. you after your suicide bombing… errr… actually were gonna need a copy of your dental records to keep on file as well… so check this out. you didn’t hear it from me, but i saw a story on cnn a while back, where someone used a stolen van for the job. it’s much cheaper, there are no paper trails, and you can probably find a much nicer van than the crap ones we got.”

  19. zolielo says:

    I rented a U-Hall trunk from LAX about a month ago using a CC. No thumb print.

    Is there more to the story?

  20. dbeahn says:

    Having lived through the Oklahoma City bombing, lost friends there, and seen the destruction spread over 12 city blocks, I’m OK with this policy for truck rentals.

    A bank doesn’t seem likely to be able to use the “but it MIGHT save lives one day” argument.

  21. Chris says:

    JohnMc: Supposedly at least, the fingerprint databases used for licensing purposes (California lawyers are fingerprinted as part of the admission process) are kept separate from the general criminal databases like IAFIS.

    Whether that’s true in practice, or whether the USA PATRIOT Act eliminate such niceties, I can’t say. Taking the prints doesn’t make much sense if you aren’t allowed to compare them to trace prints from a crime scene, does it?

  22. Chris says:

    From the CA State Bar Website:

    (b) Fingerprints furnished with applications shall be used to establish the identities of applicants and to determine whether applicants have criminal records in California or elsewhere. The information obtained as a result of fingerprinting of the applicant is confidential and shall be limited to the official use of the Committee and, as required by law, by The State Bar of California. Fingerprint records of those who do not receive a positive determination of moral character shall be destroyed one year after the date of the determination.

    So I guess there is some pro-active purpose to some of the printing. But U-Haul obviously isn’t checking your thumb against any database before you rent.

  23. kfx says:

    I would just like to mention that U-Haul gave me one of the worst customer-service experiences of my entire life once, and I will never do business with them again.

    I booked a van to move between two cities, and I booked it weeks in advance. I was to pick it up in the morning of my move, giving me ample time to load it up and get out of there before the end of the day.

    8am rolls around. I call U-Haul. They tell me to sit tight.
    12pm. I am getting pissed. Call back. Say they’re just jiggering some things around and I will be taken care of any minute.
    2pm. They say they’re having some kind of equipment shortage; hang on.
    4pm. They fess up an tell me I am not getting a truck.

    Now, this is the last day of the month, mind you. I have to be out of there that day so someone else can move in the next. I had to go and beg my landlord to let me stay in a different suite for the night. So I had to move all my shit from my old place to another apartment two floors up that was in the process of being renovated. I actually had to try and sleep while some fucking contractors were removing a bathtub.

    THEN, the next day, they finally get me a truck. No discount or anything, of course. So I moved using their truck, and I paid them, but I will never, ever use U-Haul again.

  24. oghelpme says:
  25. kalikidtx says:

    I have rented from UHaul and Penske in LA too many times in the past couples of years, and I have never been asked for that by any UHaul or Penske facility. And next time go Penske, much better equipment, very negiotable on pricing, usually pretty nice as well, always willing to work with you….

  26. Terek Kincaid says:

    Well, for one thing, if this register biscuit is the kind of jackass you make him out to be, I’m sure he didn’t take a good fingerprint. You don’t just dunk your hand in ink and smear it on the cardboard and get a nice print. When my wife had her prints taken for her greencard, the tech rolled her fingers, she didn’t touch them to the screen herself. And I’ve watched a lot of “Cops”, it seems to be the same thing: the officer moves the fingers [disclaimer: yes, I just used a TV show as a source, so sue me :P ] So, I don’t think U-haul will be building some kind of profile on you.

    The “anti-terrorism” angle seems to be the right one, in my eye. U-haul probably just doing this for good PR with the government (since everyone seems to like to rent trucks when blowing things up, unless they get their hands on something bigger). Notice this was for local rentals of vans and pickups, the kind of “discreet” vehicle that would make an unobtrusive bomb-carrier (as opposed to a 24-foot truck with a picture of a skier or a wombat or whatever the hell they put on the side of it).

    As for the banks requiring fingerprints, I think they only do that for folks cashing checks that don’t have accounts. Guess what: the majority of folks who do that are probably writing bogus checks, and they *will* probably have a file somewhere. Please, just open an account, or use your own bank, and don’t complain when you hand over a slip of paper with some numbers on it and expect to be handed wads of cash no questions asked. It’s called “risk management” (or more properly, “common sense”), just deal with it.

