How to Get Your Christmas Tree Home Safely

Christmas tree strapped on van
Photo Credit: AAA

You are likely to see more Christmas trees perched atop car roofs this year. That’s because Christmas tree sales are expected to be up, as families look for some holiday cheer in what’s been a particularly challenging year. A recent NBC news report cites a recent survey by the Christmas Tree Promotion Board that found 25% of people who had an artificial tree or no tree last year plan to go all out by buying a real one this year.

If you’re one of those planning to mask up and head out to your local tree lot or tree farm, make sure you have the tools to get it home safely. (Or plan to have it delivered to you.) Unsafe transport methods, like putting it unsecured in the trunk or improperly tied down to the roof of the car, can be a recipe for disaster. If it falls out, it becomes hazardous road debris.

1. Use the right vehicle.

  • The American Automobile Association says it’s always best to transport a Christmas tree on top of a vehicle equipped with a roof rack. If you use the bed of a pickup truck, make sure you don’t just toss it in the back, but also secure it properly in the truck bed. You can also use a larger vehicle like an SUV, van or minivan that can fit the tree inside with all doors closed. (Make sure you take measurements of your cargo space before picking out your tree to ensure it will fit.)

2. Bring the right tie downs.

  • Bring strong rope or nylon ratchet straps to secure the tree to your vehicle’s roof rack. Avoid the lightweight twine offered by many tree lots.

3. Protect the tree.

  • Have the lot wrap the tree in netting before loading it. If netting is unavailable, secure loose branches with rope or twine.

4. Protect your vehicle.

  • Before you hoist it up onto the roof of your vehicle, cover it with an old blanket to prevent paint scratches and protect the vehicle finish. As Chevrolet also points out, lay a tarp down inside as well if you’re transporting your tree in the vehicle to keep it clean.

5. Position trunk facing the car’s front end.

  • Always place the tree on a roof rack or in a pickup bed with the trunk facing the front of the vehicle.

6. Tie it down securely.

  • Secure the tree at its bottom, center and top. At the bottom, use fixed vehicle tie-down points and loop around the trunk above a lower branch, to prevent any side-to-side or front-to-rear movement. The center and top tie downs should be installed in a similar manner.

7. Give it the tug test.

  • Before you leave the lot, give the tree several strong tugs from various directions to make sure it is secured in place and will not come loose.

8. Drive home slowly and carefully.

  • Take the back roads, if possible. Higher speeds create significant airflow that can damage your Christmas tree and challenge even the best tie-down methods.

9. Spot-check and clean the vehicle.

  • This tip comes from Volkswagen. Check for tree sap and residue in and outside the car, and, if found, clean any sap or tree residue off your car immediately with a bug and tar remover using a clean cloth.

Volkswagen offers even more tips along with a video showing you how to secure a tree to an Atlas with a roof rack. Check out our review of the 2021 VW Atlas V6 SEL Premium here.

Chevrolet also provides these tips using the Chevy Traverse with a roof rack as well. Check out our review of the 2020 Chevrolet Traverse High Country here.

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