Why U-Haul Orange?

Jan 16, 2015

U-Haul orange … it’s been the company color virtually since day one. In the original merchandising of U-Haul trailers in 1945, co-founders L.S. and Anna Mary Shoen’s first decision was to paint the trailer a loud color. But why orange?

Why U-Haul Orange - Old Van Trailer

An early 1950s-style U-Haul van trailer.

Initially, the first U-Haul trailers were painted black. That changed quickly. One day co-founder L.S. Shoen was towing a trailer, turned left at a four-way intersection and an oncoming car struck the trailer because the driver “didn’t see it.” Shoen went looking for the orange paint he’d seen on a highway-barricade sign.

“We got the paint from W.P. Fuller Company in Portland, Oregon,” stated U-Haul Pioneer Hap Carty in the book “A Noble Function.” “It was a matter of safety. That’s what they painted the highway trucks up there.”

“We painted the trailers a bright ‘danger orange’ and did a good job so that it looked slick, clean and bright,” L.S. recalled in his book “You and Me.” “Trailers that had been offered for rent prior to this time were in the main junky looking. There had been very little attempt to make them look attractive.”

As L.S. recalled,“These orange and black trailers, sitting at different service stations throughout the city in plain view, formed billboards of their own.”

U-Haul rental equipment has been painted various shades of orange over the years, but they’ve always been basically U-Haul orange. But it might have been a different story. In late 1954 and most of 1955, artists’ conceptions of different paint and decal designs in various colors were studied long and hard for possible use on all U-Haul trailers. A few experimental models were painted green and white. Others were painted blue and white. There were even a few test trailers painted red, white and blue.

Why U-Haul Orange - Old LV Trailer

In 1956, U-Haul redesigned the predominantly orange and black coloring by adding white for increased visibility and a lighter-weight appearance.

The Color Research Institute of America (CRIA) was hired to provide color analysis and make their recommendation for the most effective color for our equipment. They recommended orange. According to the CRIA’s research on color, orange activates and catches the eye more readily than other colors. Orange has visual impact and is clearly visible in all types of weather, lighting and towing situations.

L.S. and Anna Mary had it right from the beginning. The right equipment starts with the right color – U-Haul orange.

Now that you know the history of U-Haul orange, is there anything else you are curious about? Ask us in the comment section below.

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