Why U-Hauls Have Arizona License Plates

April 8, 2010 at 11:19 pm 11 comments

Most U-Haul vehicles have Arizona license plates. Here’s a typical example.

The following picture was taken in the Toronto area, the information on the side is about Newfoundland and the license plate is, of course, from Arizona.

That might seem unusual, but most U-Hauls in Canada actually have Arizona plates too. The fact is, all corporate owned U-Haul rental vehicles in the lower 48 States and Canada have Arizona license plates. That’s right, Alaska and Hawaii don’t have Arizona plates, but all of Canada does. There are actually a few good reasons for this.

When I first noticed this trend, I assumed that U-Haul got a sweetheart deal in Arizona. It turns out their head office is in Phoenix, so it seems reasonable that they would register vehicles there. They also get a really sweet deal there, but this deal is not exclusive to U-Haul, it’s good for anyone with a billing address in Arizona.

Arizona’s registration fee is $8, although a weight and commercial fee would apply to U-Haul vehicles. But, here’s the best part, directly from the Arizona Department of Transportation, “The [Vehicle License Tax] is based on an assessed value of 60% of the manufacturer’s base retail price reduced by 16.25% for each year since the vehicle was first registered in Arizona.” So, after a number of years, the license tax is almost negligible!

It might seem shady for U-Haul to register all their vehicles in Arizona, but it’s actually 100% legal and not shady at all. The vehicles are registered with the International Registration Plan (IRP), which means that the plates don’t expire and instead they pay fees to the States and Provinces in which the vehicles are driven.

Commercial truck carriers use the same system and it is designed to simplify the licensing fee collection and distribution for companies that manage large vehicle fleets. So, even though the truck in the picture has Arizona plates, the Ontario government still gets their fare share of the licensing fee.

But wait, that’s not all. Arizona doesn’t require vehicle safety inspections. That’s very convenient for any commercial operator and U-Haul is no exception. I’ve only seen one vehicle fire in person and it was a U-Haul cube van. Smoke was billowing from the front while two guys rushed to unload their cargo from the back.

If you do see a U-Haul with local plates, there are a few possible explanations for it. Alaska and Hawaii do not have apportioned plates, so vehicles used in those states will have local plates. The other explanation is that the vehicle is owned by a franchisee and not U-Haul corporation, in which case they will likely be registered locally.

Broken Secrets

Written By: Chad Upton

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Photo: Lone Primate (Creative Commons)

Sources: Arizona DOT, DMV Answers, IRP, Wikipedia

Entry filed under: Automotive, Demystified. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Joseph Balderson  |  April 29, 2010 at 1:52 am

    I remember a few years back there was a crackdown in Ontario on truck safety as a result of trucks not getting inspected regularly, specifically spare tires dislodging from truck undercarriages while on the highways, which resulted in a number of serious accidents culminating in a few deaths.

    And I remember it being reported that U-Haul trucks had the worst safety inspection record of any fleet of trucks, and as a result a number of their trucks were impounded. What did U-Haul do? Since the plates were registered in Arizona they got around paying the fines and simply put the trucks right back on the road, most times without addressing the reasons those trucks were taken off the road in the first place!

    The Arizona plates thing may have been put into place to save money, but I think it’s just a little more than convenient that it also allowed U-Haul to circumvent Ontario road safety fines.

    One reason I’ll never rent from them ever again.

    Reply
  • 2. Robert Wolff  |  July 20, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    Today (in the Toronto area) I saw a car with Ontario plates (indicating that the trailer was probably rented in Ontario) pulling a U-Haul trailer – the trailer had a Texas plate.

    Are their trailers handled differently from their trucks? From the original post, it would seem that a corporately-owned trailer should have an Arizona plate, and a franchise-owned one should have a local (in this case, Ontario) plate – how does Texas fit into this?

    Reply
    • 3. Chad Upton  |  July 24, 2010 at 2:39 pm

      It could be many different things. That unit may belong to a franchise owner in Texas but was dropped off in Ontario, then picked up by someone else.

      Reply
  • 4. Stacey E  |  August 2, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Wow, I never noticed because I’ve lived in Arizona for 30 years. I’m going to the Upper Peninsula soon, so I’ll be looking at any Uhauls I see out on the road, between Wisconsin and Michigan. How bizarre!

    Reply
  • 5. u-haul - Ford Truck Enthusiasts Forums  |  July 23, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    [...] [...]

    Reply
  • 6. Josh  |  June 29, 2012 at 3:54 am

    You make the Vehicle License Tax sound so small and insignificant, your a fool.

    I pay over 250 bucks a YEAR for my 2007 Chevy Silverado, Yes, it “goes down” but its not as great as you think. If you think its so cheap, go ahead and pay it for me.

    Reply
    • 7. S Steve  |  June 29, 2012 at 8:17 am

      I think you meant “you’re” instead of “your.” If you’re going to call someone a fool, try not to make a fool of yourself.

      Reply
  • 8. Jock Halley  |  June 29, 2012 at 7:58 am

    While thisis true all U_ Haul units operating in Canada must display a MVI inspection sticker which is performed every year Units are road safe and legal.

    Reply
  • 9. Jude Dorpinghaus  |  July 28, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    I’ve also seen odd looking upright coffin shaped moving things with Idaho plates.

    Reply
  • 10. hiroishimamandy723.posterous.com  |  March 20, 2013 at 7:33 am

    I’m not sure where you’re getting your information, but good topic.
    I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more.
    Thanks for great info I was looking for this info for my mission.

    Reply
  • 11. Elmo  |  March 11, 2014 at 8:53 am

    Great post. I will be dealing with some of these issues as well..

    Reply

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