How to Safely Transport a Christmas Tree

Follow these steps to prevent that evergreen from fa-la-la-la-la-ing off your car.

Animated illustration of a family tying down a Christmas tree on top of their car, snow is falling around them and the man's arm tugs on the rope tying down the tree Nathan Hackett

What passenger car was truly made to transport a Christmas tree? Even after more than a century of automobile design in America, securing a tree to a vehicle may require a hack—but one you can easily perform with the right tools and strategy.

Measure: Determine your car length and tree height—the latter shouldn’t exceed the former by much. If the tree will extend more than a couple of feet past the rear bumper, you’ll want to tie on a reflective flag to alert other drivers. 

Wrap and cover: Make sure the tree’s wrapped in netting, securing any loose branches with a rope or twine for extra protection. You’ll need to protect the car, too, by laying an old blanket on the roof to prevent scratches and other possible damage.

Go right to the top: Unless you have a small tree and a big car trunk, you’ll need to mount that evergreen to the roof. You can employ the roof rack that came standard with your car or attach one you bought separately.

Secure it: Place the tree on the roof rack, with the tree trunk facing forward. Tie down the Christmas tree at its bottom, center and top using strong rope or nylon ratchet straps. Use fixed vehicle tie-down points and loop the rope or strap around the tree trunk above a branch to prevent side-to-side or front-to-rear movement.

Give it some tugs: Give the tree several strong yanks from various angles to make sure it’s secured in place. 

Take it easy: Drive slowly and take back roads if possible (especially on ice and snow) because high speeds create high winds around your vehicle, which could damage or dislodge even the most securely fastened tree.

Box containing illustrations of gloves, measuring tape, old blanket, roof rack, ratchet straps, rope, reflective flag

The mark of success: The tree arrives home in pristine condition, with no damage to your car or anyone else’s—or to anyone’s property or their person. Similar to having a winter survival kit in your car, here are other items to bring along (some of which are available at NAPA for an instant discount): 

  • Gloves
  • Old blanket
  • Measuring tape
  • Ratchet straps
  • Roof rack
  • Rope
  • Reflective flag

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