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Road Trips Discussions about road trips you have made with your TDI.

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Old June 6th, 2018, 10:32   #1
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eb2143's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Rhode Island
TDI(s): None
Smile Rhode Island to Los Angeles in a Penske

I wanted to share the experience I had on my first long distance move (May 30 - June 4, 2018). I rented a 26' Penske with tow dolly and received a 2018 model with 2,315 miles on the odometer with no-cost upgrade to a car carrier. My girlfriend and I had a friend moving to Denver so actually moved three people.

I have rented the 26' before (see my post here). There have been a lot of positive updates in the last 8 years to these trucks.

These International Durastar 4300 Trucks now have air brakes and suspension, air-ride driver's seat with adjustable lumbar support (quite comfortable), cruise control, and modern headunit with bluetooth. They are powered by the ubiquitous Cummins B6.7L ISB, of course now with particulate filter and SCR. I suspect Penske specs the base output version of this engine, meaning I had just 200 hp and 520 lb/ft on tap. I believe there is an integrated exhaust brake on this engine, but it's not particularly strong.

Why I rented this truck: I probably could have gotten away with a tightly packed 16' gas model (before I knew I was also moving my friend), but I didn't want to be aware of the trailer: As I hoped, this truck pulled the car carrier straight and true in cross-winds, rough roads, and heavy braking and gave me the impression of a much safer option. Also, trip reports from the gas engines indicate 8 mpg is typical when towing, so diesel saved me money on fuel. And the upcharge was only about $400 over the 16'.

Also, I considered PODS/Pack-Rat or similar -- several downsides: Price was $2700 and I still had to get our car out there on my own ($1000 with fuel, lodging, and food if I drove it myself). Additionally, in many city locations, they can't drop the POD so you need to rent a truck to move yourself from the distribution center. You don't even want to know what a professional move would cost.

Other specs:
  • 70 gallon fuel tank
  • ~10 gallon DEF tank
  • 6-speed automatic Allison transmission
  • Governed to 70 mph
  • Seats three

Rig as loaded numbers:
  • Rig with trailer is about 55' long, 8' wide, and 12'7'' high.
  • Trailer (1 ton, 2-axle car carrier with 4-wheel disc brakes) plus car (Camry) was approximately 5,000 lbs
  • Box was about 80% full, not a particularly heavy load, I estimate about 5,000 lbs of cargo (max payload is 10,899 to keep gross vehicle weight under 26k)

The trip numbers:
  • Miles driven: 3038
  • Fuel burned: 303.89 gallon
  • Average price per gallon: $3.35 ($1,017.44 for the trip)
  • MPG: 10 mpg on the nose
  • DEF used: approximately 9 gallons or 335 miles per gallon

The route:

The experience driving the International 4300:
I was a CDL holder and bus driver for about 6 years (you just need normal operating license to rent this though...somewhat scary). Other than backing up with a dinky trailer on a big vehicle (hard), I found the vehicle easy to drive. Its turning radius is very good because its wheelbase isn't too bad (much better than a 40' 2-axle city transit bus). Honestly, the engine is pretty anemic, especially at higher speeds, in a vehicle with the aerodynamics of a brick (over the road tractors have much better aerodynamics with lower fairings and smoother flow over the box). With my relatively light load, I was seeing 35-40 mph up the 6-8% grades on I-70 and I-15 between Denver and Los Angeles, similar to the slower semis. The transmission was good and I had options to disable 6th gear as well as to make it hold 4th. There was also an ECON mode that would hold gears long and upshift at a lower RPM. On the highway my typical strategy for an upgrade would be to disable 6th gear and get a running start wide open. For mild downhills, I would get some engine braking by again disabling 6th gear. For the steepest downgrades of the trip, I would keep it in 4th gear. Because of the terrible aerodynamics, this rig really didn't gain much speed downhill and was easy to control in steep downhills without getting the sense of overworking the brakes. For the majority of the trip, I would keep cruise at 65 mph. I would estimate up to 1/3 of my time was spent utilizing 2.5-3 second following distance, aka "light drafting" of semis, which netted approximate 1.5 mpg bump on truck's instant fuel economy readout, so keep that this in mind for my fuel economy numbers.

I-15 was really pretty extreme duty, with the engine wide open for long stretches in 90-110 degree heat. The water temp would creep up to about 215 and then the cooling fans would kick onto high (very loud), and quickly bring her back down to 190. So a more-than-adequate cooling system.

As far as the exhaust aftertreatment, I did not experience a single active regeneration (definitely never got the "high exhaust temp" light, so I am presuming that passive regen on the highway with a hard working engine was enough).

