Our guide to carrying a Christmas tree safely by car

carrying a christmas tree
Both children and Christmas trees should be securely fastened if you’re planning on driving with them (Picture iStock/Romrodinka)

It’s that time of year when thoughts turn to buying and carrying a Christmas tree. The British Christmas Tree Growers Association claims there are around seven million ‘real’ Christmas trees sold in the UK every year.

It’s all very well deciding you want a tree that wouldn’t look small in London’s Trafalgar Square. But if you can’t get it home, it’s a waste of money. Follow our tips below on carrying a Christmas tree successfully and above all, safely.

Measure up for carrying a Christmas tree

Before you set out, measure your car. The size of your luggage space will dictate what you can carry. You will have to fold the seats down so if your car is a saloon and the seats don’t fold, you might have to rethink.

The best way to ensure you’re not going to be driving home with the tailgate flapping, an icy wind blowing down your neck and the tree’s tip sticking out the back sporting an old rag waving in the breeze, is to measure your car’s interior length with the tailgate shut.

First fold the seat backs down. Then close the boot and measure by going in through one of the side doors at the back. It’s very easy to inadvertently add vital centimetres that you don’t have to the available space when you measure with the bootlid open.

Line your boot

Even if they’re wrapped in a net, trees are surprisingly prickly. And although your tree should be relatively fresh, the act of transporting it will cause it to drop needles. That’s where a boot liner comes in. You can buy them from about £10 upwards; the more you spend, the hardier the liner will be. But even a cheap one should do a decent job of protecting your car’s boot and doors.

More importantly, a liner – and this goes for if you use a bit of polythene sheet, some folded out bin bags or an old blanket – will prevent the needles getting embedded in the carpet that usually lines the back of car seats.

carrying a christmas tree
Just no. If you have to carry a Christmas tree on the roof, make sure you’ve got a proper rack (Picture iStock/Warchi)

Only tie a tree to the roof on a rack

You might think you can lash a tree to your roof. And you probably can. But it’ll be an accident waiting to happen. And even if it doesn’t slide off in comedy fashion when you either accelerate or brake heavily, it’ll still scratch the paint on your roof. On top of that, you could be in trouble with the law. The penalty for an insecure load is a £100 fine.

The only way of carrying a Christmas tree safely on the roof is using a roof rack. But they can be costly (between £50 and £100 for a small family hatch). And if you don’t own one already, it’s probably not worth your while.

If you do decide to tie a tree to your roof rack, make sure it’s secured tightly so that it can’t move backwards or forwards as well as side to side.

How much can you see?

It’s vital that you can see out. If your tree is wrapped in a net, this shouldn’t be a problem. if it isn’t, and you have the tree on the roof, you don’t want it flopping down over the windscreen and obscuring your view.

And if your tree is inside the car and you have the front seatback folded down to accommodate it, you must still be able to see through the door mirrors.

Drive carefully

Remember you’ve got a bulky load in the car. It’s unlikely to affect how your car handles. However, the tree might shift when you go around a corner. If you can, it’s sensible to just drop one of the folding rear seat backs. That will help to wedge the tree in position.

You could even think about using a redundant safety belt or tying it to the grab handle on the door (not the door handle itself!) if that’s possible.

It won’t fill you with much Christmas cheer if you cause or have an accident because you’ve been attacked or distracted by an errant tree.

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