It's essential that you tie it down using the right equipment, an expert from AAA says.

By Caroline Biggs
November 06, 2020
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young woman tying Christmas tree to roof of a car
Credit: Monkey Business Images / Getty Images

For as fun and memorable as choosing your family's Christmas tree can be, transporting it home can be risky. According to a study conducted by American Automobile Association (AAA), 16 percent of Americans say they've had a Christmas tree fall off (or out of) their vehicle when transporting it home. "Transporting a real Christmas tree is the same as hauling any other kind of large object," says Ellen Edmonds of AAA. "If not properly secured, a tree could fly off or out of the vehicle and become a danger to other drivers."

Along with potentially creating a hazard for other drivers, Edmonds says a loose Christmas tree can damage your vehicle, too. "If a tree is improperly secured to a car, it can cost drivers as much as $1,500 in repairs," she says. "Twine, ropes, or straps can wear away paint and tear rubber seals when routed through door or window openings. Closing a door over tree tie downs may also permanently distort the window frame, and tree branches can cause scratches to the paint."

Fortunately, Edmonds says there are several simple ways to ensure that a tree is safely secured to your vehicle before you hit the road.

Have the right items (and vehicle) handy.

Before heading out to buy a real Christmas tree, Edmonds says it's imperative to confirm you have the right tools and materials on hand to transport it safely. "Bring strong rope or nylon ratchet straps, an old blanket, gloves, and the right vehicle," she says. "One with a roof rack is ideal but a pickup truck, SUV, van or minivan can work just as well."

Prep your car before buying a tree.

To avoid damage to your vehicle, Edmonds suggests prepping your car for transportation prior to loading the tree. "Cover the roof with an old blanket to prevent scratches to the paint and protect the car from any damage," she says. "Bring an old blanket to lay down on the floor or folded down seats to prevent any damage to the interior of your car or your tree."

Wrap the tree in netting.  

Once you've found the perfect tree, Edmonds says you should ask the tree lot vendors to wrap it in netting before loading it. "Loose branches can also be secured with rope or twine to help protect the tree from damage," she says. If a netting service is not offered, then wrap the tree in an old blanket or bed sheet to condense it as much as possible.

Load the tree with its trunk facing forward.

When it comes time to load or attach the tree to your vehicle, Edmonds says to place the tree on the roof rack or in the bed of the truck with the trunk facing the front of the car. "If the vehicle does not have a roof rack and is a SUV, CUV, van or minivan, you can place the tree inside. If not, rent or borrow a pickup truck, a vehicle with a roof rack, or one that is large enough to accommodate the tree inside."

Secure the tree to the top of your car.

After you've loaded the tree onto the roof rack of your vehicle, Edmonds says it's crucial to make sure it's securely fastened in place. "Secure the tree at its bottom, center, and top using strong rope or nylon ratchet straps, and avoid using the twine offered by tree lots," she says. "Use fixed vehicle tie-down points and loop the rope or strap around the tree trunk (above a branch) to prevent any side-to-side or front-to-rear movement." Once tied down, she says to give the tree several strong tugs from various angles to make sure it is secured in place and will not come loose.

Drive slowly.

Once the tree is securely attached to (or loaded inside of) your vehicle and you're ready to head home, Edmonds says to drive slowly, and take back roads if possible. "Higher speeds can create significant airflow that can damage your tree or challenge even the best tie-down methods," she says.

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