What I learned about packing a moving truck and driving cross-country:
  • Our country is beautiful and incredibly varied. People are generally good and friendly no matter where you are
  • Your cargo will rub-- pack tightly with padding between anything you care about!
  • Car carrier ratchet straps over the wheels WILL LOOSEN, especially after you initially load the vehicle/loosen them
  • If the trailer ball won't release, chock the trailer wheels and pull forward with the truck
  • The cheapest diesel was rarely at the big name truck stops (Pilot, Loves) -- they seem to be charging an average of a $0.15 premium for all the extra services you can get there (showers, trucker loungers, high flow pumps)
  • Weigh stations are still an enigma to me: we pulled over for every open station (probably about 5 in total), but many over-the-road trucks didn't need to because there is some automated detection system prior to the station and large signs that then indicate to you whether you should pull off. I'd be curious if anyone knew more about this system functions
  • Some carriers appear to have a strict rule to drive 65 mph or govern their trucks there -- I always knew a FedEx or Xtra truck would be on the slower side, usually on cruise, and that I would be able to catch a little draft, if it was relatively flat. As soon as the road went up, these trucks could maintain close to 65 mph (I couldn't) so they had a lot of power in reserve.
  • Be sure to get all insurance offered by your moving carrier, as your personal auto insurance, nor your credit card, will cover large trucks.
  • Call ahead to your hotel/motel to see if they offer truck parking and you can even ask if they have a trucker discount. Park your rig in a well-lit area and have a good lock on the box
  • State Award for best rest stops along route goes to....OHIO!
  • State Award for worst road conditions encountered along our route...I-76 in front range of COLORADO
  • State Award for best road conditionals overall along our route...OHIO and UTAH in a tie
  • A lot of people self-move with Penske! Can't tell you how many identical rigs with car carriers I saw, especially west of the Mississippi.

Penske experience:
Overall, it was good. Price including taxes, cargo insurance, liability insurance, collision/loss damage insurance, and towing insurance was $2433.10. They give you a minimum 10 day rental period for cross-country moves. To get the best price from Penske, I started with an online quote using my AAA discount and then called and a rep decreased it another 10%. The price I paid seemed a lot better than U-haul and Budget. I also knew I would get new diesel equipment with Penske. They also have extremely low-hassle reimbursement for any DEF, windshield washer fluid, or oil you add to the vehicle as long as you save receipts (I added $53 in DEF and was paid back in cash upon drop-off).

Penske Negatives: The woman I rented from knew nothing about the truck or trailer and no manual was provided for the vehicle. I had to learn about the equipment as I went: They have a video for the car carrier so I loaded it correctly, but no video for education on the trucks. I didn't realize I could lower the air suspension until after I had loaded the truck, for instance. I was also delivered a car carrier with 10 psi in one tire and a truck with the low DEF warning light on. I pumped the tire back up to the recommended 50 psi and it didn't lose appreciable air the rest of trip so it must have been a very slow leak and been low for a long time (questionable maintenance on Penske's part). The car carrier also had cheap quality steel for the ratchets.

Overall, it was a smooth trip with no mechanical mishaps or close calls on the road. I didn't need to honk at anyone, and no one honked at me. It's relaxing being able to stay in the right-most lane or middle lane and let other people do the work of lane changes. I found the most challenging driving to be I-80 in PA, which I expected from my experience driving it in a car.


Pulled nose-to-nose with adjacent semi for scale:

If you are considering a long-distance DIY move, feel free to PM me if you have any questions.

If you like my detailed trip reviews, you can read my Ireland trip here
SOLD: 2001 Jetta TDI 5mt, Bosio Sprint 520s, Koni FSDs, VW HD Springs, 10mm spacer, Audi TT LCA bushings, 034 motorsports strut mounts, E-code lights, Audi TT "short"-shifter, IDparts rear sway bar, DG Panzer plate, Caterpillar 2m fuel filter, Frostheater, GLI Recaros, GTI 3-spoke steering wheel, Audi S3 shifter, R-line stainless pedals[/URL]

Last edited by eb2143; June 6th, 2018 at 14:48.
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Old June 6th, 2018, 12:46   #2
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Interesting write up. I guess that overall cost is pretty reasonable for a very long move. Sounds like it wasn't that stressful for you to drive, perhaps because you've had experience with similar and larger sized vehicles.

Where did you move to in LA? Unlike many New Englanders, I like southern California. My in-laws live there, and now my daughter does, too. So I get there pretty often, and enjoy it. Different from Rhode Island, however.
2002 Jetta wagon, 375K, RC3+; 1993 Mercedes-Benz 300D 2.5, 197K; 1997 Passat, 286K; '99.5 Golf, 259K; 2011 335d, 56K; 2015 Golf Sportwagen, 11K. Principal, http://www.idparts.com
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Old June 6th, 2018, 13:07   #3
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Location: columbia,MO,usa

Really nice writeup.
Thanks for sharing your journey.
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Old June 6th, 2018, 14:37   #4
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Originally Posted by IndigoBlueWagon View Post
Interesting write up. I guess that overall cost is pretty reasonable for a very long move. Sounds like it wasn't that stressful for you to drive, perhaps because you've had experience with similar and larger sized vehicles.

Where did you move to in LA? Unlike many New Englanders, I like southern California. My in-laws live there, and now my daughter does, too. So I get there pretty often, and enjoy it. Different from Rhode Island, however.
I have to say LA is one of the last places I thought I would live. We only looked here because my girlfriend is from the area and then we ended up matching in medical residency together at UCLA. So we're in Westwood.

