AUSTIN (KXAN) — The cost to rent a moving truck from California to Texas is significantly higher than the trip the other way around, several rental truck company estimates show.

KXAN looked into the price difference after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pointed to it at his debate with Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, on Friday, Sept. 21. 

Cruz was advocating for low taxes and low regulation, comparing Texas to California, when he said the Golden State is “hemorrhaging population.”

“The cost of a one-way U-Haul from California to Texas,” he said, “is more than 300 percent the cost the other way around.”

Using the moving company’s online estimate tool, KXAN compared the cost of renting a truck from San Francisco to Austin, given the strong tech sectors in both cities. The cost to get a 26-foot truck (enough to move a house full of stuff) to San Francisco from here is $1,150; the reverse trip costs close to four times as much, at $4,380. The cost from Los Angeles to Austin is almost five times as much.

Other rental truck companies quote similar rates.

Kenny Johnson moved here in April 2017 from San Francisco. Johnson is the U.S. director of product management for the business software company Brightpearl, and when the company moved its U.S. headquarters to Austin, he came with it.

“It’s not the cheapest place, but definitely cheaper than San Francisco,” he said of Austin. The cost of living was one reason Brightpearl decided to move, he added.

“The time zone was a big win, just being able to get two extra hours back to work with the U.K. [where the company is based] was great. That direct flight to London was definitely huge; another is that there’s a pretty good e-commerce ecosystem here in Austin.”

Johnson rented a U-Haul for the move, a 15-foot truck, for around $2,000. Although his company reimbursed him for it, the total is about double what the rate estimate shows for the reverse trip.

“I’d never rented a cross-country U-Haul so I didn’t really know how much it would be,” he said. “So when I went and rented the U-Haul, it didn’t seem expensive.”

U-Haul did not provide anyone for an interview about the price difference but told KXAN in an emailed statement that supply and demand plays a big role in how much it costs to get from place to place.

“Managing the allocation of equipment and seeing that it is available at all our 21,000-plus locations can, and does, inevitably lead to lowering pricing when traveling to certain markets at given times,” a company spokesman wrote.

The rental company also pointed to its latest growth report, which found Texas saw the biggest net gain in U-Haul trucks in 2017, while California was dead last among the 50 states.

U-Haul needs to get those trucks back to where they’re needed, so “prompting customers with very low pricing to bring equipment into those states is one way we can address that challenge.”

Texas gained more than 1,000 people per day again last year, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics released at the end of 2017, a population gain of 1.4 percent. Most of those were what the agency calls a “natural increase” — babies being born — but 189,580 people migrated here, a total of 79,163 from other states. 

California, meanwhile, lost a net of 138,195 people to other states last year, though international migration still boosted the state’s overall population.

The move to Texas has been a positive one for Johnson, he said, and for his company.

“My girlfriend and I were able to buy a house, something we would never have been able to do in San Francisco,” he said. “Just the livability of the city is much better than San Francisco, just in terms of getting around. Restaurants still have parking here and they don’t charge you an arm and a leg to actually park at the restaurant.”

Johnson watched the Cruz-O’Rourke debate, and while that line about rental trucks struck him as a strange stat to point to, he said it makes sense.

“There’s a lot of people leaving California. It’s a big population center and it’s becoming pretty expensive to live there,” he said. “I could see why it would make sense from U-Haul’s business model.”