This year, millions of Americans will flock to tree lots across the country in search of the perfect Christmas tree. While finding just the right tree may seem like the hardest part – getting it home safely is where the real challenge begins.
Transporting a tree is similar to moving furniture, appliances or other large objects. If not properly secured, a tree can scratch paint, tear door seals or bend window frames. Even worse, a loose tree can fly off or out of the vehicle and become a danger to other drivers. In fact, a 2019 AAA survey found that 44% of Americans who planned to purchase a real Christmas tree that year admitted to using unsafe methods to transport it home – such as not using the roof rack or placing it in the bed of a pickup truck unsecured.
Losing a Christmas tree on the drive home would no doubt put a damper on the holiday season. But, more importantly, a tree that falls from a vehicle could also cause a collision. Previous research from AAA found that road debris caused more than 200,000 crashes during a four-year period, resulting in approximately 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths. The roads can be treacherous enough during the holiday season with increased congestion and winter weather conditions– without the addition of unsecured Christmas trees. But with a little preparation, the proper tools, and the right vehicle – transporting a Christmas tree is easy with these tips from AAA:
- Call the lot ahead of time or check if they’ve posted information online about availability and COVID protocols. Reports of a nationwide shortage of Christmas trees has caused many people to buy trees as early as possible and inventory could be limited.
- Make sure to bring strong rope or nylon ratchet straps, an old blanket, gloves and of course – the right vehicle. One with a roof rack is ideal but a pickup truck, SUV, van, or minivan can work just as well.
- Once you’ve found the perfect tree, have the lot wrap it in netting before loading it. Loose branches can also be secured with rope or twine to help protect the tree from damage.
- Prior to loading the tree, cover the roof with an old blanket to prevent scratches and damage from sticky sap drips.
- 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 – 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.
- While it is possible to tie a tree to a vehicle that lacks a roof rack by opening the windows and running rope or straps through the interior, it’s significantly more difficult to properly secure the tree and will require much more rope. Avoid this technique if possible.
- Secure the tree at its bottom, center and top using strong rope or nylon ratchet straps. Avoid using the twine offered by many tree lots. 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, give the tree several strong tugs from various angles to make sure it is secured in place and will not come loose.
- 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.