Honest to God, it's lovely. And that's coming from a New Hampshire boy for whom most of his "for fun" stuff is outdoors. I think there's lot of stigma against California and especially southern California, at least in New England -- or at the very least, a love-it-or-hate-it attitude. Now we can almost count on a sunny day to do something outdoors in comfortable temperatures on a precious day off. Another factor after living in Southern New England for three years is that I didn't like winters any longer because I didn't have the snowpack that enabled me to continue to do all the winter sports I enjoy.

Smog and traffic are synonymous to LA in my fellow New Englander's mind. Best I can tell, traffic is on par with most very large cities on a "per mile traveled basis," but the difference is you can drive for tens of miles and still be within LA here. We put Boston metro up to LA and it's incredible how small of area Boston occupies and that what we think of as a long commute in Boston is just one or two neighborhoods adjacent in LA. Yes, public transportation and bike safety is lacking, although they seem to be making strides in this area (as well as smog). But because it's a sprawling metropolis of many neighborhoods/small cities, I will walk work and don't plan on driving much. My little circle within LA will be very small and that's fine with me. We have one car to get out or drive across town when we need to.

Really nice writeup.
Thanks for sharing your journey.
No problem, happy to share it.
SOLD: 2001 Jetta TDI 5mt, Bosio Sprint 520s, Koni FSDs, VW HD Springs, 10mm spacer, Audi TT LCA bushings, 034 motorsports strut mounts, E-code lights, Audi TT "short"-shifter, IDparts rear sway bar, DG Panzer plate, Caterpillar 2m fuel filter, Frostheater, GLI Recaros, GTI 3-spoke steering wheel, Audi S3 shifter, R-line stainless pedals[/URL]
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Old June 9th, 2018, 19:20   #5
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Location: Slower, DE

I went the other way, Camp Pendleton CA to Delaware in 1999, in the gasser version of the same truck and towing my Mustang GT behind on a similar dolly.

I don't remember how much it cost or what mileage I got. It was my final DITY move at the end of my military service and I was paid pretty handsomely for it.

My lasting memory from the trip is that the truck did NOT have cruise control and the five days of driving on a VERY heavy gas pedal made my right ass cheek sore as hell!!! LOL - true story

2015 GSW TDI S DSG - FrostHeater
2011 BMW 335d - JR 2.8 tuned (~400hp/600tq)
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Old June 13th, 2018, 09:46   #6
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Location: Casper, Wyoming

That 10mpg is superb.I rented Budget 26 foot vans twice in the last 13 years. Both had diesels. They were both gutless dogs with a top speed of around 65-70 MPH. One was moderately loaded with household goods and pulling a car trailer with a '64 fury on it from Seattle to Casper, Wyoming. IIRC I managed about 5mpg. The other time I bought enough Trex fencing materials for my house and a friends house. That truck was FULLY loaded space wise and weight wise, probably overloaded as I didn't bother to stop at any weigh stations. It was hard to drive as it wanted to wallow and took a looooong ways to stop. I got about 3.5 MPG and had to stop once for fuel from Denver to Casper a distance of maybe 250 miles, I actually looked underneath it a couple of times to see if fuel was leaking out. If I ever need a big box truck again I will look into the Penske. BTW, the first truck had less than 200 miles on it. The second truck had 30k miles. No air ride or engine brakes.

Last edited by sloinker; June 13th, 2018 at 09:50.
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Old June 14th, 2018, 11:19   #7
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I did my move in a 26ft Penske also. from Seattle to Vegas, My brother had some time off so drove with me. Very pleased with my Penske experience. my rig was new also, with only about 7,000 miles on it. But my move was only 1000 miles.

was going to tow my VW but my sister in law and her daughter asked if they could drive it down for a last trip together before she left for college. Lucky them.... got to help me unload the truck into a storage unit with 114 temps.
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Old June 18th, 2018, 05:01   #8
Join Date: Jun 2018
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Very interesting, thank you for sharing it and the pics. I would love to go for a trip like that as well!
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Old June 19th, 2018, 16:53   #9
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Very nice! I've moved with the 26' Penske trucks three times now, and if we didn't have as much as we do I'd consider it the next time. I've pulled my 1996 TDI Passats each time as well. It was the trip from Little Rock AR to Goldsboro NC in '07 that I found the governed speed of 74 MPH when heading down some hills just east of he Smokies. I couldn't top 71 MPH oherwise. I think each trip I've gotten between 8 and 9 MPG.
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Previous TDI's: 1996 Passat TDI- totaled at 394k miles, 1998 Passat TDI - 175k miles, 2012 Passat TDI SE - 41k, 1996 Passat TDI Variant - 327k, 2014 Jetta SportWagon TDI 6MT - 29k, 2015 Passat TDI SEL - 18k, 2006 Jetta TDI 5MT - 261k
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Old June 20th, 2018, 18:34   #10
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Glad you survived the 11'8 bridge(where,it seems most Penske trucks go to die)
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