  27. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Probably an anti-terrorism measure, because you never know when somebody will sneak a U-Haul truck past the TSA and aboard an aircraft.

  28. royal72 says:

    @dbeahn: i so appreciate how you feel, but the reality is that if someone wants to make their point, regardless of right or wrong, they will find a way and every single “freedom” invading policy will not make a difference. it all comes down to fear. we as a country have been put on the fearful defensive and now wait for hours in security lines at the airport, do a double take of anyone remotely middle eastern, and pretty much wait for the other shoe to drop at any time.

    so without going on, what difference does it make to give more of your personal information to stop what you have learned to fear? as i said sarcastically in my earlier post, what will a fingerprint do to deter someone from using a rental van as a bomb except reinforce fear for you in the investigation after the fact?

  29. Anonymously says:

    They required a thumb print at the ski rental place the last time I went.

  30. bdgw7 says:

    This can’t have anything to do with terrorism or the Patriot Act. If you look at the link oghelpme posted http://www.madocowain.com/Arcade/OmegaRace/uhaul.html, you’ll see that the customer service letter indicates that U-Haul began this policy in 1999, and purely as a form of loss prevention.
    There’s a news story that mention U-Haul is using the policy to prevent fraud from bad checks and the like http://www.newsnet5.com/news/1856563/detail.html, there’s also this http://www.nbc4.com/answerstoaskliz2002/1470178/detail.htm

    One wonders how much loss U-Haul was experiencing. Just think of the 100s of trucks they lost to people with invalid DL’s and bum checks and maxxed out credit cards so that the truck & renter couldn’t be located.

    As to why some outlets take fingerprints and others don’t, U-Haul stores are franchised dealers, so perhaps there’s enough independence in the dealer agreement that most outlets don’t bother. I’ve rented plenty of U-Hauls since 1999 in the LA area and have never been asked for a fingerprint.

    I suspect that you find the policy enforced in lower income/higher crime neighborhoods – hence the variable policy in effect in the LA area. What do you want to bet there’s some racial profiling in how evenly the policy is applied, too?

    Whichever, it’s nonsense, & it’s giving away too much personal info to a business with no recourse to protect yourself (e.g. cancelling a credit card/stopping payment on a check/closing a bank account). And it’s good to know that U-Haul is a business to avoid in the future – one of the many reasons I read Consumerist!!

  31. zolielo says:

    @oghelpme: Interesting info in the link.

    “U-Haul started the thumbprint program on November 15, 1999 to stop the loss of our equipment.”

  32. GeekChicCanuck says:

    This is an odd story. My husband and I rented a small truck when we moved from Texas to Saskatchewan and they never required a fingerprint from either of us – mind you that was a couple of years ago.

    Oh, and kfx… I hear you about their service. :P

  33. North of 49 says:

    They are worried about loss prevention? They should be fragging worried about their customers dying behind the wheel because of their shoddy mechanics.

    Marketplace (cbc.ca) had a show all about how dangerous they were. So did W5 (ctv.ca)

  34. TedSez says:

    It seems to me that U-Haul already developed a perfect anti-theft system when it decided to stock its fleet exclusively with trucks that can’t go more than two miles without breaking down.

  35. medalian1 says:

    Wow I can’t believe someone who visits this site actually USED U-Haul.

  36. OKJeff says:

    U-Haul is a weird about their Pickups and Cargo Vans. My local UHaul requires you to get the additional insurance on them because they Lease them. Of course they didn’t mention this to me when I called to make the reservation.

    I’m moving in 2 weeks and will be using Penske, to avoid the horrors of Uhaul, I’ve read about on the site.

  37. Kornkob says:

    *shrug* I’ve never had a problem with UHaul– I suspect it is a poorly managed franchise. Which means that instead of thinking of it as a chain, you need to think of it as a local store: some suck, some don’t.

    As far as taking a fingerprint: television shows and procecutors would like you to beleive that everytime you touch something you leave behind this wonderful and beautiful image of the fine ridge detail on whatever part of your hand that touched, brushed against or came near the surface. The fact is most of the time you end up with a smudged image that might have a point or 2 of reference but not enough detail (without post processing which might not help).

    If you’re asked for a fingerprint and really don’t want to give it up, just make sure you smudge the image a little: turn your planted finger 2 degrees to the left and pull away from the surface when you lift your finger.

    When taking a fingerprint on the hand card, the trick is 2 fold: make sure the subject lifts straight up and down and make sure the finger doesn’t twist sideways– neither behavior is natural or easy, which is why having the officer do it for you is how it is done.

    When I was an MP (US Army Military Police Corps) about every other hand card I started I had to throw away and start a new one because more than one of the prints was a No Go. It’s harder than it looks.

    As to why they’d want it– I suppose if a franchise was having theft or damage problems, it might be handy for their insurance company if they had a fingerprint of the renter in the event that there is a problem. Insurnace companies tend to give you deep discounts when you take steps to make it easier for them to recover their losses. The fingerprints probably aren’t ever used by UHaul— they ar eproblay kept on file so that they cna be turned over to their insurer in the event that you wreck the car and they need to chase you down for payment. Fake ID = easy. Fake fingerprints = much harder.

  38. Canadian Impostor says:

    I moved in a UHaul last summer. After I moved I swept out the truck, and folded all the blankets they had inside. Two days later I got a $30 cleaning charge on my credit card, and I called them to ask what they had to clean, the truck was cleaner than when I got it.

    They told me it was dirty and the blankets were unfolded. I asked for some sort of proof and they just blew me off. If I ever rent from them again I’m using one of those prepaid credit cards you get at CVS.

  39. Got a U-Haul 3 weeks ago and took it one way about 300 miles. No thumb print. The guy at the counter argued with me about insurance though. I had it in writing from my car insurance company that they’d cover the truck, but the U-Haul guy swore that that was bs. I went sans insurance anyway. The fingerprint thing sounds like a load of crap to me. Did you try calling corporate?

  40. Val says:

    I had a U-Haul experience similar to kfx’s moving back to Philly from NYC and Penske is the only way I’ll go from now on.

    After moving a mattress, a box spring, and a couch, I was hit with a $20 “cleaning fee” because the employees at U-Haul claimed they have to sweep out the back of the truck after I dropped it off. I could have EATEN off of the floor of that truck. From what they said, I might as well have emptied bags of manure all of over the back of the truck and transported farm animals instead of my (almost new) furniture.

    My advice: take photos of the rental truck when you return it so that liars can’t tell you they had to clean the truck again.

  41. alterboy says:

    I rented a truck this last weekend when I moved from Hollywood back into the Valley and I wasn’t asked for a thumb print. I rented It at the Uhaul center in Van Nuys. This isn’t a franchise it is actually owned by Uhaul. Maybe it’s something they’re rolling out in test markets?

  42. Buran says:

    @dbeahn: I’m not OK with this slippery slope of privacy invasion this is starting us all down (or probably just shoving us all down after we’re already down it).

  43. cac67 says:

    I used to enforce this policy when I was a U-Hole. It was explained to me that the reason they would fire me if I didn’t get a print on local rentals was because of people stealing the truck and claiming id theft. It was supposed to slow down the loss of trucks from people renting local with an (at that time) $80 cash deposit and then driving it across the country and abandoning it. For people who objected I was supposed to offer to return the print when they returned the truck. I transferred out of that store a few months later and never bothered with it again.

  44. Smashville says:

    Loss of equipment?

    No…that’s not an eighteen wheeler in my backyard…it’s a flower planter…

  45. MAllan says:

    I think the key here is that it applies only to vans and pick up trucks and NOT the U Haul moving vehicles. Vans and pickups are “stock” like any other van or pick up and if stolen can be re-painted easily.

    The U Haul moving vehicles on the other hand have very distinctive bodies and features.

  46. Febryle says:

    Dan here–this was my comment posted.

    To clarify, Uhaul told me it was only for pickups and vans and NOT for all trucks. I graciously offered to take my business elsewhere, which seemed to please the clerk greatly. Perhaps the reruns of Judge Judy he was watching were more valuable then my $19.95 plus mileage.

    Like several others, I had already made all my moving arrangements and decided to swallow my privacy and give them a (somewhat blurry) print.